“Strawberries are yucky.”
“I don’t WANT to sleep in a crib.”
“Doc McStuffins is my favorite.”
“I don’t like spring time. I just like summer.”
“I like to lick my arm. This is my arm-lick.”
“Mother’s Day is NOT FOR GRANDMAS!”
“I. Don’t. Like. Wearing. PAAAAANTTTTTS!”
All of these declarations (and more, I’m sparing you) were uttered by one of my two children over the past few days. They’re still quite young, but there’s no denying it: they are–as my mother-in-law so gently puts it–stretching their wings. They’re asserting themselves. They like their hair messy, their pasta without tomato sauce and their waffles with far too much syrup. They don’t care that much for peanut butter, right now they seem hooked on the color pink, and at least one of my kids pronounces the words “coffee” “talk” and “walk” like she’s straight out of Bensonhurst (she spends a fair amount of time with my mother, who is legitimately straight out of Bensonhurst, so perhaps its no big mystery where that came from).
All of this is to say that the universe has been sending me a deafeningly loud message: these girls have minds of their own. And they’ve wiped off enough of my kisses for me to know that it’s just a matter of time before they utter the rallying cry of little girls everywhere:
“YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!!!!!!!!!!!!”
It would be oh-so-fitting then, if that happened this year (though I pray—and here I get carried away with the metaphor—that its at least seven years before I hear that, if not seventeen, if not never) because this, my friends, is the year of the jubilee.
What? You didn’t know?
According to Parashat B’har, which we read in Leviticus this week, “for six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in its produce, but in the seventh year, the land shall have a complete rest…”
That line from Leviticus provides us with the origin of the concept of a sabbatical year–understood by most as the year your professor takes off from teaching so that she can drink coffee and climb Machu Pichu–I mean write a book and do intensive research. In the Torah, though, the sabbatical year signified a biblical attempt at mandating sustainable farming amongst the people of Israel.
And the 50th year, the year that follows the last year of seven Sabbatical cycles, this, the Torah declares, is the Jubilee. And during the jubilee year, the year of Yovel, we are to “proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all its inhabitants!”
That’s right. This is the year we free our kids.
Or… to put it in more applicable terms (because let’s face it, it’s hard to free your kid when she’s most comfortable clinging to your leg), this is the year when we are meant to focus less on material efforts, less on spending, making, buying, acquiring, doing, amassing, having–and more on faith, on spirituality, on taking a step back, on breathing, on letting go of that which was never ours to begin with.
Regardless of what you believe or don’t believe, we can all agree on this: we made a choice to protect our children, care for them, nourish them and provide them with the guidance they need to live a good life, but ultimately, they are not ours. We can’t control their thoughts, we can’t control their actions, we can’t really control who they become, much as we’d like to.
Just as the land of the ancient Israelites wasn’t truly theirs, our kids aren’t truly ours. Rather, they belong to themselves, and to this world. Our challenge, then, is to earn the right to stay present in their lives even as we hold back and let them fly forward. And I imagine, if we’re truly lucky, as parents, we’ll reap the bounty of watching them live a full, bright, awesome life.
To read the previous posts in our Torah MOMentary series, click here.