Teachability, Conversion, and Life

I have a couple of really wise friends that I listen to and always learn something from our conversations.  Today, we were talking about the power of teachability and it seemed to fit exactly with a lot of what has been going on in my life recently as well as struggles I have seen around me.

We all live in a culture where just about the worst thing you can admit is that you “don’t know.”  Information is literally a major driver of our economy and we can research almost any topic with a web search.  When you’re asked a question, either in school or especially later at work, “I don’t know,” becomes an unacceptable answer.  We aren’t allowed to admit the limits of our knowledge.

The problem with this is that we are all full cups.  We’re so full of certainty and what we “know” that we are no longer open to accept more.  I know I’ve been guilty of this plenty of times in my life and also in my conversion studies.  I often feel resistance to being told something I think I already know or having to study something that I’ve studied before.  At work, I sometimes make assumptions based on what I think I know about a system or process, in too much of a rush to reach a solution or move on to the next task.

As I grew older, it became worse.  I no longer looked for teachers at work or at home.  I became more resistant to learning from others because I thought I had to appear an authority.  Obviously, if I’m open to learning from my kids or junior coworkers or even my customers…then it must mean that I’m not really worthy of the position I’m in.

This resistance to learning…made me stagnate.

It’s basically like Hashem took a look at me and shrugged and said, “Well, if you KNOW, then I guess you don’t need to learn anything new or move up any levels.  Ok, stay where you are.”

I thought I’d gotten a lot better at this and I probably have.  I’ve opened up a lot more to learning and become a lot more teachable.  I’ve actively studied subjects that I “thought” I knew and found new facets, new richness, new depth.  I’ve learned so much from the younger engineer I’m mentoring that often I feel like I’ve learned more than I’ve taught.  Still, I have a long way to go.

As my friends and I spoke, I realized that there are still places I’m resistant to change, resistant to learning new ways to handle situations.  At work, I’ve been struggling with a customer who has had a high amount of employee turnover and quickly changing processes.  Now, I wonder where I could be more teachable there, more able to move with their changing environment?  At home, my children seem to be rapidly changing as they move into adolescence, yet I realize that I’ve been relying on the same parenting techniques that have worked before.  Where could I be more open to learning new ways to parent them that work better with who they are now rather than keep trying to treat them like the children they were?  In my conversion studies and process, where am I still resisting being led or learning at a new level?  Where am I still stubbornly sticking with how I think things should be rather than accepting and working with how they are?

thought I understood lifelong learning, particularly since I work in a field that is constantly changing and I’m always having to learn more to keep up, but I realize that I’d fallen into a very common trap of knowing too much and not being able to admit that even the things I think I knew, I may no longer know.

Widening this out from my own personal experience, I would say that teachability is one of the bigger predictors of who will be successful in Orthodox conversion.  The converts that I have known that have successfully completed conversion, for the most part, have been those who were teachable, who were willing to admit what they didn’t know, and who were willing to do what they were told was necessary rather than insist on doing things their own way.  When they were told they needed to move to within walking distance of an Orthodox Synagogue, they didn’t waste much time arguing about the expense or difficulty or unfairness or trying to find some way to not have to move…they instead focused their energy on finding the right community and working out the logistics.  I’ve even known of converts that left their home country and had to learn an entirely new language besides just how to read Hebrew in order to convert.

In contrast, I know another conversion candidate who is stuck in the process.  She has been in process several years and yet still will argue about whether or not she should drive to shul or carry outside an eruv on Shabbos.  She can’t see how her own resistance is in the way of her desires.  There are countless others like her that really do yearn to convert, but just can’t seem to get out of their own way to do it.  Looking back, I can see places where we got in our own way during our process.

Learning how to be teachable, how to work through initial resistance to new information and change or being led…is such an important life skill, no matter what age you are or what your goals are.

Even if you aspire to join a “stiff necked people.”

Of Golden Calf

This week’s parsha is a blockbuster, with the sin of the golden calf and Moses destroying the first set of luchas.  It’s a sin that reverberates through history, a major turning point in the relationship between Hashem and His people.  Hashem is angry enough at the idolatry that He threatens to wipe out the entire Jewish nation and start over with Moses as the new Abraham.  It would be interesting to imagine an alternate timeline where that happened.  How different would the world today be?  Instead, Moses begs for forgiveness for them, even telling Hashem to “blot me out from the book that You have written,” if Hashem refuses to forgive them.  He is willing to be erased from history and the world to come even though Moses wasn’t part of the sin of the golden calf and is promised to have a new nation built from him.  His thoughts are only for his people.

