Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"You are not alone."

Last week, my wife and I went to visit our son at his home. We have not seen him since he came out to us. It was time to see him again.

We spent a pleasant Sunday afternoon together. As we strolled through a museum, he and I discussed this blog. I asked him whether it bothered him that I was writing this blog. He replied that it was important for me to be doing this as a parent, and he understood the goal of this blog is to act as a forum or conduit for other parents to share their experiences.

He told me about an organization that he is involved in which is trying to help frum kids cope once they have come out.
He told us about his friend who came out a few months ago. When I suggested that the young man tell his parents about this blog, he told us that the parents were in denial and have not accepted the fact that their son is gay.

Over dinner, we asked our son if it would be alright to tell some of our friends that he is gay. His response was "they are your friends, not mine, and you may do whatever you seem fit."
This was quite a departure from the way he felt just five months ago. He told us that the people who are important to him know that he is gay and support him. And that is all that is important to him.
In spite of the fact that we only spent part of a day with him, we left him feeling that he is more relaxed and in a better place than he was six months ago.

So where does that leave us?

Since we were hit with the news five months ago, our lives have changed. We see less and less of our friends and we spend most of the week engrossed in our respective jobs. When Shabbat comes, we no longer invite any guests over to share our meals, nor do we care to go to other people's homes. When we find the strength to go to shul, we come home without staying for kiddush. Before Shabbat we have been taking murder mystery books from the library and spending the weekend reading.

And then the week begins again.


The name of the organization my son referred to is called JQYOUTH.
Their motto is "You are not alone."
Their website is www.jqyouth.org.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

"Make Me a Sanctuary for Me to dwell therein."

In his commentary on this week's parsha, The Sefat Emet, Rabbi Yehudah Leib Alter writes,

"Material things have no will. And everything must have a will-that is essential. This proves that these things depend upon humanity who has a will. And with this will humanity can incline every thing towards G-d...this is the meaning of the verse "let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them..." --among each individual." (Trumah 5633)

In The Guide For The Perplexed, Maimonides states that the mishkan serves as a spiritual conduit to G-d, not as a physical dwelling. The physical structure was used to elicit a spritual reaction.

Nehama Leibowitz asks whether the passage "make Me a Sanctuary for Me to dwell therein" "contains the message of Divine love, a promise of intimate contact with Him?" (Studies in Shemot, p.468.)

I believe that the message of this week's parsha is that there has to be a direct link between the will of G-d and the will of humankind.

Why does the construction of the mishkan come up at this point in the Torah? Most commentators have an opinion. The one that I find to be most fitting and understanding is the one posited by Abravanel,

"G-d's intention with the construction of the mishkan was to contest the idea that G-d had forsaken the earth."

As the people journeyed farther and farther into the desert, they needed the reassurance that G-d was present in their lives.

How does this relate to us as parents and to our children who are questioning their connection to their religion, to their parents and to their past?

Now more than ever, we need the assurance and our children need the reassurance that G-d is still present in our lives. We must prove to our children that Hashem has not forsaken them, nor have we forsaken them.

We are unable to build a physical structure. Thus no one can fulfill all the commandments laid out in the Torah. Therefore we must find other ways to build a mishkan. Together, we must build a spiritual dwelling place where we can embrace our children and our families and teach them how to be better Jews and better human beings. We must be encouraged, and we must encourage our children to follow as many mitzvot as is possible, with the limited capabilities that we as humans have.

Our children were raised as frum children. Because of who they discovered themselves to be as they were growing up and reaching maturity, they have felt rejected by the Torah community or by us, their parents. I believe that it is their will to remain as frum Jews, if only they could be encouraged to do so in a non-judgemental environment. I believe that a loving G-d who commands us to build a dwelling place wants everyone to share in this endeavor.

Each effort we make to bring ourselves and our children closer to Hashem, brings the mishkan closer to home.