Spiritually Speaking

Question: Our two college aged kids have been stuck in their dorm rooms taking classes online. They’re both coming home for the holidays and they’ve asked if they could continue their education online from home. Because there’s a possibility of a vaccine for COVID-19, we would rather they return to college to retain their dorm rooms. This has turned into a family argument. Of course we’re happy to have our kids with us.
Any suggestions? ~ Bewildered Parents

Dear Bewildered Parents,
Before I begin to get into the “meat and potatoes” of what I’d like to say, let me begin by saying that there are a lot of factors here that are not clear to me: What type of students are they? Will their studies take a hit in any way by them being in a home environment? How inconvenient is it for you and/or them to move home (if it is at all)? After how long of them being home do they lose their dorm room? How many years left of school do they have – which translates into how valuable it is to retain the dorm room? How hard is it to find a new dorm room? (This is in addition to the questions with unknowable answers: When will the COVID-19 vaccine be ready? When will it be available to the broad public – even young people? Even if it does come out, when will the schools decide they are ready to go back to normal?)

I believe these are all questions that may be important to know the answers to before I’d be able to give a clear opinion as to what I believe is the right move. Nevertheless, I’d like to bring your attention to a certain idea and perspective that is actually brought down in Jewish law. This idea will not necessarily rule as to which choice is the best in your exact scenario (being that there are many factors at play here); however, it will possibly add to your thought process when making this decision.

In the chapter of the Code of Jewish Law that handles the laws of honoring one’s parents, it is written: “A student who wishes to travel somewhere which he knows will add success in his studies, and his father protests, he need not listen to his father in this matter.” (Shulchan Aruch Ch. 240 Sec. 25)

At the end of the day, although there is a commandment to honor one’s parents, in this circumstance the Torah said that we listen to the will of the son. He’s the one who will have to act on the decision that is made, and he is given the authority to make that decision.
While this case in Jewish law does not fit your scenario exactly, (1) Jewish law is discussing a case where the reason he wanted to move was because he thought it would benefit his learning, not for a reason of loneliness or boredom; (2) In that case, he was moving to study Torah, which from Judaism’s perspective is a fundamental commandment. Perhaps Jewish law would only grant more leeway to the son in that case, being that the Torah he’d be learning would be more efficient, which is so vital from Judaism’s point of view; (3) In your scenario, it’s possible that, in a few months, the place where your children would desire more would be back in school – depending on those unknown factors mentioned earlier. Nonetheless, perhaps what we can derive from this law is that when a student is happy and is where he wants to be, his studies will benefit tremendously … even to a point where the Code of Jewish Law states that this superiority alone overrides the commandment to honor one’s parents!

As stated earlier there are a lot of moving pieces and this cannot blindly be applied to the case in hand; however, I hope that this idea that the value of being content with where a student is can add to, and be tremendously beneficial to, their studying sheds some light and helps you with your decision.
All the best,

Rabbi Mendy Grossbaum


Dear Bewildered Parents,
Our whole world has been changed forever due to this pandemic. All of our lives have been affected in some way. Truly, any day that we wake up alive and healthy is a blessing and a gift. Knowing what is best for our children is difficult, especially during this fearful time of COVID-19 lockdowns. We have all expected things that have not happened. We had dreams that have not come true.

Six months ago, I watched my daughter graduate from Crescenta Valley High School, while wearing masks, from my car window. There was no grad night, or senior prom. And, just when we all expected that she would spread her wings and fly away to college, she spent her first months of college locked down at home and will most likely complete her freshman year online from her bedroom.

This is not the dream I had for her, and not the dream she dreamed for herself. She was selected to have a dorm room, but it would have been without roommates, all alone, on her computer, in a strange new city. The choice to stay home and give up the dorm was clear. I am sad for her experience but I am also grateful for every unplanned moment that I have gotten to spend with her. We cook together and watch movies together, and just talk about life.

Vaccines are indeed on their way, but may not be available for our grown children until late summer. None of us, even ministers, can predict the future. My suggestion to you both is to spend this time with your children, seeing it as an unexpected gift. Your children want to be home. I would love to know who is on the side of your “family argument,” arguing for more separation, higher risk of infection and arguing for an idea of how life “should be” rather than accepting it, as it is now.

