Photo: RachelWPhoto, Flickr C.C.

 

Note: This is a four-part series on healthy parenting and family life. Read parts one, two, and three.

Last week, we equated the parent with the gardener: Just as the gardener helps facilitate the growth of a seed into fruition, the parent is to facilitate the growth of their children into fruition. Therefore, we will now look a little closer at the role of the gardener to understand how it parallels the role of a parent:

Plowing -- The tree absorbs its nourishment from the soil, in addition to providing room for the tree's roots to grow. Therefore, the soil is plowed, preparing it for the tree to be planted firmly in the earth thereby facilitating the tree's growth.

In a similar manner, a child needs healthy and stable nourishment as well as the space within which to grow. The Kabbalists compare the inner work of the ground that occurs during plowing to the inner work of an individual who is changing and improving his persona and character traits. The parent that does this "personal plowing" sets the stage for a strong and healthy child to be planted, sprout, and grow forth from within his midst.

Perhaps this is what is meant by the rabbinical teaching, "The way of the earth precedes Torah"—the growth of the tree is dependent on the earth that it is rooted in; the spiritual achievement of a child is an outgrowth of the personal plowing of his parents.

Water—Water is known as the primary facilitator of plant life. Just as humanity needs water in order to survive and thrive, plant life needs water to survive and thrive. The amount of water available to a seed will be greatly reflected in the tree that grows forth from it.

In a similar manner, Torah is compared to water throughout the Jewish writings since it quenches one's thirst for spirituality and meaning, and facilitates our spiritual and personal growth.

Light—In addition to water, light is essential to the healthy growth and development of plant life. In fact, it has been shown that plants actually grow toward light. Without light, the growth of a seed doesn't really get off the ground.

Just as the function of light is that it allows us to see clearly, the spiritual concept of light is clarity—clarity of reality, clarity of direction, and clarity purpose.

Anyone who attains such clarity is inspired to grow toward it. Anyone who radiates such clarity is bound to have others grow toward him—especially those closest to him.

When a parent lives the type of life we are describing here—an inspired life of positive purpose and follow through, free from hypocrisy and justifications—he becomes the "light" of his child's life, and the child is drawn to admire him and emulate his ways.