Mandy and Mordy had announced their plans to make aliyah. Everyone was so happy for them. After working remotely through covid, Mordy was able to convince his company that he could continue to work from Israel, returning occasionally to the office in London. It really doesn’t get much better than that.
A week after the big announcement, I bumped into Mordy’s parents. Sarah and Jake were from the city. A couple of years earlier they followed their kids and bought a home around the corner from them. “Mazal tov on the big news,” I said, “I can imagine it must be a little bittersweet for you.”
Suddenly, Sarah’s face changed. “No, not bittersweet. Just bitter. We moved to the neighborhood to enjoy our grandchildren. We helped them buy the house. We’re not pleased at all. How could they be so selfish?”
Today’s daf discusses the documentation a man must provide if he returns from overseas with a wife and children.
מַתְנִי׳ מִי שֶׁיָּצָא הוּא וְאִשְׁתּוֹ לִמְדִינַת הַיָּם, וּבָא הוּא וְאִשְׁתּוֹ וּבָנָיו וְאָמַר: ״אִשָּׁה שֶׁיָּצָאת עִמִּי לִמְדִינַת הַיָּם—הֲרֵי הִיא זוֹ, וְאֵלּוּ בָּנֶיהָ״—אֵין צָרִיךְ לְהָבִיא רְאָיָה לֹא עַל הָאִשָּׁה, וְלֹא עַל הַבָּנִים. ״מֵתָה וְאֵלּוּ בָּנֶיהָ״—מֵבִיא רְאָיָה עַל הַבָּנִים, וְאֵינוֹ מֵבִיא רְאָיָה עַל הָאִשָּׁה. ״אִשָּׁה נָשָׂאתִי בִּמְדִינַת הַיָּם—הֲרֵי הִיא זוֹ, וְאֵלּוּ בָּנֶיהָ״—מֵבִיא רְאָיָה עַל הָאִשָּׁה וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לְהָבִיא רְאָיָה עַל הַבָּנִים. ״מֵתָה וְאֵלּוּ בָּנֶיהָ״—צָרִיךְ לְהָבִיא רְאָיָה עַל הָאִשָּׁה וְעַל הַבָּנִים. גְּמָ׳ אָמַר רַבָּה בַּר רַב הוּנָא: וְכוּלָּן בִּכְרוּכִים אַחֲרֶיהָ
Mishna: If a man went overseas with a wife and returned with a wife and children and said: This is the woman who went overseas with me and these are her children, he is not required to bring proof that she is the wife or that they are the children. If he said: My wife died and these are her children, he must bring proof that the children were born to his wife, but he does not need to bring proof about the lineage of the wife. If he said: I married a woman overseas; this is my wife and her children, he must bring proof about the lineage of the woman, but he is not required to bring proof of the lineage of the children. If he said: I married a woman overseas and she died, and these are her children, he is required to bring proof for both the lineage of the woman and the children. Gemara: Rabba bar Rav Huna says: And all these cases refer to a scenario where the children were clinging to her (thereby buttressing the claim that they are indeed her children).
We all want our children to cling to us. We want them to be there by our side throughout our lifetimes. Perhaps not literally clinging to us physically, but after all we’ve invested in them, we deserve the nachas we’ve earned, right?
And yet, at the same time, we want our kids to be strong, stable and independent human beings. We want them to get married, have their own source of livelihood, live in their own home, and live their own life. How do you balance this dichotomy between having children that cling to you but are nonetheless independent and not reliant on you for the rest of your life?
The key to striking the right balance is a basic tenet of parenting. The job of a parent is to create a successful, sustainable human being able to survive and thrive in the world. The amount that a parent gives his child is so tremendous that it could never be fully repaid. Nevertheless, a good parent constantly asks himself, “Am I doing this for my child or for myself?” While the answer would appear to be obvious, that’s not always the case. Sadly, far too often, the parent treats his child as an investment, the unspoken consideration being: What will I get out of the deal? Let’s look at a few examples.
When you tell your teenager, “You can’t leave the house dressed like that,” are you thinking about the child’s welfare and wellbeing, or are you concerned about the embarrassment he’ll cause you?
When you encourage your child to head down a certain career path, is it because you know your child will excel in that field or so that you can be proud of his profession?
When you help your children with a downpayment, are you thinking, “It’s crazy how difficult it is today to enter the housing market. As a parent, I’m happy I can help my children get ahead in life?” Or are you thinking, “If I help my kids buy a home, that will ensure they live around the corner, and I can enjoy my grandchildren?”
Some parents wonder why they don’t have very good relationships with their children. That’s not what they’re really wondering. They actually want to know why, after everything they’ve done, their children aren’t there for them. And that’s exactly why the relationship isn’t stellar. Instead, they should be asking how they can be wonderful parents without expectations. Seemingly miraculously, they will start to notice their relationship flourishing. May you strive to be an all-giving parent and merit a deep and amazing lifelong relationship with your children!
Rabbi Dr. Daniel Friedman is the author of The Transformative Daf book series. He battles Christian antisemitism and teaches International Relations at Landers.