Hashem relents and forgives, but there are consequences.  He teaches Moses the 13 attributes of mercy to use whenever he needs to ask for forgiveness, which we still use today to call on Hashem’s merciful nature.  Finally, Hashem reveals his greatness to Moses and seals the covenant that He has begun with the Jewish people.

There’s so much going on here.  We go from the relatively mundane instructions for making annointing oil along with other particulars of the Mishkan suddenly back to the sin of the golden calf and Moses’s anger and then his pleading, and then suddenly some very close and intimate moments between Hashem and Moses, all finally culminating in an even more solid relationship between the Jewish people and Hashem.  Before, they were just beginning to understand the basis of the relationship they were going to have.  Now, even after their great betrayal, Hashem “seals” His covenant with them and only them.

Not only are they forgiven, but they’re given a deeper commitment than they’ve ever had.

Not only does Moses give up the offer to become a nation of his own, but he even finds himself separated further from his people, having to pitch his tent now outside the camp and, after descending a second time from Mount Sinai, he now has to wear a veil over his face except at certain times.  He is closer than ever to Hashem, but now stands even further apart from the people he loved enough to give up everything for.  Nothing is ever the same, for anyone, after the golden calf.  All relationships are changed.

The older I get, the more I realize that life really is all about relationships.  This might seem intuitive for anyone else, but for my blunt-ended engineer mind, it took a while.  For most of my life, I focused on knowledge over everything.  Knowing “things” was what I spent most of my time on, accumulating a hoard of knowledge like a wall to fortify myself.  I put more effort into my studies than my friendships and, as a result, I can say that I really don’t have any childhood friends that I’m still in regular contact with.  We drifted apart while my head was in my books and all my focus on earning strings of letters to put under my name.  It really took reaching a point in my career where I had to build relationships with my coworkers and customers in order to accomplish technical goals for me to finally begin to wake up and look around me.

In the first years of our conversion process, I was still in that mode.  I studied Judaism like I had studied anything else.  I devoured books, sat in shiurs and practiced observance of mitzvos like it was any other skill I wanted to master.  I tried to fit in socially in my community, but I felt awkward and shy.  There, people seemed to assume I was a stay at home mother or that my career was unimportant next to my husband’s.  I was humbled when, suddenly, all those letters under my name offered me no support, no standing.  I had to re-learn how to connect with people as more than just my job title, but as a person and that…was actually pretty scary to me.  My mind jumped up to the rescue and I began to do my best to learn how to interact.  Still, it was all intellectual.

I hadn’t yet had an experience that would shake the foundations of that relationship and either make or break it.  I was a conversion candidate pre-golden calf.

Years ago, when we took our break from conversion, it was after a moment that felt a little like a golden calf moment to me.  I felt hurt and betrayed and, as was my way, I ran.  I ran to the solace of the mountains, leaving my community, believing it better to be outside the camp than in after what had happened.  I certainly didn’t live up to Moses’s example.  His people had hurt him by their betrayal of Hashem, even after everything he’d faced and gone through for them and all the miracles Hashem had shown them.  Yet, even so, even though he was hurt and angry, he still put them above himself.  He set aside his feelings and begged for mercy for them.  He certainly could have run off into the mountains and begun a new nation, secure and close in his own relationship with Hashem.  Instead, he was committed to his people.

I failed to do the same when my commitment was tested.

When we came back to our community and conversion, it was humbling.  We had to start over…again.  We had to admit that we’d been wrong to leave in the first place.  Still, we were forgiven.  We were allowed to try again, much as the Jewish people were.  This year, I began to see how I had changed.  I was no longer practicing interacting, I actually wanted to know the people around me.  I worried over their illnesses and their kids and I discovered a whole world within the people around me.  This extended to work, where I began to ask my coworkers more about themselves rather than only talking about technical subjects.  I took on a junior engineer to mentor rather than only focusing on my own work and discovered the pride I could feel as he came into his own.  In my own family, I reconnected on a deeper level with my parents and my brother, moving past the pain that I’d felt years ago when my parents had disowned me for marrying my husband, a Jew.  I was able to see their fear and concern and forgive them without having to bring it up to them.  I’m able to see their faults, but not judge them even as I walk my own path.

My Judaism changed, too.  I stopped studying to accumulate knowledge for a test at the Beis Din and began studying more to understand my relationship with Hashem and the Jewish people.  I no longer focused on being able to rattle off dates, define terms, or describe obscure, but important halakhic points.  Instead, I wanted to know this people through Torah and mitzvos and know Hashem through them.

