The Parsha Guide to Parenting by
B'shalach - Adapting to Change
The holiday of TU BiShvat falls between
the parashot of Beshalach, where the Israelites receive material
sustenance, and Yitro, where they receive spiritual sustenance.
As Jews, we try to
model ourselves on God's ways. As parents, we can see that we are
responsible for our children's physical and spiritual growth.
B'shalach gives us several hints about how to respond to one of
life's frequent, but difficult challenges - adjustment to change.
In B'shalach, God has
brought the people out of Egypt, in order to bring them to the land
of Israel. But first, they must pass through the desert. The people
are nervous, hungry and unsure of what will happen. They say to
Moshe "for you have brought us into this wilderness to bring death
to this whole assembly by starvation!" (Exodus 16:3). They have lost
sight of the ultimate goal and also have lost faith in those who
would lead them there. They are concerned only with their immediate
physical need - food. God responds by giving them food (manna and
quail), but His purpose is not to give them mere physical
sustenance, but to bolster their faith - they shall eat flesh and
bread, and "you shall know that I am HaShem your God" (16:12). He
wants them to know that they can rely on Him to take care of them
and to bring them safely to their destination. When they learn not
to collect manna on the Sabbath, He knows their faith has been
As the people of Israel looked to Moshe to bring them through the
great transition of the desert, our children look to us to bring
them safely through the daily and sometimes trying transitions in
our lives. This can be just a car trip ("are we there yet?") or a
much larger transition - starting school, changing schools, moving
to a new neighborhood. God, in His infinite wisdom, knows what the
future will bring. We humans must rely on information that is
already available to us and conduct research to best predict what
the future will bring, and how to prepare for it. The more prepared
we are the easier it will be to prepare our children and support
them through this change. God clearly has an advantage, because He
can perform miracles. When the people of Israel collect the manna,
one omer per capita, according to God's instructions, "they gleaned,
the-one-more and the-one-less, but when measured by the omer, no
surplus had the-one-more, and the-one-less had no shortage; each man
had gleaned according to what he could eat" (16:17,18). Here there
are both an objective measure (the omer) and a contradictory
subjective one (according to what he could eat). God was able to
personalize the portions of manna so that they were at the same time
objectively the same yet catered to the needs of each individual.
Although we do not have this divine ability, we may begin by giving
each of our children the same objective preparation (an omer's
worth) but we must also give them according to "what they can eat".
Each child will have different anxieties about change; some may be
more upset about what they are leaving, and some may be more
concerned about what they are going to. We can explore these
differing anxieties with them in order to know what fears to allay
and what information or suggestion will help them cope. But, more
importantly, each child has different strengths and skills that they
can bring to the challenge of transition. Some may want to join in
the preparations and planning; some may prefer to focus on the goal
and not the process of getting there. Some may be able to adjust to
the idea and the reality of change quickly; others may need more
advance notice. Older children may remember previous experiences and
remind us of what worked and what didn't work last time, and be able
to learn from those experiences - both about their own temperaments
("I'm like that during changes") and about successful coping
mechanisms ("it helped to read a book about it", "to bring my
favorite doll", "to visit first").
The people of Israel seem to have a short memory - 17:3 they are
again complaining about thirst. Moshe, whose memory of the last
occurrence is fresh, and who comfortably relies on God's continuing
sustenance, is understandably frustrated and losing patience - "What
shall I do with this people? A little more and they will stone me!"
(17:4). We, who must rely mostly on ourselves, will also experience
frustration along the way. When our patience is eroding, it may help
to ask our spouse (or other family member) to step in to handle a
particular child or a particular situation. In many families,
specific parent/child combinations run smoother than others. We
should rely on the strength of this sympathetic bond to make the
transition easier for all. (Sometimes Moshe speaks to the people and
sometimes Aharon - both the message and the messenger have
take a long time. The parsha tells us that "the Children of Israel
ate the manna for 40 years, until they came to settled land"
(16:35). (Note, in particular, the use of the word children here.)
The burden is on us, the parents, to feed our children the "food"
they require while building the security that comes from knowing
that someone is in charge of their well-being, until they safely
reach the land of adulthood.
Amy Persky, LCSW, is a psychotherapist living in Jerusalem. Her
private practice includes children, adults and families. She came on
Aliya from New York in 2001 and is a perennial student at Matan.
[The Parshat B'shalach Homepage]
[The TORAH tidbits Homepage] [How to use TORAH tidbits]
[About The OU/NCSY Israel Center] [About TORAH tidbits]