The WORD 6/13/13. Although Father’s Day is easily dismissed as a “Hallmark Holiday,” it is truly a national holiday – signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1972. Father’s Day actually goes back to about the year 1910, when the Hallmark Corporation was merely one young man with a couple of shoeboxes full of postcards. While it doesn’t quite have the same status of Mother’s Day – which has been a national holiday since 1914 – it is an opportunity to think about the relationship between fathers and children.
Just recently, I had an opportunity to think about my dual roles as both a father and a child. It was during my son Jonah’s Bar Mitzvah, when my father was called up to recite “Hamotzi” over the ceremonial Hallah. It was a pretty cheesy moment (at a fleischig affair no less!) when the MC invited my father up to the dance floor and asked us all to give him a round of applause after he recited the blessing. After all, I could not possibly count the number of times I have heard my father recite that blessing. And we never clapped for him before.
Yet, something about seeing my father and my son together engaging in this most basic of Jewish traditions caused me to join the applause. In the end, this is what Judaism is all about. It’s about ensuring that our values and customs are handed down from one generation to the next (and the next).
I started my career as an assistant rabbi at a large congregation in Atlanta. My senior rabbi – Arnold Goodman – always used to say that we can tell a lot about a person’s commitment to Judaism by his/her grandchildren. In other words, our work is not done when our own children embrace Judaism. We must work to ensure that their children discover the blessings of Judaism as well. And if we ourselves are not blessed with children, then we can help with the children of the community.
In this week’s Torah portion, Moses and Aaron ascend a mountain with Aaron’s son Elazar. Only Moses and Elazar returned, with Elazar wearing Aaron’s priestly vestments. The Israelites mourned Aaron’s passing for thirty days. However, Elazar honored his father by continuing to serve God in the Tabernacle. Furthermore, in two weeks we will read the Torah portion entitled Pinhas. Pinhas – Elazar’s son and Aaron’s grandson – served as a Priest in the Tabernacle as his father and grandfather did before him. And Moses made sure that this transition took place even though his own children had no role in the leadership of Israel.
So, when my father stood up there blessing the bread with the tenth of his twelve grandchildren, he had good reason to be smiling. And that MC was right – he was deserving of applause. I hope everyone has a nice Father’s Day.