It’s into this context that my next golden calf moment last week came, learning that we will again have to start over our conversion process after our big move.

The same old feelings came up.  Anger, hurt, disappointment, sadness.  I’m only human and, to use a term my son used to use as a toddler that felt so profound, this news “cracked my world.”  I felt that urge to run again.  This time, though, I just breathed through it.  I let those emotions have their moment.  I cried my eyes out whenever I needed to…and I still sometimes do.  And then?  I remembered my commitment to Hashem and to the Jewish people and I smoothed out my sheitel and went to go volunteer at shul.  As I did, I discovered something…I felt better quicker than I did when I ran.  It was easier for me to put this news in perspective as I continued to live each day in the familiar rhythms of observance.  It was easier for me to frame it in a positive light for the children.

Relationships are tricky things.  They involve perfectly imperfect human beings even when they involve the perfection of Hashem on the other end.  There are inevitably misunderstandings and disappointments.  In the story of the golden calf, Hashem gives us an amazing example of how to repair relationships as He repairs His relationship with the Jewish people.  He backs off His initial reaction, justified as it may be, to simply walk away from this people that has wronged Him.  Instead, He and Moses work to not only repair the relationship, but build an even stronger foundation.  Being perfect, Hashem could have simply cut right to the end result.  He could have told Moses what had happened and jumped straight to the fix, laying out the new rules and what needed to be done.  It’s obvious that this story is drawn further out to teach us something, not because Hashem (chas v’shalom) really needed to calm down or reconsider the situation.

We need to calm down and reconsider situations and sometimes, we need an example.

My relationship with Hashem, the Jewish people, and Judaism is more important than the things that I kept letting upset me.  For me, it took failing at my own test of my commitment to realize that…and perhaps a couple of years of maturing as well.  Most relationships, save for a few really unhealthy ones, really are more important than the small disagreements that I used to allow to get in the way.  Most relationships can be strengthened after a conflict.

And, as always, Hashem shows us how.

 

Purim and Living Between Worlds

This week is one of my favorite Jewish holidays.  One of the very best things about Orthodox Judaism is that there are so many holidays and they’re all so different in their observances and traditions.  Purim is a particularly fun holiday for children, with costumes and candy galore.

This year, though, as we read the Purim story and prepare our treats for friends, I’m already quite a bit down.  Last week was a really rough week for our family and Adar is supposed to be a month in which we are commanded to “increase our joy.”  We did have some very good news last week as well.  We have secured a rental in our new hometown that’s close to shul.  My husband was able to see a good endocrinologist and should be getting a working pump soon, which is something he’d been fighting up here for since last June.  Still, we had some bombshell bad news on our conversion progress and then we’re still struggling to sell our house in a buyer’s market.

It’s hard to feel the kind of increase in joy I feel like I’m supposed to feel this Purim.

Re-reading the story of Purim, this year, I feel more connected to Queen Esther.  She’s the heroine of the tale, the girl who becomes Queen and uses her influence to save the Jewish people.  Yet, even as the story ends, she remains locked in the palace, married to a non-Jew and unable to join her people in their celebrations.  She saves her people, but cannot save herself.  She is trapped, living between two worlds.

Right now, my family and I are very much living between two very different worlds.  On the one side, we have Alaska.  Just yesterday afternoon, we were up in Hatcher Pass spending a bright, sunny afternoon high in the mountains watching snowboarders bravely make their way down snowy peaks.  All around us is a non-Jewish world.  We munched on potato chips because it was about all I could find in the gas station with a kosher symbol.  In the meantime, my husband makes periodic trips down to our new home to work out the logistics of our move.  There he can attend daily minyan and stand next to our childrens’ teachers.  Kosher food is plentiful and less expensive.  There are no mountains and life is far less wild and untamed.

It doesn’t help that we’re feeling less connected to our Jewish community up here.  Now that our Rabbis know that we’ll be starting over again in our new home, they’re no longer meeting with us or teaching us.  There are simply too many other pressing demands on their time.  Our children, now both past the age of bnei mitzvah, likewise are now on their own as well.  To be clear, I’m not blaming our Rabbis for using their time where it will do the most good.  There really just isn’t much we need right now or that they can help us with.  Still, it’s hard not to feel adrift through no one’s fault.

