I read a beautiful article in the New York Times (“An Adopted Boy Considers His Origins,” Melanie Braverman, New York Times Magazine, September 3, 2010) about a five-year old coming to terms with the story of his birth and adoption. He learned he was adopted when his older sister angrily lashed out at him with, “You didn’t come out of Mommy’s belly!” She was factually correct, and even stumbled into a pretty good choice of words (except the tone of delivery conveying a momentary desire to ruin his life). A bit later, arms wrapped around her little boy, the mom would quietly explain to him, “Some babies come out of their mommies, and some come through other bodies to get to their mommies.”
I adore these words. And while I’m sure others will find just the right way to share this important piece of information with their own child, this was such a loving and accessible way to convey the needed message.
It got me thinking.
This world of ours isn’t easy for anyone. Whether we’re born into poverty or with a silver spoon in our mouth, there will be moments when life hurts. Perhaps nothing more than a bee sting; perhaps an existential crisis. Perhaps the rise of destructive anti-governmental (or governmental) forces; perhaps we just miss someone we love.
Minor or major, if the pain is ours, it can be a big deal. We honor our b’rit – our covenant – with one another when we take seriously feelings that may be ours or someone else’s.
In the book of Deuteronomy there is a passage (28:3) which describes all the blessings that will come from following God’s mitzvot. One verse promises blessing ba-eer, “in the city.” The Talmud (Bava Metzia 107a) cautions that city blessings come when we are part of our community, when we share our lives with others and let others share their life with us.
Religion’s greatest value is in its bringing people together to labor beside one another toward improving our lives and the lives of others. In this way, love awaits us like a mother awaits the arrival of her child. It doesn’t matter from where we’ve come; what matters is who’s there when we arrive.
This piece originally appeared in Makom, the newsletter of Woodlands Community Temple (Oct 2012).