I don’t remember how I met him! Yet, he was there.
“Time waits for no man” is an old saying, though I’m not sure where it originated. Other such sayings like, “time flies by too quickly” or “the older you get, the faster time flies by,” also contain meaningful messages. For me, I can’t believe how quickly the days and years go by. When I think about it, I realize how we must make the very most of each day to accomplish what is important while we still have the opportunity.
A few months back, I read in The Jewish Press of the death of Dr. Morris Mandel. With his passing, I would like to make a confession. As many of you know from a previous article, I arrived in New York in 1964 from Macon, Georgia. I knew the bare minimum about yiddishkeit and came to New York to go to a yeshiva for Ba’alei Teshuvah that year. In those days, Ba’alei Teshuvah were few and far between and to the best of my knowledge, Yeshiva Hachel HaTorah, right in the midst of Harlem, was the only yeshiva taking boys with little to no background who wanted to know more about their Yiddishkeit.
I really don’t remember how I met him, but Dr. Mandel became a supporter, a mentor, a caring person to me. He helped me get through some rough days after coming to New York on my own. He helped me understand that my search for my unknown religious beliefs was the right thing – at least for me. I wonder how I found out that he loved green grapes. I used to travel from Manhattan to Brooklyn to visit him and stop along the way in a fruit store to buy him grapes. Then, we would sit, eat grapes and talk about so many things. He knew how to listen, share ideas, tell stories and had a way of making one’s ideas sound right. I fondly remember the article in The Jewish Press that he wrote about me and my search for Yiddishkeit. He never identified me by name but I remember someone in Washington Heights, where I was then living, asking if the article was about me. Likewise, it is with fond memories that I remember his invitation to a Shabbos at the Pioneer Country Club in the Catskills where he would go every summer. After that Shabbos he arranged for me to have a job at the Pioneer the next summer. It was there that I started dating the woman who would become my wife and six weeks later became engaged.
I remember how very important his wife was to him. I am told that things were just not the same for him after losing her. I sent my condolences to his family.
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How else do we understand the passing of time? How do we grow and teach our children over time? What is the phenomenon of improving with maturity all about? In my anger management courses, I often talk about how our past affects the present, which sets the stage for our future. Without any form of intervention, or calamities, our future can often be understood by our past. Another way of saying this is, “we are today because of whom we have been.” When I ask people if they can tell me about the first computer, I receive all kinds of intellectual answers. The fact is our brains were the first “computers” because everything we have experienced has been stored there and it has input and output. “We are today because of who we have been” simply means that our likes, feelings and decisions are all affected by our lifetime of experiences, thoughts and happenings.
If this can be readily accepted, then we can better understand why our relationships with our children, even at very early ages, are so critical. Our past, present and future affects each generation. How we develop our relationships with our children and partners depends on our past experiences. What we teach our children today, their experiences, their happiness and hurt, will all have a direct influence on their future. It’s true that we sometimes see our children taking very different directions in their lives than we had in mind for them when they were younger. This sometimes leads to great heartache, while at other times great pride. Nevertheless, the directions they take, as foreign as it might be to us as their parents, have been influenced by something within their past.
Every day the tefillah of Shema Yisroel is said by Jews around the world. It is usually the first things we teach our children and often the last thing on our lips before returning to the “true world” after death. It has no time barriers, no limits. Its importance and stability for the Jewish people is obvious in the frequency with which it is said on a daily basis. In fact we learn that in the first line of the Shema, each time we say Hashem’s name, we should think that He was, He is and He will always be. There is no element of time, just constancy of existence.
We parents all have expectations and hopes for our children. Those hopes are partially based on who we are but also on who we want our children to develop into. The definition of frustration is not getting what we hope, or plan, for. Needless to say, parents often have frustrations regarding their children. Sometimes the best way to deal with such frustrations is to reassess our expectations and adjust them accordingly. That doesn’t mean we necessarily have to lower the bar, rather we must try to better understand the context of those expectations and life events affecting them.
When it comes to understanding the affects of the past on the present and future, we would be negligent not to discuss these effects on the development of the child. One area of development that is often overlooked is the long-term affect of a child’s self esteem. Where does self esteem come from? Is self esteem stagnant or does it fluctuate? What causes changes in our confidence and competency? Self esteem is developed by the people and events around us. The development of a child’s self esteem is as critical as his developmental milestones. Self esteem is not the same as one’s confidence, although they are closely related. Self esteem is how I feel about my self, my sense of self worth. Confidence is how well I believe I can do or accomplish something. I can be very confident in one area of my life and not in another. For example, I have high confidence in my ability to help others in therapy, though little to no confidence that I could go mountain climbing. Variances in confidence is normal in individuals. Variances in self esteem are more event or time related. On the other hand, one could have consistent high, or low, self esteem. However, most people’s self esteem fluctuates with events. How well a person bounces back to a healthy level is usually more dependent on past events and experiences.
As the High Holiday season approaches and we have time to spend with our children and grandchildren, let’s be aware of the influence we have on them. What I do today will influence not just my life, but also the life of my children and grandchildren and their children for generations to come.
Have a happy and healthy New Year. I encourage my readers to share with me their thoughts and stories related to my articles.
Mr. Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Regesh runs many programs helping families and youth dealing with personal and family issues in their lives. He is currently open to speaking engagements. He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.regesh.com.