“It’s supposed to snow tomorrow,” my husband says.
“Where?” I ask in response, unsure which place he’s looking at the weather for anymore.

Did Queen Esther look out her window at her people celebrating and yearn to be with them?  Did she have a window that faced them or was her view focused inward on palace courtyards?  Did she live in two places at once or did she ever fully feel at home in the palace?

I know this Adar, I must work harder to increase my joy.  In just about 12 weeks, which isn’t long, I will be flying to a new home and starting a new journey and I’d rather not waste my last weeks here in the mountains in sadness.

May you all have a very Happy Purim and see all the hidden joys in your own lives!

Top 20 Things About Taking a Decade to Complete Your Orthodox Jewish Conversion

I needed some humor this week after the news we received that we’ll be beginning our conversion process over again after our move.  So, in honor of our upcoming delay…I decided to focus on the positive and try to laugh a little about this all.  So, here it is…the top 20 best things about taking a decade to finish an Orthodox Jewish Conversion, in no particular order.

  1.  You never have to have Shabbos guests, yet you’re not seen as rude or stuck up.
  2. Any volunteer gigs you’re asked to do at shul are generally pretty simple, although they may involve light switches on Shabbos.
  3. You’re the go-to person to ask on basic halakhah and observance because you’ve studied it over and over.
  4. No one steals your wine.
  5. Yom Kippur is generally stressless since you’re already doing above and beyond what you’re obligated in.
  6. If you’re single there is no dating pressure.
  7. If you’re married, mikvah night does not involve a mikvah or mikvah prep.
  8. You can do wacky things like a Harry Potter Seder without worrying about offending guests.
  9. You can try out different hashgacha at will.  Want to try Dutch customs this month and then go full out Breslover next?  Knock yourself out!
  10. If you’re male and have social anxiety, all worries about having to stand up for an aliyah are gone.
  11. You can get creative with your 1 melachah each Shabbos.  Will it be borer this week?
  12. Plenty of time to test out sheital styles before you have one in too many simcha pictures.
  13. If you have kids, you can really save a ton on simchas.  If you play your cards right, you may only have to put on weddings.
  14. You are generally (and happily) left out of any shul politics.
  15. You can try out various kippah styles without many people thinking much of it or giving your family worries.
  16. Kiruv Rabbis do not harass you in public places.
  17. Less junkmail from Birthright.
  18. You’re never guilt tripped into making a minyan.
  19. You don’t have to eat the Afikomen.
  20. Your sincerity is rarely questioned…only your sanity!

Hopefully we won’t take a full decade, but it is looking like it will most likely now total 7-8 years.  I’d rather not get into the details of why we’re further delayed now, but suffice it to say that it’s no one’s fault, no one did anything “wrong” and we’re still on track, just a longer track than we were a couple of weeks ago.

That’s Orthodox Jewish Conversion…it’s unpredictable even for Rabbis and you just have to be so committed to making it through that you’re willing to roll with whatever changes come your way.

April

“April,” he promised
again and again
his words became a mantra
a lifeline in dark places
we clung to April as our life raft

Life spun us around in riptides
April became the rope tied to the shore
we saw the shore grow closer
the other side of the water became clearer
our eyes full of hope

As April grew closer, his voice grew quieter
the shore no longer was clear
fog had rolled in
we strained to hear and see
“April?” we called, the rope felt slack

With a few words, April disappeared
the rope broke
the indistinct shore drifted back to the distance
we looked at each other, eyes wide with fear
orphans lost at sea

We held each other and wept
the loss of April a sharp pain
we found our oars again and began paddling
alone in the darkness
exhausted and empty

We saw the rope of April
frayed and torn
floating on the water
disconnected, useless
we lowered our faces and kept paddling

on

no one singing or speaking
the word April now forgotten

Plot Twist!

This morning, I saw a particularly timely cartoon come across my Facebook feed.

When something goes wrong in your life, just yell, “PLOT TWIST,” and move on!

My life has been full of plot twists.  Interestingly, I’ve always, in the moment, reflected on the fact that bad news, or a major life change, never seems to come in the form I think it will.  Every time I’ve been given news that changed my life’s direction, it’s been on a sunny day.  In the movies, bad news has weather to fit it.  It’s generally raining or gray.  When my mother reached across the table to take my hand and tell me my brother had been diagnosed with cancer the first time, I distinctly remember the sunshine streaming through the windows.  It was like a note out of key.  Here she was, talking about radiation therapy and my brother’s odds and it was a bright sunny Saturday morning.  Similarly, the morning my father called me to tell me my brother had passed from his second battle with cancer, it was a bright morning.  Plot twists in real life aren’t nearly as well scripted as they are in the movies.