Dr. Ernest Holmes, the founder of Centers for Spiritual Living, said, “Never limit your view of life by any past experience.” Last year’s college experience is gone forever. However, there is still opportunity for great growth and joy for all of you. Choose to accept life as it is now – not how you think it should have been or may be in the future. Life has been turned upside down on planet Earth. I believe that your children are old enough to know what they want for themselves. Perhaps they have a greater understanding of the fleeting nature of our human lives than you are aware of? Each moment is precious and will never return. Stay safe and healthy, and welcome this new opportunity to spend time with your kids. I have a feeling you will look back on this strange Year of the Pandemic with great gratitude for the opportunity you have been given.

Rev. Karen MitchellKaren@karenmitchellmusic.com

Questions So many holiday events have been canceled this year that it’s difficult to stay positive. We have four children and seven grandchildren. We’ve all agreed to not get together this year because of the pandemic. My challenge is my husband who is asking me the reason I’m decorating inside our home since no one is coming. I told him I’ve never missed a year decorating and I’m not going to stop now. I look at it this way: Jesus is often referred to as “The Light of the World.” We’re also asked to let our lights shine. Our outside lights have been kept up for years and we just turn them on during the Christmas season.

He doesn’t want to do that either. I’m guessing he’s depressed that we won’t be with our kids and grandchildren this year.

Are there words of comfort that I can share with him? We’re Christians and are now viewing our church’s services online.
~ Loves Lights

Dear Loves Lights,
My wife and I had a very similar discussion over the weekend as we pulled our Christmas decorations from storage. Since so much of our plans have been canceled, she said we needed more decoration! Stuck inside, she wants to be reminded of the season as much as possible. As I office from my couch, the room is lit with Christmas trees and lights, scented candles burn, and Christmas music is playing softly in the background.
All of this preparation and activity is fitting for the Advent season. It is a time of waiting, but not a time of idleness. Instead, in anticipation of the arrival of God with us, we do the work of decorating and baking and humming and wrapping. I think that the activity (yes, even decorating the house) can be a practice of faith.

Perhaps more than any other year in my lifetime, we sense the need of God’s arrival among us. Poverty touches more people as the wealthies’ wallets grow. Illness plagues city and country alike. Divisions multiply. Injustices, hidden and apparent, threatens lives.

Our hearts could use more festive music. Our souls are in need of glistening decoration. Our minds should turn toward goodwill toward all. Our bodies yearn for wholeness and peace. Even if few people see it, the preparation we make within ourselves for God’s arrival is an essential practice of our faith.

This is the season of hope, of allowing the promises of God’s future presence to collide with our present. This is the season of light for a people walking in darkness against the shadow of death. Our Christmas stories of Grinches and Charlie Browns, of Scrooges and little match girls and poor couples who sell their prized possessions are stories of hope that even the darkest times are not absent from God’s light.

So fill the house with cheer and be reminded of God’s good news!

Rev. Kyle Sears

Dearest Loves Lights,
Oh how my heart resonates with you! The way each of us responds to this pandemic is so unique – and yet so challenging to understand one another. It is difficult to hear your husband’s reaction to your decorating your home on the inside – because there are two of you who still live inside this home and will have your spirits lifted through the Christmas season by a simply decorated house to honor the giver of light!

I know that this pandemic season has brought on a great deal of grief and depression especially as we navigate holidays and the absence of family members around us. This is very real!

For us as grandparents, our joy comes in seeing our kids and grandkids open and be blessed by the gifts we give in the name of Jesus. When this is unable to happen, it’s hard to put words to the emotions we feel. Sometimes with those who have a hard time expressing their grief the best we can offer is to simply provide a safe, open atmosphere with no judgment or criticism in order for pain to be shared.

Can I encourage you to be a listening ear for your husband to share more? I would also recommend praying through your home and inviting God’s presence throughout. For me, I also purposefully play worship music on low to establish Gods presence in our home. It is amazing to see the atmosphere shift when we prioritize the presence of God in our homes.

Believing with you to see God lift your husband’s spirit and lift him out of the sadness this pandemic brings. I am reminded that pain is inevitable in this life but joy is a choice! We need to make a decision to choose joy over all that we see and hear. Never easy but definitely rewarding!

Love your husband well and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to be sensitive to the emotions he is feeling. This pandemic is temporary and we can only encourage one another to have hope for the future!

With hope and thanksgiving,

Pastor Debbie Sayovitz