Monday, June 30, 2014

Breaking it to the children

In between the horror and the pain felt by an entire nation tonight the parents amongst us, especially the religious parents amongst us, are left wondering how on earth we tell our kids, many of whom were already in bed by the time the news broke.

It's not that we aren't used to them learning about the unpleasant things in life. They already have drills about what to do if and when they hear the air raid sirens, they know to watch out for suspicious packages which could be bombs, and from the youngest ages local schools try to delicately and age appropriately teach about the Holocaust and how to solemnly observe Memorial Day. This is afterall a country that averages some kind of war every few years and where children know that one day they will likely be called upon to defend their country from neighbours intent on our destruction.

So our kids know that bad things happen, they know there is evil in the world. I'm not trying to say that we or they have a morbid fascination with these unpleasant facts, rather that we are a practical people, and practicality dictates that it's better that kids know at least in the broadest, most general terms, what's out there.

No the hideously heartaching problem for every parent is how to explain that despite the fervent daily prayers, the mass vigils at holy places, the unity, the Psalms, the hallah baking, despite everything, Gil'ad, Naftali and Eyal haven't been found alive, that they were murdered, probably soon after they were abducted.

It isn't the same as telling children the abstract idea that bad things do happen to good people, or struggling with the question of where God was in the Holocaust, or how it can be that we still don't have peace. This is realtime, now, immediate, visceral in a way that the bigger picture questions are not.

Everything narrows down to our children in their schools and youth groups and synagogues and homes spending the last 18 days desperately hoping and praying for good news. And now we have to tell them those prayers were not answered.

Some will say it's a wake-up call for repentance. Some will say we should take the lessons of unity and increased piety and make it those more a part of our day to day lives even when there is no emergency. Some will say it's a mercy they were probably killed soon after the abduction and so suffered less than they might have. So many people and so many theories.

There is no prophecy today though, none of us truly know why, we have no real answers, we are just as lost as they are when it comes to understanding why God allowed this to happen. God has His reasons, and it's OK for us to feel sad and angry, to wonder, to cry.

All we can do is hug our children tight and tell them how much we love them. Each person has his or her appointed time and we are not privy to the whys and whens, but it's up to us to use our time well, to fill our lives with love and hope for a better world, to do what we can do for tikkun olam. What we do know is that Abba and Ima love them, just like the boys' Abbas and Ima's love them, always, and forever. We will smile for our kids and hug them tight, and be strong for them, maybe shed a little tear, even if inside we're breaking and shaking from the sheer number of questions hanging in the air, the heavy burden of faith.

And if this is how we, who never actually knew the boys feel, how can we even imagine what Eyal, Gil'ad and Naftali's parents feel?

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