Each time I’ve had a major plot twist as well, I’ve never had music come in to warn me or some foreshadowing to let me know how this story would play out.  When I was younger, I didn’t really have a faith to fall back on.  Every big, life changing change hit me with full force and it was hard to trust that any good could come of it.  I was fortunate that my brother passed when I had already begun exploring Judaism.  I had a framework in which to process my grief that most of the rest of my family didn’t have.  I had a hope that in some way, he was in a better place and had completed his work here and that his life and death had an ultimate purpose even if I couldn’t see it with my own eyes.  I found comfort in prayer and in looking for the good he had done in his life.  Most of my family were left without that same comfort and it seemed to me like their grief process was more difficult for it.

Most of the plot twists that have come in my life have been far less serious than losing my brother.  Some have even been comical.  I have noticed, though, that since I began studying Judaism years ago, I have come to handle the plot twists of my life better and better.  I’m sure ageing has some part in it as well, but a big part of it is that I no longer react so much to change, but instead, I wait, knowing that everything will work out for the good in some way if I’m patient enough.  If it hasn’t yet…then we’re not to the end of that plotline yet.  Knowing that there is an author writing the story of my life that cares deeply about each character in it rather than a room full of monkeys typing randomly on typewriters brings me comfort when suddenly there comes a huge shift in the story.

I trust in the Author, that He knows better than I how this story needs to play out.  I just need to play my part the best way I can.

This message was timely for me because we’ve run into a bit of chaos when it comes to our conversion process recently.  There is a lot that we thought was certain that isn’t now and we’re not sure how the story is going to play out.  At worst, we may have to begin our process over again after our move, adding on 1-2 more years in process before we can complete.  For my husband and I, 1-2 more years is little to worry about, but for our children, 1-2 years is a much bigger issue, particularly when it comes to their Jewish education as well as their hopes.

Years ago, such a plot twist this late in the story would have sent me reeling and reacting.  I consider it a sign of great growth that I simply shrugged and said, “It will all work out some way or other, for the best,” and then went back to the work of living each day, davening, volunteering, raising and educating the kids, and preparing for our move.  There is little time to worry about it before Purim, which inevitably leads to the rush of Pesach preparations.  Homework from both the kids’ secular studies and their Orthodox Online Day School studies must still be overseen and done.  Food has to get bought and cooked.  Cleaning has to happen.  Davening, mitzvahs, and tzedekah all still are a higher priority than worrying over things I simply can’t control.  At some point, living as an Orthodox Jew became even more important than the process of becoming one, which I firmly believe will follow if we stay focused on living this life.

So, we check in with our Rabbis periodically to see how things are going and if anything more is needed from us to help the process, but beyond that?  I leave it to above my pay grade except when I’m davening.  I channel all my tears and pleading there, to the only One who ultimately has control of any of it and leave it there.

The rest of the time, I focus on playing my part in this story the very best way I know how and wait for this latest plot twist to work itself out for the good, even if that isn’t the way I would have written the story.

I trust the Author with my life because it’s His life to write.  I’ve just been given the honor and responsibility of living it.

Soon, My Children Will Not Be Mine

Orthodox Jewish conversion has a lot of fascinating quirks that a lot of people aren’t aware of unless they’ve dealt with the process directly.  One of them, which I mentioned in relation to my husband yesterday, is the fact that once you emerge from the Mikvah as an entirely new, Jewish person in the eyes of Jewish law, you also emerge with a new set of parents, Avraham and Sarah.  An interesting twist in this happens when a child converts in that, when it comes to Jewish law and ritual matters…they’re technically no longer their parents’ child anymore, but a child of Avraham and Sarah.  When an entire family converts, this means that, from a halakhic perspective, technically, the parents and the children all suddenly have the same spiritual parents and are also spiritual siblings.

This can lead your mind down some uncomfortable, very West Virginian paths if you let it and it is important to have a Rav that can advise you on things like laws of yichud and such if you have older children and are in this situation, but I think those details are best left to Rabbis who specialize in this particular and peculiar area of Jewish law.  This also applies to non-Jewish children who are adopted by Jewish couples and converted as infants or children, too.

