When the world is filled with chaos and confusion, and those around us spew their hatred and venom, we draw upon the gift of love we have been granted. What better way to celebrate Father’s Day than embracing the legacy of those who have come before us? “Sheal Avicha VeYagedcha, Ziknecha VeYomro Lach” – Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders and they will relay to you.”
To be a father must mean more than simply physically reproducing oneself or becoming a cash machine. There is wisdom, truth, life lessons, heart and soul to be shared.
I recall my father, HaRav Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, taking my hand in his, and granting me the words that would accompany me throughout the many seasons of life. As we walked, my father let me know that I would never walk alone. Perhaps we could take a moment today and contemplate the message we would like to share with our children as their everlasting memory.
SEASON OF LOVE
Two grand gold and white doors stand before me. I am in my tulle wedding gown, veil covering my face. The soft music begins to play. In just a few minutes I will be walking towards my chuppah; my parents at my side.
My father motions to me. He wants to tell me something.
He takes my hand in his and I see his eyes glistening.
“Sheyfelah,” he whispers. “As you walk to your chuppah tonight I want you to know that all your bubbies and zaydies are walking with you. You are never alone. Wherever life takes you never be afraid.” Moments before I embark upon this new life my father wants to share his emunah with me. We are never alone. Through all his pain and suffering, his faith stands strong. Despite losing his parents and family in the holocaust, the souls remain at his side.
The doors open. We begin our walk, hand in hand.
SEASON OF LIFE
Standing in the lobby of the hospital, anticipating the birth of my child, I am told to keep walking. There is lots of time to go.
My parents are there. (First child! Of course they are there!)
“Come sheyfelah,” my father says. “Let’s take a good walk together. You squeeze my hand whenever you feel pain.”
How hard I squeeze my father’s hand that day! As we walk together he reminds me that I never walk alone. Afraid that I am hurting him, my father laughs. “What’s a father for?”
That evening we welcome a beautiful soul from Above. Named for my father’s brother who had been taken away by the Nazi’s, I feel as if I am finally able to give my father a small nechama for all the pain he had suffered.
From that moment, my father is always seen with a baby on his arms. We call the grandchildren ‘shoulder babies’ because they are snuggling constantly on their ‘Abba Zayda’s’ shoulders. As they grow, they feed the ducks together, color arts and crafts, tell stories and sing the Shema. Abba Zayda (as the grandchildren called him) never loses his patience, never loses his temper, and is never too busy to hear the words of a child. He loves unconditionally. And teaches us how to love perfectly.
These days, I sometimes wonder ‘how?’ How did my father push away the stress and make room for us all in his life with a magnificent smile?
I could hear him laughing now, saying to me “Sheyfelah, what’s a father for?”
SEASON OF LOSS
“The doctor says I need to walk.”
Now it is my father who needs to walk the halls of the hospital. This time it is Memorial Sloan Kettering, in NYC. I am still in shock. My magnificent father who has never been ill is facing the fight of his life.
I help my father up from the hospital bed. My father takes my hand and we begin our walk. We take a few steps in silence. I don’t know what to say.
“Shayfelah,” my father stops a moment and turns to look at me. “Do you remember another walk we once took together? Remember how you said the doctor wants you to walk?”
I nod, not trusting myself to speak.
“This is a different walk, I know. But I am still at your side. You can squeeze my hand if you feel pain just like before. And I want you to remember for always that you never walk alone. Don’t be afraid. I am always walking with you….and so are all your bubbies and zaydies. Don’t be afraid, shayfelah.”
Too soon after that day I received my father’s final blessing. Here I am, 27 years later but the words remain as if it was yesterday.
We are living in most difficult times. Our children have seen the world turned upside down. What can we possibly give them to hold onto?
Nourish your children’s souls. Give them roots. Show them love. Relay to them the story of our people, the love of our G-d and the miracle of Eretz Yisroel. Your faith is your living legacy.
And finally, remind them that they never walk alone. No matter what, my sweet child, I am always by your side. Never be afraid.