This week, during the Sisterhood garage sale, a copy of Gates of Prayer came through as a donation. It looked brand new; the binding had never been cracked and it looked like it had barely been examined. One of the volunteers brought it to me, figuring (rightly) that it didn’t belong in the book sale. I opened it up and just inside, in shaky handwriting, I found this inscription:
‘Pray as if everything depended on God
But act as if everything depended on you!’
I have given you the tallit and book to pray
The rest is up to you!!
My grandfather asked me to carry on our tradition,
I am asking you to do the same.
Please do not disappoint me.
May God continue to bless you with His most precious gift of shalom (inner peace)
I loved you when I held you in my arms during your brith
I loved you during your school years &
I will always love in the future.
With eternal love from
Your proud poppy.”
The note from the volunteer said this inscription was a heart breaker, and it is. In so many ways.
Please don’t disappoint me.
As a parent, I know the tug, the primal desire for my child to value what I value. As a teacher I know what it is to want the child—the student—to hold dear what I hold dear.
As a grandparent I can only imagine that pull is a hundredfold.
And we hear something of that parental voice in God’s voice this week, as he says” I am YHVH. You shall not profane my Holy name that I may be sanctified in the midst of the Israelite people—I YHVH who sanctify you.”
I sanctify you says the parent. I brought you into this world, cherished you, nurtured you. I gave you the means to have hopes and dreams and joys of your own. I sanctified you. Do not disappoint me.
But the text can be read a different way: “Ani Adonai Mikadsheichem—I am the one who makes you a sacrifice”.
In sanctifying you, I also sacrifice—something of myself to be sure. But also I run the risk of sacrificing you—your integrity, your strength, your independence.
When I say ‘do not disappoint me’ how can I then pray for you to have shalom—inner peace?
Our children disappoint us. And we disappoint right back. It is the nature of being human.
And God disappoints sometimes too.
But in that disappointment—in that sacrifice of perfection—we find holiness. We find real sanctity.
The honesty of real relationship. The truth of real connection, of real love.
It is there that we find peace.
Pray as if everything depends on God but act as if everything depends on you—indeed. Act. Fail. Rise up. Defy expectations. And may your actions be a real prayer, a prayer for all of us—children and those who care for children. Amen