June 23, 2024
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June 23, 2024
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We are all familiar with the basic narrative at the beginning of parshat Bereishit—God created the world in six days and, on the seventh day, He stopped creating and rested. However, upon further inspection of the Torah text itself, things aren’t as clear as they seem.

At the conclusion of the six days of creation, the Torah introduces the seventh day of Shabbat (2:2): “And God finished doing His work on the seventh day, and He rested on the seventh day from all the work that He did.” Meforshim note an apparent contradiction in this pasuk. Initially, the Torah says that God finished His work on the seventh day, implying that He did create on part of the seventh day. Yet the second half of the pasuk says that He rested on the seventh day, which implies that He didn’t create at all on the seventh day. Did Hashem create on the seventh day or not?

The Midrash Bereishit Rabbah raises this question and answers that Hashem did create one thing on Shabbat—He “created rest.” After six days of creation, the one thing missing from the world was the concept of rest, and that was what God created on Shabbat.

The Midrash’s answer seems difficult to understand. What exactly does it mean to convey when it suggests that God “created rest”? Rest isn’t something that can be created; it is simply the lack of activity. How could God create rest?

I once heard a beautiful answer to this question from Rabbi David Fohrman. Rabbi Fohrman noted that when someone is involved in the process of creation—for example, an artist creating a new painting or a musician writing a new piece of music—the most difficult stage is finishing. There is always more that can be done, additional finishing touches that can be added. That moment of finality, when the artist takes a step back and decides that he has finished, is most elusive. Yet, at the same time, ironically, that instant is the most creative moment in the process—because the painting now exists on its own and has been “created.” Until that moment, it was a project, a draft, a canvas with colors. From that moment on, it is a painting, a new creation.

This, suggests Rabbi Fohrman, is what the Midrash means when it says that Hashem “created rest” on Shabbat. For six days, God created the world, in all its wondrous glory and with all its myriad of details. But throughout those six days, as God continued to create and add to the world, the world was still simply “God’s canvas,” as it were, a project in progress. Once Shabbat came and God consciously ceased to create—that act of resting was actually the most creative moment in the process of creation, as it now enabled the world to exist on its own, as a finished entity. This was God’s act of creation on Shabbat.

Rav Fohrman noted that this profound concept applies in many other areas of life, including the world of parenting. Of course, our most creative act as parents is our involvement in the creation and birth of the child. From that moment on, however, we continue to play a major role in shaping and raising that child. Throughout the childhood years, we are involved in all aspects of the child’s life—as we strive to mold and fashion the child according to the values and ideals that are important to us.

At some point, however, the child grows older and begins to assert his independence. Our natural instinct as parents is to push back against this—we aren’t quite yet ready to give the child the independence he naturally craves. We feel that there is still more that we can give to the child, ways in which we can continue to influence and shape the person he is becoming. In a way, we are like the artist who isn’t quite yet ready to be finished with his newest project, as there is always more to add or improve.

Yet, like the artist, one of the most creative acts we can perform as parents is to step back and give that child some space and autonomy. In doing so, we allow the child to exist “on his own” and empower him to grow as an autonomous and independent adult. At that point, we have truly “created” our child in an incredibly profound way.

Of course, this is not an “all or nothing” proposition, particularly in the realm of parenting. Throughout our children’s lives, it may be appropriate to give them, or even encourage, autonomy in certain areas of their lives, while maintaining our influence in other areas. The formula involved in this process will also vary from child to child and situation to situation.

It is critical, however, that we recognize the importance of letting go and giving our children independence at the right time. While it may feel like we are “losing” our kids or abdicating our parental role, empowering them in this way is one of the most important things we can do as parents.

Shabbat Shalom!


Rav Yossi Goldin is the menahel tichon at Yeshivas Pe’er HaTorah, Rebbe at Midreshet Tehilla, and Placement Advisor/Internship Coordinator for the YU/RIETS Kollel. He lives with his family in Shaalvim and can be reached at [email protected]

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