By Rebecca Masinter
Over the last few days, I’ve been spending a significant amount of time listening to and speaking with mothers who are trying to determine what is best to do for their children this upcoming school year. I think what is clear to all of us is that this won’t be an easy year, not for teachers, not for parents, and not for children. No matter what decisions the mothers I’ve been talking to end up making, they are decisions that many of them never wanted to make, never wanted to think about.
Listen to Rav Hirsch on Parshas Re’eh. Moshe begins the Parshah by saying: “See I am setting before you today blessing and curse and you have a choice, you can pursue the blessing by following Hashem or you can choose the curse by turning away from Hashem.” Then Moshe gives us a tiny glimpse of what will happen later on and he continues, “and you shall deliver the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Eival”.
Rav Hirsch beautifully points out that Har Grizim and Har Eival are the perfect mountains to illustrate the difference between a blessing and a curse.
The two mountains, located side by side, present the most striking, instructive visualization of a blessing and a curse. Both of them rise from the same soil, both are watered by the same precipitation, rain and dew. The same air passes over them both, the same pollen is blown over them both. Yet Eival remains starkly barren, while Gerizim is covered with lush vegetation to its very top. Thus we see that blessings and curses are not dependent on external circumstances — but on the manner in which we react to these circumstances. Hence, whether we are blessed or cursed is not dependent on the superficial conditions that are imposed upon us, but on how we deal with them — on our attitude toward that which should bring us blessing.
Wow! Blessings and curses are not dependent on external circumstances but on the manner in which we react to those circumstances! That is exactly what I need to hear, what my children need to hear, and what each mother I’ve talked to needs to hear.
It is easy to fixate on the external circumstances: how can my child learn in a mask all day? How they can handle socially distanced lunches and recesses? How can my child cope with more Zoom classes? Lots and lots of external circumstances which we may be tempted to think are the problem. But no, it’s not the circumstance that’s the problem it’s our attitude to them that can be the blessing or the curse. That is such an empowering message, for ourselves, and to give over to our children. Yes, the circumstances are out of our control, but our attitude is within our control and at the end of the day, our attitude is all that matters.
We can change the way we look at the upcoming year. We can fill ourselves with delight and anticipation of all the growth, all the learning, all the new opportunities that are coming our way and we can share that with our children. Let’s take these words to heart so that we can help our children start their school year with an attitude of blessing, of optimism, of excitement. That is the message of Har Grizim and Har Eival. External situations just don’t matter all that much, it’s what’s inside us that counts.
Rebecca Masinter is the creator of Toras Imecha, a daily 2-3 minute podcast with inspirational thoughts on the parsha and Jewish motherhood.