Off the Pulpit: Be the Parent You Needed

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

“As a mother comforts her child so will I comfort you (Is. 66:13).” Images of God as a mother and as a father do not only teach us something about God; they teach us something essential about ourselves.

There is no more important resource to create a good society than good parents. People who have early experiences of cruelty or absence or indifference from parents often carry the scars their entire life. As a Rabbi I have repeatedly seen adults blocked at fifty by what they experienced at five. The echo of a cruel comment caroms in the memory for decades.

Parents do not need to be perfect. They need to be, as the psychologist Winnicott famously wrote, “good enough.” The High Holidays emphasize the Sovereignty of God, but when we recite “Avinu Malkenu,” the title “father” comes first. The blessing of a good enough parent is immeasurable; the damage of a bad one is deep.

When Friday night comes, bless your children. Encourage them. Comfort them. If you were badly treated, be the pivot that turns to kindness for the generations to follow. Be the parent you needed when you were a child.

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