As infants we were oblivious to our environment, our life. For most of us we needed to just be to merely exist. Our needs were met. We were cared for, nurtured and adored. To our parents we were malochim/angels. We trusted our mother, we trusted the world. No harm could befall us; we were omnipotent – our very whimper brought comfort – warmth, food and love. Haschem and his earthly surrogates, our parents, met all of our needs.
As we grew all this changed very slowly but decidedly. The world was still good but we had to assist to create that goodness. First with a smile that returned a little of what had been given – a bit of gratitude, known as reciprocity. It was a thank you for all the goodness that came our way. It was the beginning of zedakah, of giving. This continued throughout our growing years. We learned that we had to give in order to receive. As toddlers we were admired and protected and still our world was good. As Jewish children from practicing Jewish families we learned about our glorious holidays. We loved Simchas Torah with the bags of candy and cookies that were given to us by our loved ones as well as in the synagogue, waving little blue and white flags and dancing around with joy in our hearts. We loved Purim with it’s gaiety and noisy greggers. We loved Pessach for its good food, for the Matzo Ball Soup, the Charoset and the Krimsel. We smelled the cleanliness that came along with the holiday and all the goodness that came along with the Spring that Pessach ushered in. At the same time we learned about a wicked man, Haman, who tried to annihilate us but lost and we had the good fortune to survive. We learned about Pharao, who made slaves of our people and sent us into the wilderness, into the desert, to escape certain death, but again we survived.
We learned about good and evil. Our innocence waned. There was after all someone who did not love everyone, someone who was unkind, a man with hatefulness and malice, someone who wanted to maim, to murder, to kill! Yet we saw justice, that the bad get punished and the good survive. We also learned that this is not always true. Slowly, ever so slowly, we learned that there is evil as well as goodness. It was a slow process but came more rapidly to us if we were not so fortunate as to live in a peaceful land. We had to learn as young children that we were outsiders, called names because we were “different”, something which we did not comprehend. We looked into the mirror but found no monster peering back. We did not seem different in appearance than all of the other children that were our neighbors, our young classmates. We were accused of killing someone we had never met and knew nothing about. We tried to please but nothing changed. At times we disliked even ourselves, feeling that what others saw in us must be there somewhere, yet we knew not where.
began to see differences in children, in people. We were no longer naïve. We realized that everyone was not
kind, was not generous, was angry,
was uncaring. There
was an awakening, a coming of age.
We were shocked to see that women were not always
motherly, that police were not always there to protect us and
that words can hurt. We learned that we must be strong, we
must look at reality. We
lost our innocence!
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of Deviant Nurses & Improper Patient Care (2006).