By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Kesubos 49 – Chupah, The Path to Independence
The discussion at the beginning of today’s Daf revolves around the permanence of the effects of mesiras ha’av l’shluchei ha’baal. The makshan suggested that she can revert back to her status of being under her father’s authority if she were to return to his home, for whatever reason, before the chupah actually took place.
The Gemara proves, though, that this is not the case. Once her father or his agents have given her over to her husband or her husband’s agents for the purpose of chupah, it is irrevocable. Even if the chupah is for some reason canceled and she goes back to living in her father’s home, she no longer has the status of beis aviha.
This discussion underscores the inevitability of the bracha that parents receive upon the birth of a child: You should merit to bring him/her to Torah, chupah, and maasim tovim. Inherently implicit in this bracha is the awareness that, in addition to the aim of inculcating proper Jewish values in our children, a fundamental goal is to bring this child to chupah. In other words, independence. Everything we do with our children is with this aim in mind. That one day, this child is going to leave my protective wings and go at it on his own. Totally independent of me, the parent.
There is a clearly charted trajectory towards that day that the parents will hand over their child to the latter’s own, individual destiny.
The fact that this point is included in the traditional bracha given to parents when a child is born, is an indication of the fact that as Jews we deliberately keep a sharp awareness of this at the forefront of our consciousness; beginning from the very beginning. It is a big part of what shapes and molds everything we do in bringing up this child. We are consciously aiming to set this child on his or her own two feet. Cultivating the strengths and tools that will empower this child to one day be an independently functioning, successful Jew.
Often, children, even very young ones, attempt assertion of independence in a manner that ruffles our feathers. As the authority figures, we do not appreciate, to say the least, when a child tries to dethrone us. Of course, as parents (or teachers) it is important to keep the lines of discipline clearly demarcated. True, from a Torah point of view the authority of a parent or teacher is sacrosanct. At the same time, though, in addition to the fact that the halacha clearly states that one must not be heavy handed with the way one imposes authority on children, there is also the recognition that the child’s drive for independence is essentially a good thing. Perhaps the child needs to be taught that certain forms of expression are unacceptable. However, that does not change the fact that the inherent will is very positive.
After all, aren’t we aiming for Torah, chupah, and maasim tovim? Don’t we inwardly quiver with tender pangs of hope when we hear the words “katan zeh gadol yihiyeh”? Without the natural instinct to be separate and self-governing, that bracha would never be able to materialize. So instead of getting upset when a child gets a tad too spunky or brash, try reminding yourself how fortunate it is that this child is healthy and possesses the force that will one day enable him or her to thrive on their own.
This can be a huge boon in child raising, because it can generate a dynamic shift in the way we react to such outbursts. Instead of feeling threatened and a need to “fight back”, we realize that all we really need to do is to help the child find the right avenue to express that individuality. Instead of feeling like we need to crush a rebellion, we realize that there is a tremendous, positive energy in front of us that just needs to be harnessed and provided with positive direction.
Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. In addition to having authored Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim on Halacha and Hashkafa, writes comprehensive chazara questions (in Hebrew) for the advanced Daf Yomi learner, and weekly words of inspiration from the Parsha. Rabbi Berman can be contacted at email@example.com.