One of the most magical moments in the parental relationship occurs when the veil of authority lifts, and father and daughter, mother and son can sit with each other as equals – on the floor working on a puzzle in the younger years or over steaming cups of coffee at a café table a decade down the line.

But perhaps these moments don’t need to be, shouldn’t be, so rare.

When we begin to raise our own kids, we start to realize that our parents were also “kids” when they were raising us, that they were also people with personal aspirations, struggles, challenges they strove to overcome. And that makes it easier to admit to our children that we don’t have all the answers, and that’s OK; that we, too, are wandering the paths of life – searching, yearning, a bit broken, a bit lost, a bit confused – just like them.

The same goes for teachers. The first thing I say to my students in yeshiva is that I am in no way an “authority”, nor am I there to give them lectures. I am just a broken Jew with a heart aflame, seeking kirvas Elokim and hoping to explore some ideas together with them, collectively, that can guide all of us on our shared journey.

Do you know what happens when we do this, as parents, as teachers?

We become relatable.

Barriers are removed, imagined constructs fall away and true kesher–connection is able to take place.

We are no longer cold and distant figures perched on the hierarchal pedestal of our “profession”, trapped in the straight jacket of our suit and tie. We are “one of the boys”, and a relationship of “panim b’panim” can then be forged – a relationship founded upon humility, authenticity, and a complete lack of judgmentalism. Guidance can be heard so much more easily. Messages flow so much more naturally. Beyond that, as parents and teachers we gain access to the glorious realm of “brah kar’a d’avuha” and “m’talmidai yoser m’kulam” – how much more there is for us to learn from them! Parenting, educating is no longer seen as “what we do”, but rather a further extension of “who we are” as mevakshei Hashem, mevakshei emes, searching souls journeying the narrow bridge of life.

Perhaps this is what Chassidus did for am Yisrael, at the most elemental level.

Prior to Chassidus, Hashem was primarily seen as King, perhaps as a Father. But the conception of Hashem Chassidus seeks to convey is one in which those veils of authority are torn away, where Hashem becomes relatable, a central figure in our lives Who we perceive as part of us, journeying with us, lost in the world just like we are (Galus haShechinah), lonely (“Hashem Echad”), yearning for companionship (“ki atah Hashem l’vadad”), and searching for a place to rest His head (“Dirah b’Tachtonim”) – just like us. The teachings of the Chassidic masters fill our hearts with the impression that Hashem is our Friend (“L’maan achai v’rei’ai”), that He is a personal Presence in our lives Who seeks nothing more than to share His Soul with us over “the steaming cup of coffee” that is the Torah (“Ana Nafshi kesavis yehavis”) and every facet of life which reverberates with the Torah’s letters (“L’olam Hashem devarcha nitzav bashomayim”).

Certainly, this conception does nothing to do away with the foundational perceptions of Hashem as our King and Father, just as parents and educators must maintain a certain distance and cultivate a level of respect necessary for the success of their roles. But this additional approach – in healthy synthesis with the more classical models and their implications – succeeds in expanding the possibilities of what it means to serve Hashem, what Emunah can be, and lays bare the sweetness and relevance of our holy Torah.

May we merit humility. The humility to open up to the remedy Hashem has granted our nation in the teachings of Chassidus and the expanded consciousness they gift the one who engages them with sincerity, as well as the humility to apply this foundational concept in our parental/educational roles – not only sharing Torah, guidance, and criticism with the souls in our charge but transmitting our very selves in vulnerability and honesty.

When we do, we become free.

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R’ Yaakov Klein is the founder of the Lost Princess Initiative, an author, musician, and lecturer devoted to sharing the inner light of Torah through his books, music, and lectures.

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