Sunday, December 22, 2013

Man in the House

My (newly engaged) youngest brother came to Israel for the last three weeks on a business trip.  We have always been very close despite the age difference, and though he spent the work weeks in Tel Aviv, he came to us in Jerusalem for the Shabbat weekends.

Raphaela connected to him immediately, and now that he has neared the end of his stay with us, I realize that my daughter learned certain things for the first time in her life, having a non-girl human being live with us.

At first, when my brother would expect privacy while on the toilet or while getting dressed, Raphaela became distressed and took the closed door as a personal insult.  I explained to her that just because she follows me everywhere (shower, bathroom, supermarket, garbage runs, nap time) does not mean that other people enjoy the same level of intimacy.  Trying to teach her the value of respecting other's wishes, I pointed out that if her uncle did not want her watching, he had every right, and she must wait with patience until he comes out of the guest room.

She gets it now, at least for people other than Mommy.

Then, this morning, she observed my brother placing Tefillin (phylacteries) while he prayed and seemed intrigued.  It hit me that she had never seen them before, and the three of us - my brother and I and Raphaela - had a lengthy discussion about Tefillin, what they represent and who wears them.  I explained that although I know certain very dedicated women who wear Tefillin on a regular basis, the practice is reserved mostly for Orthodox boys and men, over the age of 13.  Raphaela then made sure that she could still pray as she always does in Gan, and I reassured her that G-d listens to us wherever we are, whether it be synagogue or with Tefillin in the morning, or at home. 

She asked me if I pray on a regular basis, and I told her that I talk to G-d all day, throughout the day;  when I am working I ask G-d to help heal my patients, when I am driving I ask G-d to help me find a decent parking spot, and when I watch her sleep at night I ask G-d to keep Raphaela safe and healthy and happy.

Perhaps the most important lesson of my brother's visit is this:  Raphaela became so attached so quickly to my brother, and exhibited so much curiosity about the ways of men.  She could not stop talking to him at home, and about him in school, and was overjoyed when he took her to Gan one morning.  When I start dating, not just having fun but when it becomes serious with possible signs of long-term commitment, I will  be very careful as to when Raphaela meets this man who could become a new and key element of our lives.  For her sake, I cannot bring someone into the house, watch her connect and have him disappear.

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