No matter how stupid anything I write here is, I could always count on the fact that I would have at least one reader – my father. I could say the same about life in general. Even when I did something stupid, even if he disagreed with me, even when he might have been critical, my father said his piece but was always there for me to rely on. Unfortunately, last Monday on 27 Shevat my father passed away.
I started my hesped last week with an anecdote, thinking that even if I choke up and don’t make it through the whole thing, this one story alone would be enough to sum up my father: last Sunday I was out somewhere with my wife and kids, and on the way back one of my girls wanted to stop and go shopping. Now, my wife and I regard shopping with teenagers as a form of torture, so we went home instead. After we got home, my daughter resumed pleading her case, and this time she played her trump card – “Grandpa takes me shopping.” What my daughter did not take into account was that there is nothing that my father would not do, no place he would not go, no errand he would not run, no matter how time consuming, boring, or burdensome – even going shopping with teenage girls – if it was for the sake of his grandchildren. Grandpa was willing to endure what even a parent would not. My brother mentioned that one of his kids once called home to say that she was getting out of school two periods earlier than usual and she knew she would be told to sit and wait for the bus, so she was just calling to let them know that she called Grandpa first and he was already on the way to get her. There are many such examples I could go on and write about.
And as I learned during shiva, it wasn’t even just his own grandchildren that my father did these things for. There was the neighbor’s twins who don’t have grandparents that he took out for ice cream every year on their birthday. There was another neighbor’s son that he took to a baseball game. And again, there are many similar stories we heard that I could relate.
My father was born in 1933. Like so many others in his time, his education consisted of public school and a smattering of Hebrew school classes afterwards. He attended college only to get an Associate’s degree, and then he went out and joined the workforce to make a living. He for years worked in someone else’s business, only later in life owning a share and managing it on his own. Yet my father made sure that his own children did attend yeshiva, even if he had to struggle very hard to make tuition payments and scrimp and save to do it. He made sure that I was able to go to college, graduate school, learn for smicha and in kollel. He pushed for Marine Park Jewish Center to move beyond being the typical “traditional” synagogue that once was so common in America and become a place that the new orthodox families in his neighborhood would feel comfortable attending – and today that shul is bursting with mispallelim. He worked with my brother and helped him when he started his own business at a very young age. “Ashrei mi she’ba l’kan v’talmudo b’yado” – my father may not have been able to learn up a blatt gemara, but he had “talmudo b’yado,” a life of actions and good works that helped better his family, his neighbors, and his community.
There is more that could be said and should be said, but the past week has been very difficult, and it will take some time to get back into the swing of things. I just wanted to share the news with those who may not have heard.