How Is Shavuot Like Parenthood?
Tuesday night marks the beginning of Shavuot, seven weeks since we started counting the Omer during Passover. Last year, I wrote about Shavuot traditions and why people don't celebrate the holiday as much as, say, Passover. This year, I found myself contemplating the following question at 2:30 a.m. and decided to share my answers with you.
How is Shavuot like parenthood?
1. Staying up all night: Sure, this is a gimme answer, but new parents never get tired of talking about sleep deprivation. On Shavuot, we stay up all night learning in order to make up for our ancestors' lack of preparedness for receiving the Torah. Our lack of sleep shows our commitment to Torah and our readiness for revelation. As new parents, our lack of sleep shows our commitment to our children and our readiness for sleep as soon as humanly possible. Seriously, though, one's views on life are different in the middle of the night, and both experiences open us to this new perspective.
2. Dairy: Cheesecake is the traditional food of Shavuot, and all dairy foods are encouraged in respect of the fact that the Jews hadn't yet received the Torah and so didn't know how to keep kosher. In my fridge, there is currently whole milk, skim milk, chocolate milk and breast milk, not to mention string cheese, shredded cheese, cottage cheese and three kinds of yogurt. Just this morning, my two-year-old spilled an entire yogurt smoothie on the couch while I was nursing the newborn. While you might only think about dairy this much on Shavuot, my life pretty much revolves around it.
3. Repetition: We read the Torah over and over every year. We read the 10 Commandments when it comes up during the normal cycle of Torah readings during the year, and then we read it again on Shavuot. Parents get really good at reading and rereading kids' favorite passages from books over and over and over again. Each time we read the Torah, we need to approach it with the same level of focus as if we're reading it for the first time or at least as if we're looking to get something new out of it. Kids approach their stories with gusto each and every time and really do get something new out of the acts of rereading and retelling.
4. Room for ritual: Because Shavuot hasn't received its fair share of attention, there is a lot of room for individuals and individual communities to develop their own rituals. Each moment with a child is an opportunity for families to create rituals, anything from bedtime routines to making up songs to inventing games. It's fun to make things up and feel ownership over them, which is a lot of what's happening with modern Shavuot observances.
5. Infinite love: Ending on a super cheesy note (see #2 for more on cheese), we read the Song of Songs on Shavuot, and many commentators draw comparisons between the romantic love in that text and God's limitless love for the Jewish people. While obviously different than romance, the depth and intensity of the love that parents feel towards their children is hard to express without flowery language and over-the-top metaphor.
As a final note, it seems like my family's new addition has encouraged people to ask an increasing number of baby-related questions, so stay tuned for those in the coming weeks. However, I am still enthusiastically accepting questions on any and all topics, so keep them coming!