As a little girl, my daddy was always my hero. He knew the answers to any question I asked him, or so I thought. I am the quintessential daddy’s girl. He was my best friend, he understood me, he supported me, even when he didn’t necessarily agree with my decisions. My dad was my number one fan, tied neck and neck with my papa. Daddy always knew the right thing to say, even if I didn’t want to hear it at that moment.
So much of who I am, and who I will be is tied to my father. In the last few weeks it has been pointed out to me by various individuals how much like my father I am. Sometimes it is in my need to always have a beverage with me in case I become thirsty, or always having a pen, or making a list. But, more than that, my father and I shared a bond of Jewish learning, of passing that passion down l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation. My dad has brought learning and Judaism to mlife for so many people. And, as my father wrote in one of his last emails to me,
“I pray to have the strength and wherewithal to be able to lead a
seder again with you or as may be the case without and perhaps if God wills
it then for a new generation. (This is not meant to be pressure in any way.
But for me the most important reason I poured my all into the s’darim were
the children.)” Hemade games and fun for the seder for me, my sister, my cousins, and my family. We will never forget the posen Passover puzzle and challenge, reading our favorite reading, I am a Jew, Edmond Fleg and the shtick he added when it came time to sing.
As my father told me, time after time about his father, “Never told me how to live, lived his life and allowed me to watch.” My father also did the same with my sister and I. He allowed his love of Judaism, family and life to shine through in his darkest moments and took pride in being able to pass that on. He always was sharing with me different interpretations of texts, as he read my blog and reinterpreted the texts I was sharing with him.
In the last few weeks as we have been cleaning out my papa’s apartment, my aunt found a letter my father had written to my papa during his junior year in Israel. He wrote about his struggle with finding the balance between living with his family and living an observant life. The pain he felt when he thought about not driving to shul which would mean not spending the holidays with his family. He was pained by these decisions he might have to make had he applied to the Jewish Theological Seminary for Rabbinical school. He wrote about his fears during the admissions processes, his love for Israel. While I knew my father had contemplated rabbinical school, I didn’t know how similar our struggles were in making the decision. When it came down to it, my father didn’t want to separate himself from his family, and at that time was unable to find a way to make that work. At the same time, I learned that my daddy also made the decision not to apply to rabbinical school because while a rabbi can help the Jewish people, being a social worker could he could help everyone, including the Jewish people.
This letter showed my father’s want to earn the title of rabbi from a school, but instead, he earned the title of rabbi from me and from so many others that he taught. My daddy will always be my rabbi, my teacher, my friend. As I have read and reread the emails from my daddy, and played our most recent phone calls over again in my head, there is no doubt in my mind that my daddy was my rabbi, he taught me how to tackle a challenge, how to push myself when I thought I couldn’t go on, how to be confident in my decisions, even if I was terrified of the changes that would ensue.
Mostly, and most evident in my conversations with him, my daddy helped me to set my roots firm, and pushed me to spread my wings. Roots and wings. My roots being who I am, and my wings helping me to soar to new heights. This is what he was most proud of in me.
I see myself in him, in his struggles, journeys, thoughts. I am lost without him. Who will solve my problems with me? There are so many things I don’t know how to do on my own, so many things we were going to do together, learn together. There is a hole in my life that will never be filled. The love of my father for my mother has taught me so much about relationships, and watching them grow together. I am so blessed ot have shared 25 years with my daddy, to have his blessings, to have his support.
Over the last few years, as my dad’s illnesses became more intense, his emails to me were more about reflection on his life and gifts he wanted to offer me. The best part of my week was often receiving and email from my daddy that I would immediately print and tape to my wall around my bedroom to help me smile and make it through a challenge.
As my dad wrote to me after I began my first year of rabbinical school:
© You have to know that my love is unending whether I am physically present or in God’s hands
© You don’t have to be scared for me – this is our expression of faith
© You don’t have to be scared for you – the material is easier or harder but you will find ways to reach your goals
© Let us all learn to spend our time and our conversations expressing our love, respect, admiration and remember that we are indeed
© I will always be in your “inbox” and if the words are the same or similar it is because we always try to reduce all we know and feel into these funny bullets (hearts).
L The down side – it isn’t just a 45 minute ride to give you a hug.
These bullet points are my dad’s legacy to me, his hopes and wishes for all of us.
In the last year, he began a tradition of blessing me each Shabbat via email or the phone, and on the rare occasions I was actually physically present. I learned somewhere that just as children are a blessing to parents (most of the time), parents are a blessing to children. And so, I would bless him with the same words he blessed me, because my parents are truly blessed to have found one another.
And now, when I have to say goodbye to daddy’s physical presence in my daily life, I bless him as he blesses me.
Yevarechecha Adonai V’yishmerecha
May God bless you and guard over you
Yaer Adonai Panav Eilecha Viychunecha
May God shine the divine presence on you and show you favor
Yisa Adonia panav eilecha v’yasem l’cha Shalom!
May God treat you kindly and set you at Peace!
As my daddy said: In any event, know that you always have my blessings and my love. They weigh nothing so the Airline cannot take it away or charge you extra. It folds up neatly into your heart and all you have to do is open your heart and the blessings will pack themselves.
I will carry you in my heart always daddy, and I know you will be watching and supporting me always.
I LOVE YOU!