The aspect that I struggled with early on in the conversion process was the idea that my children wouldn’t be prayed for with my name, but Sarah’s.  For some reason, that ached in my heart, that if my children were sick or hurt and needed prayers, they wouldn’t be prayed for as MY children, like any other Jew.  My son wouldn’t be called to Torah as the son of my husband, but as someone else’s son.  I have heard, in passing, that there is such a thing as “halakhic adoption” after conversion, but I also had to face the prospect of this being yet another thing I would have to work through letting go of in order to become a Jew and so…I set to thinking very deeply about it.

Like my husband’s journey to letting go of his attachment to his names, it took years and I can say that it’s only this winter that I’ve finally come to a place where this feels good, not just something that I’ll grit my teeth and make it through, but something I see as a positive good.

Part of it is the growing up my children have done since we began the conversion process.  7 years ago, when we first approached a Rabbi, my daughter was just 5 years old and my son 7.  They were still very much attached to me and needed a lot of care.  Over those 7 years, they’ve grown more and more independent.  My son, in particular, is now a 14-year-old, an adult in Jewish law and more and more, he craves his independence as he becomes his own man.  He needs space from me and our relationship shifts and changes as he grows into being more and more my peer than my child.  My daughter turns 12 next week, which is the age she would have become a bat mitzvah.  There are moments where she is still my baby and then the next, I see glimpses of a beautiful, bright young woman, strong and capable in her own right.

It’s already becoming the time of stepping back and letting go of my children so that they can be the people they were meant to be.

That process is so bittersweet.  I worry over them.  I’m intensely proud of them.  I’m annoyed by them.  I long to just pull them back into my lap and cuddle them.  I even ask them for help, particularly my son with jars I just can’t open.  I love them just as fiercely, but often, it’s appropriate to hold back some so I don’t embarrass them or cross the boundaries they’re beginning to make in their own lives.  They change so quickly and most of the time, I’m clumsily trying to keep up with it all.

A big shift happened this winter when we went to visit a Yeshiva and a boy’s High School with my son.  For years, I’d been resistant to the idea of sending him off to Yeshiva.  It felt like I was abandoning him to others to finish raising.  However, visiting these schools and watching the boys there interact with their Rebbes and seeing my son interact as well, I suddenly realized that this could be something really healthy.  Perhaps boys need to go off into a world of men that aren’t so close to them to be stifling and have more influences than just my husband and I.  I realized that my son could not just survive, but really thrive in this environment.  I also saw that he’d have even more support and guidance than we alone would be able to give him.  I suddenly felt like it was time to open up, let others into his life in a much deeper way, and take steps back of my own.

Up until now, my husband and I have been his coach, calling the plays in his life.  Now, it looks more and more like we need to be on the sidelines, just cheering and supporting him from more of a distance, but still his biggest fans.  He needs new coaches to take him to the next level.

I can think of no better spiritual parents to entrust my precious children to than Avraham and Sarah, the very people who helped to guide so many people of their time to the revolutionary concept of monotheism itself.  I also realize that as a spiritual newborn myself, I’ll need to depend on others now to give my children what I can’t, what I’m still in need of myself.

In my own life, I’ve struggled with the transition with my own parents from child to a sovereign adult.  I can now see more clearly from the other side of the equation just how difficult that transition must have been for them, too.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’ve been asked spiritually to make that transition with my own children in a very literal way at the same time that they’re at the age of adulthood in Jewish law and I really feel blessed by all the lessons there are for me in this.

Sometimes the very things we feel the most initial resistance to are the things we most need, the bitter medicine that is our cure and, it’s absolutely fitting in a Jewish sense that this cure comes before I have to let go of my children in other aspects of our lives together and accept them as the adults they are growing into.

Plus, I can’t imagine that there couldn’t be a blessing from serving as a handmaiden to a woman as righteous and great as Sarah, giving over to her two new Jewish children that, G-d willing, may grow to bring her blessing with their lives.  It’s almost like being a commoner and raising your children to adolescence and the Queen of the realm seeing them and how special they are and how well they were raised and adopting them into her royal family.  It’s bittersweet to let them go, but such pride at seeing them ascend and knowing how much more able they’ll be now to reach their full potential.

So yes, I am letting my children go, but in the end, I realize they were only ever lent to me to care for and always belonged to Hashem.  I was just entrusted with these treasures of His for a time and it has been an honor.  I’m sure I’ll still be needed for many years to come in different ways and I’ll be so happy to step in, but I’m also glad I’m not alone in raising them the rest of the way.

Mother Sarah, I gladly and happily share my children with you and I know that you’ll love and worry over them with me and together we can daven for them.

What greater gift could I ever give them?