God’s Parenting, and Ours

Of all the connections between the texts we read this week in Torah and Prophets, the one that strikes me the most is the matter of parenting. I confess to being a parent, as are many of you, so perhaps my antennae are especially sensitive to these words. While that may be so, I believe the words speak palpably to all of us.

At the beginning of the verses in Isaiah, the prophet observes the great suffering experienced by the people in exile. They are so forlorn that they proclaim that God must have forsaken and forgotten them. God responds immediately with this extraordinary message of comfort: “Can a woman forget her baby, or not feel compassion for the child of her womb.” The Divine One continues, “Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.”

Make no mistake. The children strayed. They went awfully wayward and suffered the consequences for it through loss, painful exile, and degradation. Yet, the Parent never forgets, never loses compassion, and never abandons hope for the children’s return. Isn’t it so as well for us and the children we parent? God says to us: “I have engraved you upon My clouds; your walls are before Me always.” Whatever mistakes and troubles befall our own children, haven’t we, too, always engraved them upon our world and placed their settings before us?

God’s children have lost their own children in the exile. They were bereaved, left by themselves. Yet, God tells them that their children “will hasten to return,” and, when they do, they will say they want a place in the restored land, asking that room be created so that they may dwell. It’s as if God’s children, alone themselves, have also lost their future, and God seeks to restore both. Don’t we, too, seek the same, to restore our children and their future?

As difficult as it was, Isaiah saw it as his mission to help the people so that they could return and that God would “comfort her ruins” and “make her wilderness like Eden.” Isaiah guided God’s children, as Moses did in an earlier time. And as the Torah shows us this week, we, too, must, in our own time, teach God’s word to our own children. “Gladness will be found there, thanksgiving and the sound of music.”

And, as we do so, even in the painful times, we should always remember from God’s firm but patient parenting that we must never lose hope in our children’s future.

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