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The Special Role of Grandparents Sermon

Sermon by Rabbi Melanie Aron

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Want to take a moment to recognize the three generational families who are with us this morning: (Names were read)

And also all of the grandparents whose grandchildren are not with them, and all of us who are or have been grandchildren when our grandparents were still alive

The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is very special.

Years ago at Ari Rossen’s Bar Mitzvah- and he must be almost 35 these days- they read a short poem by Eve Merriam called It’s Grand.

“Why is it easier with a grand than with a parent?

You can lean your heads together, and tell stupid monster jokes, and sneak candy, and watch too much television, and whisper behind your hands, about how foolishly stern your mother is-

Oh my dear yes, grandma puts on her best frown, she’s as bad as my daughter,

And you both crack up”.

I was fortunate to have a very special grandma, who let me discover all the treasures in her house, took me to Radio City Music Hall, and scared me with stories of an alligator living in her basement. She snuck me treats if I got sent to my room by my parents. It felt like she was always on my side. Perhaps you had that experience as well.

More and more we are discovering the importance of grandparents in giving children a feeling of wellbeing and acceptance and in transmitting culture and identity.

The specialness of this grandparent/grandchild relationship came up in last week’s Torah portion, the last portion in the book of Genesis, ( We’ll have to remember that it would make a great portion for our three generational Shabbat). In that portion, Jacob blesses both his sons and his grandsons before he dies. But the blessings are very different.

Jacob’s blessing of his sons- well, it is hard to call it a blessing. It includes Jacob  remembering their wrongdoings, and his anger at them. He assesses their character and often finds them wanting.  Along with criticism of his sons, his words also reflected his own guilt at the wrongs he felt he had committed against them, as when for example he had to bury Joseph and Benjamin’s mother, Rachel, along the road. Chapter 49 where Jacob blesses his sons contains 27 verses but there are only a few verses where the blessing is not mixed with some assessment, or concern, or direction. It’s not that he doesn’t care about them, he does care, a whole lot, but it’s mixed with such a strong sense of responsibility for how they will turn out.

Contrast that to the blessing of Jacob’s grandsons Ephraim and Menasheh. This blessing is not contaminated with any criticism or regret- it is all blessing all the time. It begins with an introduction:  “The God in whose ways my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd from my birth to this day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm. “ It then continues with a threefold blessing: “Bless these lads -- in them may my name be recalled and the names of my fathers’ Abraham and Isaac, -- and may they become teeming multitudes upon the earth.”  Bless them now, Jacob says. Bless them in the future, and bless them that they may keep alive the tradition of their ancestors.

One of the delights of grand parenting is that it is often without some of the complications of parenting. It can be a lighter relationship. Some view grand parenting as nature’s second chance in that we can be a little different than we were with our children. Without the same sense of responsibility for discipline and direction, grandparents can share love in a different way. And in it’s the warm glow of all that positivity, that our heritage passes from generation to generation.

This Shabbat we celebrate the gift of grandparents and grandchildren. We pray that our relationships will be always close and loving. We ask for God’s blessing now and in the future- and we are grateful to take our place in the chain of the generations of our people.


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