I had a meeting last week with a young mother of a beautiful four month-old daughter to talk about the little girl’s Hebrew name and her naming ceremony. As we spoke, the Mom confided that whenever her baby cries she feels the overwhelming urge to go to her regardless of the hour and circumstances – “I just have to be there to hold her,” she said.
This little girl is still very small, a mere 14 pounds, and her mother’s instinct is not only natural but appropriate. I said, “Yes – your response is exactly right at this stage of your daughter’s life, and that instinct will likely be with you for decades to come. However, being a parent means that every day you will have to let go of her just a little bit for both your daughter’s sake and yours!”
Letting go of the people and things we treasure the most, be it our children, our youth and vitality, our professional life upon retirement, our spouse after separation and divorce or when illness and death come, our homes when we can no longer afford them nor manage to live in them, and in the end, our own health, is all part of the progression of our lives from birth to death.
Rabbi Milton Steinberg wrote, “This then is the great truth of human existence. One must not hold life too precious. One must always be prepared to let it go.” (A Believing Jew, publ. 1951)
The High Holidays will be upon us shortly, and we will be reminded by rite, ritual, prayer, sacred text, and music of the quick passage of time and that we are merely sojourners in this life, not permanent residents. How we accept this truth and all that comes as a consequence is a central theme of the High Holidays season.
One of my favorite quotations is that of the theologian and philosopher Tailhard de Chardin, who said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Tailhard De Chardin offers us a true and critically important perspective about our lives that can enhance the meaning and precious character of everything we do, learn and experience even as we understand that releasing that which we are not entitled to hold indefinitely is not only natural but a necessary part of living.