Children And Deferred Dreams

Reflected in the names of her children, Leah grows to recognize her own worth, independent of Jacob's feelings for her.

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Provided by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, which ordains Conservative rabbis at the American Jewish University.

We all dream about our lives, our families and our destiny. Born into a world we did not create, motivated by hope, energy and drive, we spend our childhood and adolescence absorbing wonderful stories of adventure, heroes and fantasies. 

And we dream. We dream of achieving the highest ideals of our fantasy life...of being president, landing on the moon or becoming a star. We imagine ourselves as wealthy, or famous or wise. Venerating a galaxy of admired adults, we imagine ourselves as one of them, as one of the best of them.

Image by Barbara Freedman,

In the fantasies of children, life has no end; possibilities, no limit. And we are not alone in spinning those dreams. Children may aggrandize themselves, but they do so with the active consent and encouragement of their parents, grandparents, teachers and a supporting cast of thousands.

Two Requests

We urge our children on, asking of them only two requests; "fulfill all of our unaccomplished dreams," and "take us with you." Diligently, we drive our children to the ballet and music classes, to the ballparks, and urge them on with their science projects and religious school, all with the hope that they will become what we dreamed of and abandoned. If we could not grow up to become Nobel laureates, our children must. Let them become observant and knowledgeable Jews, business magnates or nominees for the Hall of Fame. Often without even becoming aware of our own fantasies, we impose them on our children. 

We make peace with our own limitations, concede to reality only by shifting the object of our endless ambition. I won't ever be a concert pianist, but my children might. This pattern, of reality disappointing one generation, causing them to transfer their hopes and dreams onto the next generation is as old as humanity itself. 

We catch a glimpse of it as Leah realizes that her husband, Jacob, doesn't love her as much as he loves his other wife, her sister Rachel. Wrestling with the pain, the anger and the disappointment of rejection, lonely in the face of her husband's disinterest, Leah--the one with the soulful eyes--is also the one with tremendous hopes. In the depths of her misty pupils, one can see the pining for a passion she would never know; in the drops of her tears, her pent-up caring and affection leaking away. 

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Rabbi Bradley Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is Vice-President of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and Dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies. He served as a congregational rabbi in Southern California for ten years. Rabbi Artson?is the author of The Bedside Torah and co-author of a children's book, I Have Some Questions about God.