When our Kids “Beat” Us

It has become a summer ritual.  The “Jerusalem Marathon.” Each August on the second Sunday, I visit the summer camp where my wife works and my son attends.  Around that time, the camp holds a camp wide run with official scorers, numbers and timers.

I began running in this run and in others with my son a few years back.  He is now almost 16.  The first few races we did together, I had to slow down significantly just to make sure he was safe.  As the years went on, we ran together, but I still had a faster time.  

And this year, when asked if I was running with him, I told people, “I can no longer run with him, he has far surpassed me.” Just like my other children who have far surpassed me in their acting, singing, learning and moral abilities, in the father son race, he has won.  

In the Talmud there is a famous story about a Torah “father/son” dynamic.  In Bava Metzia 59b, a heated discussion about a technical point of Jewish law is found.  There is one single opinion that stood against the majority.   It becomes clear that this lone, single opinion was in sync with that the will of God.  

Still, however, the people go with the majority, as this is the way the law works.  God’s opinion on the matter is not followed. Knowing the wrath and power of God, one would expect God’s anger to emerge with a rebuke of the people.

Yet, that could not have been further from the case. “God smiled in that hour and said, ‘My children have defeated Me. My children have defeated Me.’”  

In responding to this unusual response, Rabbi David Aaron writes, “Like a loving parent, Hashem wants to nurture us.”  British-Jewish scholar and writer Hyam Maccoby adds, "God is a good father who wants His children to grow up and achieve independence. He has given them His Torah, but now wants them to develop it...."

I would add that the word nitzchu, to win, makes the story even more powerful.  God rejoices here in the stepping back and enjoying the victory of his children.  Instead of pulling a power play, God is joyous that his children can, in some sense, go even farther that He.  Having given us the Torah, God was able to celebrate in the knowledge that God’s creatures took the teaching and “beat” the Divine.

When we are our best selves, we, too, should hope that we have given others the tools to make themselves better than we ever could have been.

This year, let’s enter this new year investing in our children so they won’t only meet our standards, but they will also beat them.


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