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October 12, 1990 - Image 150

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-10-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Keeping Commitments So They'll 'Be Like You, Dad'

By RABBI BRUCE AFT

Although only the words to a
folk song, they continue to haunt
me as the years go by. Harry
Chapin wrote:

day

A child arrived just the other

He came to the world in the
usual way;
But there were planes to catch
and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was
away.
And he was talking 'fore I knew
it, and as he grew
He'd say "I'm gonna be like
you, Dad,
You know I'm gonna be like
you."
And the cat's in the cradle and
the silver spoon
Little Boy Blue and the Man in
the Moon
"When you coming home,
Dad?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then, son,
You know we'll have a good
time then."

The words haunt me as I think
of all the commitments I make that
cause me to be away from my
children and family. Days go by,
weeks pass before our eyes, and we
continue to keep the commitments
and promises we make to each
other in the business world, may or
may not make time for friends, may
or may not make time for a spouse,
and then struggle with when to fit in
time with the children. The song
continues:

Well, my son turned ten just the
other day
He said, "Thanks for the ball,
Dad. Come on, let's play!
Can you teach me to throw?" I
said, "Not today,
I got a lot to do." He said
"That's o.k."
And he walked away but he
smiled as he did
He said "I'm gonna be like
him, yeah
You know I'm gonna be like
him."

I remember when I was a child
and a neighbor down the street
promised me a new baseball glove.
My parents thought it would be
great since he worked for a sporting

eehtlffaii

THE JEWISH NEWS

27676 Franklin Road
Southfield, Michigan 48034
October 12, •990
Associate Publisher Arthur M. Horwitz
Jewish Experiences for Families
Adviser Harlene W. Appelman

L-2

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, 1990

goods company and we would get a
good price on it.
However, days passed and
weeks went by and the baseball
glove was merely a promise even
though it was at a special price.
Finally my dad confronted the
neighbor and said, "When is the
baseball mitt going to come?" The
neighbor replied, "You need to be
patient so that when the right time
happens, I will be able to get the
best price."
Well, the special deal never
came, and finally my parents bought
me that baseball glove. I still

remember today how let down I felt
since I had had to wait for so long
in order to get that baseball glove.
The importance of fulfilling a
commitment to a child still rings
true in my mind. Especially after the
New Year, I wonder whether the
commitments that we make, the
jobs we fill, and the activities in
which we're involved, are as
important as fulfilling the
commitment we make when we
bring children into the world . . . that
is to provide for them and spend
time with them.
The song continues:

Well, he came home from
college just the other day
So much like a man, I just had
to say
"Son, I'm proud of you. Can
you sit for a while?
He shook his head, no, and he
said with a smile,
"What I'd really like, Dad, is to
borrow the car keys,
See you later, can I have them
please."
And the cat's in the cradle and
the silver spoon
Little Boy Blue and the Man in
the Moon

`When you coming home,
son?"
"I don't know when,
"But we'll get together then,
Dad,
"You know we'll have a good

time then."

Our children watch our activity
very closely and know which
promises we keep, which
commitments we honor and — more
than perhaps we would like — they
adopt our characteristics and in fact,
grow up like us.
And finally the song concludes:

Well I've long since retired, my
son's moved away.
I called him up just the other
day.
I said, "I'd like to see you, if
you don't mind."
He said, "I'd love to, Dad, if I
could find the time.
You see, my new job's a hassle
and the kids have the flu.
But it's sure nice talking to you,
Dad,
It's been sure nice talking to
you."
And as I hung up the phone, it
occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me,
My boy was just like me.

Recently I officiated at the
wedding of a former congregant and
travelled to Chicago a number of
times to meet with the couple.
Arriving late one night in Chicago, I
met with the couple and did not
have an opportunity to fulfill my
usual commitment to our children,
which is putting them to bed in their
motel rooms. After completing the
meeting with the couple and
returning to our room, I was
informed by my wife that one of the
children had said, "Dad didn't have
to spend all that time with the

couple. He just didn't want to be
with us." My child perceived that I
had broken a commitment that had
become sacrosanct over time.
The promises that we have just
made over Yom Kippur to live our
lives in a kinder, gentler fashion,
making promises that we hope to
keep, and trying to live as better
people have been made very
sincerely. In the generation of Noah,
the people did not behave in a very
appropriate fashion and thus were
destroyed. As a sign or as a
commitment that God would never
destroy the world again, he put a
rainbow into the sky which reminds
us of our commitment to each other
and our commitments to walk in the
ways of God. We make sacred vows
to our chidlren, promises to our
spouses, and vows to each other.
Unfortunately in the world in which
we live, these vows and promises
and commitments sometimes
remain unfulfilled.
I think we all need reminders
that we must make good on the
commitments we make and perhaps
need to redefine our priorities. I
think the generation of the flood
reminds us of the danger of slipping
into patterns where we do not
deliver on that which we promise or
our priorities are inappropriate.
As we were recently returning
from a family simcha, it was raining
and the sun was beginning to shine
and a rainbow appeared in the sky.
What a beautiful reminder that we,
like God, need to keep our
commitments and realize how
sacred our promises are.

Rabbi Aft is principal of the
Midrasha College of Jewish Studies
and the community Hebrew high
school.

From Destruction to Opportunity

By RABBI E.B. FREEDMAN

Mankind became so morally
degenerate and incorrigible ten
generations frm the first man Adam
that God brought a forty-day deluge
which eradicated the civilized world
from the face of the earth and a
new society was initiated by the
righteous Noah and his family.
Imagine disembarking the Ark
to witness the hauntingly barren
landscape eroded by water that
finally receded after a year. No
people, no vegetation, no animals.
Would the earth, assaulted by such
treatment, be able to support plant
life again? Would mankind have a
future after such destruction?
In retrospect we cannot feel the
pain of the cataclysm Noah
experienced, for we know the end of
the story (at least until our time).

But if we analyze this epoch from
Noah's perspective, we must marvel
at his optimism. His first act in this
new world was to offer a sacrifice to
God, which undoubtedly assisted
him in overcoming a natural feeling
of despair. And he procreated and
built and had the satisfaction of
seeing generations of offspring
populate a new kind of world.
Noah's experience has become
the archetype for destruction and
rebirth both for the Jewish people
as a whole and for individuals in
their personal lives. How many
times have the Jews been
decimated by their foes, only to
rebuild themselves with great
sacrifice in some other location. In
our generation, we were wintess to
the ruination of a third of world
Jewry and almost all of its
institutions of Torah study, but have

by the grace of God seen an
unparalleled rebuilding of these
institutions both in America and
Israel. The State of Israel itself, by
the sacrifice of all those spared by
the Nazis, has miraculously become
a first-order country in less time that
it has taken some cities to become
significant.
Individuals who have suffered
setbacks in their careers, with family
members, or with ill-health, would
do well to remember the lesson of
Noah: that experiences of
destruction can become the
harbingers of opportunity and that
crisis can become the fulcrum of
growth, so long as despair is not
allowed to enter the equation of
renewal.

Rabbi Freedman is administrative
director of Yeshivath Beth Yehudah.

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