For the last five years, I have been blessed with the privilege of daily contact with my grandchildren, caring for them during working hours – ages zero to two. This precious, innocent, pure age has taught me a great deal.
The most amazing insight is that even at the youngest ages, if a baby is given a bottle or a cookie, there is immediate pain in the other child of wanting it, regardless if they wanted it a moment before. The look in their eyes says it all. I want.
I have come to respect that pain and am very careful to have bottles for all prepared so that everyone gets a bottle at the same time.
It carries forward. If I have two babies and two identical toys, it is not enough. One of them will still want the one the other one has. It is an amazing phenomenon…it is not the toy that is desired. It is the joy it seems the other is having that feels like a threat. If someone picks up a toy, immediately that is the toy in demand and it is a matter of how to get it for themselves.
Obviously, these moments are rich with educational opportunities, compassionate communication opportunities that help everyone problem solve from their own inborn compassion. Children do have inborn compassion as well. What they don’t have is the ability to regulate their feelings or the thinking to control their natural impulses to take what they want or feel they must have.
Lori Petro, Teach from Love, has a whole series that teaches what might happen to a child if they are not helped to process their feelings. It might leave an impression on their survival instincts. When a child is young, their minds are like wet cement and the “tapes” there remain for life. Lori shows how to use compassionate communication skills to help children process their emotions regarding this natural wanting in a child.
I believe that pained place a baby has, that wanting, may be what led to the eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As a created being, adom and chava could never be Hashem. That felt like a pain, a lack.
Rabbi Mendel Kessin says that the angels also have this pain of shame, and he quotes the Ramchal definition of shame as a feeling of something being higher than us or a sense of having done something beneath us. When we wonder why Chava bought into the snare of the nachash, telling her she could be like Hashem if she eats, that impulse to eat seems like a resolution of this pain that we see in young children, this longing. It was an attempt to quiet that pain of lack, to resolve it with the intelligence of the nachash rather than rely on the message of Hashem, the chochma of not eating.
What do we resort to when we have this pain? As babies, it is crying, grabbing, kicking, etc. As adults, we go more underground… there is a long list of hurt feelings and retaliations, far too long to enumerate.
We are born innocent lambs with this flaw of wanting what we see that is or looks better. That innocent lamb is intended to connect itself to Torah and Hashem’s attributes of mercy. However, it is incapable of doing so at a young age. Hashem gives us parents who attempt to lead us towards healthy social skills through which we may reach our goals. Inevitably, the design of the world and our seeing human nature in our lives is that some will cling to material and physical solutions when we experience this feeling of lack – because we may not have so much consciousness of Hashem and instead we may want what we see in this world and we want to use what we see works (the world of powers). Our little lamb turns to solutions we see working in nature, or in the social structures or messages of the generation.
Ultimately though, the matter is for us to let go of these clingings to material and physical solutions in favor of being loyal and loving to the One Whose world it is, and to do His Will of revealing His Torah and attributes in this world. When we realize we are a creation and there is a Creator, and that without Him we have nothing, that He gives everything, then when we lack something we know the only way to receive it is from Hashem. We confess our first reactions. We love Hashem. We realize the opportunity He is giving us to be G’dlike in our choice to act from tzelem elokim. We thank Him. And we wait to see His Will.
At all times, we are safe and beloved. Just like our babies who are crying over not having that toy that the other one has. They are safe. They are loved. And so are we. Hashem loves us with a love that cannot be broken because our tzelem elokim is connected to Hashem Himself, a breath from Him. The fact that we exist is proof of His Love for us.
May Hashem grant us as His Will our hearts’ desires and may we truly see that we are creations reliant on Him Alone and thereby increase our loyalty, our emunah, and our will to doing His Will. May we all be inscribed in the book of life for a year of health, wealth, safety, redemption, love, blessings and light.