Releasing our children
No matter their age, it’s what they are. They are our children. As such, we want them to grow into self-sufficiency and independence, happiness and contentment. But a piece of us also wants to hold on to a piece of them, to keep them young and safe, and to keep us in their lives and in command.
It is the season of graduation and commencement, of endings and new beginnings. A time for celebration and tears. The changes are bittersweet for us as parents as our chests swell with pride for what we have accomplished together (because they certainly couldn’t have done it without us!) and our eyes swell with tears because we know that with each new challenge they will rely on us less.
I cried the first time I heard the song “Uf Gozal” (and the second and the third). Arik Einstein, who died this past November at the age of 73 and was known as “the voice” of Israel, wrote and recorded this song about a bird acknowledging the launching of the bird’s little ones. (I used to think the speaker was a mother bird, but now I realize it could just as easily have been the father bird remaining in the nest!)
My little birds have left the nest
Spread their wings and flew away
And I, an old bird, remained in the nest
Really hoping that everything will be alright.
I always knew the day would come
When we’d have to part
But now it came to me so suddenly
So what’s the wonder that I’m a bit concerned.
Fly, little bird
Cut through the sky
Fly to wherever you want
Just don’t forget
There’s an eagle in the sky
As the years have passed, I have felt the song has been over-used and played out (i.e., no more tears when I hear it). And what kind of Jewish-mother ending is this about looking out for the eagle in the sky?! This year, however, the song is particularly poignant. Arik has died, and that is a loss to Israel and to all who loved his music. And now, at the season of celebrating our children leaving the nest, an eagle from the sky has snatched away three of our Israeli sons. Their families suffer while communities are left praying for word of their welfare, for their safe return, and for the intervention of more powerful forces that can bring pressure to bear to secure their return. (Click here to hear the song and watch a video–the subtitles are Spanish, but you’ll get it, I promise.)
I prayed for Eyal, Gilad and Naftali today, and I will pray for them again tomorrow. I will celebrate today’s commencements, even as I say to my children time and time again: “Look both ways as you cross. Buckle up. Drive safely. Call me if you need me.” Dear God, thank you and take care of them.
Rabbi Craig Scheff