One of the many lessons my father taught me used the analogy of looking at life through a telescope. A telescope is designed to make distant objects appear nearer by magnifying images and bringing clarification. When faced with a decision he often remarks, “Bring out the telescope,” which is his way of saying to consider all future ramifications of a decision. If you never study, while high school may be fun, your future will be affected by that decision. Sure, smoking isn’t harmful to most people in their youth, but it’s a completely different story 50 years down the line.
He never looks at real estate – or any of his investments – without considering the future upside of the area and the general market when evaluating a price. Yet interestingly, this telescope accomplished a lot more than making a nice living for him, Baruch Hashem. It is what allowed his destiny – and his future generations – to change forever.
A little over 60 years ago, there lived a 22-year-old Jewish boy from Miami Beach from humble beginnings who fell in love with a wonderful girl from New York. To sweeten the pot, she was kind, beautiful and from a very wealthy family. And she even agreed to keep Shabbos. The big day was set, and five days before the engagement party he got an invitation to have drinks with his future in-laws. As they finished their conversation, the couple subtly mentioned how they hoped their daughter could still eat traif in their home even though he chose not to. Although he himself would eat some dairy items in unkosher restaurants, which many people did back then, there is a difference between a tuna sandwich and bacon and eggs.
Let’s not forget that he never attended a yeshiva and was basically self-taught, had no religious friends and attended public school. Afterwards, he went to the University of Miami for college and law school where, once again, he was the only person there keeping Shabbos. He could easily have found a hundred rationalizations for marrying this girl. The fact that she was wealthy and he was struggling didn’t make the decision any easier for him, and let’s not forget that she was willing to keep Shabbos.
Then he did something unexpected. Something that has served him well throughout his life: he pulled out the telescope.
In an instant, he projected where his life would be in the future with this woman as his wife, not to mention the life of his children and grandchildren. If she was not fully committed, if she wasn’t “all in,” it’s unlikely she would have run a Sabbath-observant, kosher home where kids would attend Jewish Day schools, spend a year in yeshiva in Israel, and finally attend Yeshiva University. He read between the lines, viewing her lack of conviction, not to mention her parents’ involvement, as a potential threat to his future spiritual destiny. The sacrifice cannot be minimized.
Giving up love is hard enough, but a spectacular girl from a very wealthy family was not easy to say goodbye to. Yet with raw will and sheer conviction, he pulled the plug, calling several hundred guests and canceling the engagement party – not to mention the wedding.
A few years after that episode, my father met an even more beautiful and amazing aishes chayil. Truth be told, my mom also had her own challenges to surmount. Like my father, she had no formal religious education and no religious friends, having attended public school. Still, she pulled out her own telescope and saw the great reward for making what she calls a very small sacrifice. As she once put it, “What’s the big deal, Avi? So I don’t speak on the phone or use electricity once a week?” Turns out, Ma, it was a very big deal. Raising us with a love and respect for Shabbos and a kosher home, all while instilling us with good values and a deep love for Israel went a long way. The candles you and your granddaughters after you light, not to mention the zemiros your grandchildren sing, all bear testament to your sacrifice.
Thankfully, my dad didn’t need to marry a rich girl because, Baruch Hashem, he succeeded in his own endeavors and today has frum grandchildren. Every mitzvah they accomplish is all due to that one very tough life-changing decision he made so many years ago when he decided to pull out the telescope.