During Elul and the aseret yemei tshuva we submit our will to that of our King. In all the confessions and accounting of our actions and behavior over the past year we surrender ourselves completely to our Father. We note the things we want for ourselves and beseech G-d in the hope that our prayers are answered “l’tova”, for the good. Of course we want certain things for ourselves but sometimes when we ask for them year after year and the answer seems to be “no” we start to question: Is my prayer not strong enough? Maybe I’m not asking in the right way? Is my desire for that thing not real enough? Perhaps I really don’t want it enough? Does G-d not think that that will really be for me “l’tova”? Maybe G-d really doesn’t want that thing for me? If so why am I wasting my time when I could be channeling my desire to things that are good for me that are good for the Jewish people that are good for the world? Am I being punished?
Why is the answer no?
My teachers always said sometimes G-d’s answer isn’t “no” but “not yet.”
It just seemed like a cop out. What does that mean, “not now”? “Dear beseecher, we have received your request but cannot fulfill your order at this time. Please try back later.” Well, thankyouverymuch.
With High Holiday liturgy replete with imagry of G-d as Father, I always wondered if becoming a parent myself would make some of these more esoteric ideas understandable. One of the wonderful things about your friends becoming parents is that you get to be a doting adopted aunt to an ever growing number of adorable kids. You have the tremendous merit of watching them learn and grow, develop and mature. You have the pleasure of watching your friends sing their kids praises - how well he eats, how she expresses emotion - while right behind them the baby pushes all the noodles on his tray onto the floor…
While I may not be a parent yet, it is true that spending time with younger kids makes ideas in t’shuva much clearer. It’s in those most mundane moments where a lofty, spiritual concept becomes tangible and it all just clicks.
It happened on shabbat.
I graciously thanked my hosts for putting me in another food coma and grabbed my glasses to go home but when my chevruta and I decided to get in a little learning after lunch, the lovely Marc Jacobs shades were dropped haphazardly on the coffee table. The low table. Within reach of smiling, mobile baby. (I can’t blame her, the kid has good taste!) I love baby and am always happy to share but I also wanted to keep my sunnies in one piece. I redeemed the larger-than-life frames from her tight little grip and swiftly placed them out of reach. Poor kid looked up at me with tears welling up in her big blue eyes. I got down on the floor and gave her a hug and a kiss and said “not yet”.
It just hit me like a ton of bricks and I realized in a very real way that sometimes that really is G-d’s answer to us.
Sometimes the answer really is “not-yet” and there’s good reason. Sometimes we are just too immature in our spiritual growth, sometimes we’re not “tall” enough and what we want is out of our reach. It’s not that we can never have what we desire and it’s not even that our desire is out of line with Hashem’s desire but our timing is out of sync. One day the answer will be “now”. The gates will open and our prayers will bear the most beautiful of fruits. Sometimes we just have to wait a little longer.
If she holds out a few more years you can bet I will be only too happy to take this kid shopping.