As someone who wasn't born Jewish, trying to bring up a Jewish child, I often questioned myself on how to make Judaism an integral part of our lives--not just something to observe on holidays or while at the synagogue. Then, this past summer I had the opportunity to use a prayer to make a moment in my teenage daughter's life Jewish. I discovered the power of a blessing.
As any parent of a teenager knows, there comes a day of monumental importance in their child's life. A once-in-a-lifetime occasion that will change the way you view your child forever. No, I'm not referring to being called to the Torah as a bar or bat mitzvah, but the day when that child obtains a learner's permit for driving. My daughter, Erica, joined the ranks of eager-to-learn drivers in January, and I, her mother, joined the ranks of anxious parents. Erica, a receptive and sensitive child, picked up on her mother's nervousness at the thought of her daughter behind the wheel of a car and opted to have her father give her driving lessons. But Dad wasn't always available and the day came when she requested that I take her out driving.
Understanding that she did need the practice, I agreed, and we exchanged our usual places in the car. As I buckled my seat belt I looked over at Erica behind the wheel and was struck by how quickly time had passed. My blue-eyed baby girl was now a young woman. I wondered how I could convey to her all that I was thinking and feeling without getting too sentimental. I wanted to let her know that this drive marked an important transitional moment in my life, as well as in hers.
Erica looked at me nervously--she was used to having her father take her out driving and she wasn't sure just how I would react to not being the driver of the car. She knew that I liked being in control, and that it must be difficult for me to have her be the driver.
I looked at my daughter and said, what a perfect moment for the Shehecheyanu. In Judaism, the Shehecheyanu prayer can be said when you are experiencing something for the first time--whether the first time in a particular season, first time in your life, or for the first time that year. We recite: "Blessed are you, Creator of the Universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season."
Like most teenagers probably would have, she responded with a look that seemed to say, "Are you serious?" I nodded my head, we turned and smiled at each other, and then we recited the blessing out loud.
As we said this simple blessing, my nervousness melted away, I sensed Erica relaxing with me in the passenger seat, and a feeling of calmness came over the two of us.
Saying the Shehecheyanu allowed us to take a moment to focus on the importance of our first driving lesson together and the importance of including Judaism in the moment.
Erica was pleased that I recognized she was making a change in her life--growing older and taking on a new responsibility. I knew that it was right to thank God for allowing us to be present at this significant moment and to acknowledge this arrival at a new place in our lives.
And so we slowly drove off on the first of many driving lessons.