By the time this column posts, the drama will be over. My daughter, Elana, now a high school senior at Reenas Beis Yaakov in Edison, NJ, will know which seminaries have accepted her, and she will have made her choice.
It’s a tumultuous experience, the seminary application, interview, and selection process. Elana has enjoyed being with the same group of friends since second grade. They light up my house with their positive energy and laughter on Shabbos, and I have watched all of them develop into lovely young women ready to venture out into the next chapter of their lives. Our house will be very quiet next year, not just because of Elana’s hoped for departure for Israel, but also, the loss of all of her friends parading through the house, studying with her, chilling with her, and giving me joy, nachas and envy, as Elana has enjoyed close friendships the likes of which I have never known. I send her off into her life after Reenas with lots of pride, and encouragement, and a big sigh.
I also send her off with prayer. This is something that any frum woman reading this column would have an. . . of course. . . response to. But an awareness struck me recently that every baalas teshuvah can relate to.
I drove Elana to her first seminary interview, held in a high school, which gave over a classroom to the Rabbi who was conducting the interviews. Since we hadn’t attended the open house, he graciously allowed me to watch a seminary video with Elana, and to receive a summary overview of the seminary from his perspective. And then he excused me outside of the room so that he could interview Elana without her mother sitting on the couch behind her.
The interview was very early in the morning so I had brought my siddur with me. As she and the Rabbi continued their conversation, I opened my siddur and proceeded with morning blessings, Shema, and Shomonei Esrei. Whenever I could, I tucked in special prayer for Elana, that she should be relaxed and confident and be able to impress the Rabbi with her special qualities.
There I was, standing outside of her interview room, siddur in hand, eyes closed, praying for my daughter. This was not an unusual sight for any of the other religious teenagers walking the hallways between classes. They’d seen their moms do the same for years.
For a moment, when my prayers were finished for the time being, tears sprung to my eyes.
My mother has never prayed for me. I don’t believe so, anyway. She doesn’t have a religious life or a relationship with our Creator, one that I am aware of. She doesn’t own a siddur, and she doesn’t ever go to shul. She is a worrier, so perhaps all of the worries she has sent up to heaven over the years have been received as prayer. I’d like to think so.
I stand outside of Elana’s interview room wanting the best for her. I stand outside of that room knowing that it’s in Hashem’s hands, and asking Hashem to help her. I stand outside that room sending another prayer, one of thousands, that I have said for her over her lifetime. I have prayed for her friendships, and her health, and her love of Torah, and her success on any number of tests. I have prayed for her happiness, and her refuah from sickness, and so many details of her life, she would probably be surprised to know. I have no doubt, if she goes to Israel next year, I will stand with siddur in hand and plead with Hashem to watch over her.
A baalas teshuvah mourns the loss of many things, and accepts that the path is sometimes a lonely and trying one. I miss something I never had, and probably never will – a mother who prays for me.
If you pray every day for your children, don’t think, “of course.” It is a gift, one your children may never fully appreciate until they are standing with siddur in hand, praying for their own children. And then they will understand a mother’s prayer.