Posted by: R Jonathan Gewirtz | May 1, 2009

A Father’s Love

Originally printed in Front Page magazine – May 1, 2009
A Father’s Love
By Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz
Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to spend Yom Tov at a hotel where Rabbi Yissachar Frand was the “scholar-in-residence.” He spoke by the different tefillos and gave lectures throughout. I saw people accosting him all day and night with questions and comments.
While I might have approached him, I felt bad bothering him when so many others already had. I noticed that in the dining room, his table had a partition around it, presumably to afford his family at least a modicum of privacy during their meals. It was therefore with hesitation that I approached and parted the curtains before lunch one day.
“I’m sorry to bother you, I know you’re busy” I began, as he looked up from the table, “but I just wanted to tell you what a nice young man your son is. He came over to me and made conversation, and was really so outgoing. It was a pleasure speaking to him and I wanted to let you know.”
He broke out into a huge grin and said, “Let me tell you something. A father is never too busy to hear something nice about his child. Thank you for telling me.”
His reaction really stuck with me. Since then, I’ve made it a point to tell people nice things about their kids and invariably they take great pleasure in the compliments. It’s unusual, I guess, because most of us just take things for granted. Taking the time to say something really makes a difference though. As they say, “If you see something, say something.”
When it comes to my own children, I know I love hearing nice things about them, but of course, as we age, the stories of a job well done become rarer. Again, I think it’s because of expectations. It should be a priority for all of us to say nice things about our children and other people’s as well.
I also realized that when my children are fighting, it upsets me. If one tattles on the other and says something mean, I tell her, “Don’t talk that way about my daughter!” Even when it’s from our own kids, we want to hear good things about our children.
I can attest to the fact that I let them get away with a lot more when they’re playing nicely together, and that I’m quicker to be strict when they aren’t getting along with each other. Sometimes I wonder if they understand that when they complain about their siblings I’m not running to their rescue because it makes me look critically at them as well. I feel like they think that if they convince me that “she made a mean face at me” or “she took my book without asking” I will suddenly cast aside any love I have for the other child and focus on the complainer’s needs alone.
Maybe it’s just me, but that’s not how I roll. I’m quicker to be generous when my child says something nice about her sister, or when she suffers in silence. I notice what goes on, and I have my own reasons behind when and to what I choose to respond. Let’s extrapolate that.
I’m a father, who loves his children, yet when they harm each other, I prefer to deal with it on my own instead of having them accuse each other. When they misbehave, but do it together, I have more patience because of the pleasure I get from seeing them interact peacefully and with love.
HaKadosh Baruch Hu is Our Father too. He has His methods of punishing bad behavior, and He doesn’t miss anything. Parents are supposed to have eyes in the back of their heads; HaShem has eyes everywhere. We sometimes misbehave, and he has to deal with it.
Now that I know how I am as a father, and I know that Rabbi Frand feels the same way about hearing nice things about his kids, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that it’s the same way HaShem feels about His kids.
If we complain about others and are critical of them, HaShem is more likely (based solely on my own self-assessment, of course) to look critically at us. We don’t need to tell Him their shortcomings because He already knows them. In fact, He probably put them there in the first place!
By putting people down, we’re speaking ill of HaShem’s children. As a father, I know how speaking bad about my children would upset me – why should HaShem be any different? Is it any wonder that when people don’t treat each other nicely bad things happen?
If you’re reading this, and thinking that I can’t possibly know what HaShem’s feelings are, I’d like to make one more point. I already know that other fathers are happy when they hear nice things about their kids, and now I can prove that when we don’t get along and disparage HaShem’s children bad things happen.
The Talmidim of R’ Akiva were so great and yet they died during the time of the Sefira. Why? Because they did not treat each other with honor. In other words, they didn’t speak nicely about HaShem’s children! My theory is much more closer to being proved, and there are Chazals which will bear it out.
So the next time you have the chance to say something nice about a fellow Jew, even if there’s even more to say that isn’t nice, give the Ribono Shel Olam the nachas of speaking nicely about His children. If we show Him we can get along, we will realize that our lives are much richer, much more peaceful, and we will be protected from all harm.
There’s an expression that goes: ‘If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.’ While that is something, it’s far from ideal. Instead, I favor a different expression I heard, one that we should all try to maximize, especially during the days of the Sefira: ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, you’re not trying hard enough.’
——————————————
The author is a regular contributor to The Front Page who cringes when he hears people speaking harshly about each other. Name-calling grates on his ears and should on yours too. Please take the next twenty-four hours to be conscious of praising people, and forgetting to mention their faults. Get a free subscription to my weekly Dvar Torah in English via e-mail. Just e-mail Subscribe to info@JewishSpeechWriter.com.
© 2009 by Jonathan Gewirtz. All rights reserved.

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Responses

  1. “Love is the answer.” They said it in the ’60s and I thought it was too simplistic.

    But now I think: Love of Hashem translates to love of His children, of whom I am one, so love of myself and no more hatred of others.


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