Saturday, July 17, 2010

For Brandon (z"l)

At Two O'clock in the afternoon of July 18, 1991, I joined a club.  It is a club that boasts a membership that unfortunately grows daily, and it is a club in which not one member has ever requested entry; most of us, in fact, try for as long as we can to deny our affiliation.

We do so at times by living as if all is well; and we do so at times by conveniently forgetting that precise minute when we entered, never to be permitted exit.

At Two O'clock in the afternoon of that dreadful day, I held the lifeless body of my beautiful little son in my arms and kissed his face; knowing that the next time I would see him would be at the Cemetery on Tisha b'Av, when we would lay his young body to rest.

I had joined the worst club imaginable:  The club of parents who bury their children.

His face was cold, and his lips were blue.  His Neshama, his Soul, had left his tiny body never to return in this World.  I was sad and I was angry.  WHY?  WHY would a Loving G-d that I knew to be a Loving G-d take the tiniest of his children, even before my Brandon had a chance to make his impact?

For seventeen years, as I placed phylacteries on my left arm every morning, and read Morning prayers I asked G-d why.  And for seventeen years, I had no answer.  My answer appeared two years, six months and seven days ago when I eulogised my father at a Cemetery not fifteen miles from where my Brandon is buried.

For those of you who remember my dad, I have no real need to remind you who he was.  For those of you who never had the absolute blessing of having known him,  I will tell you that he was a man who was genuinely loved by every single person whose life he touched, and that he touched every person whom he had ever met.  My father was, in the simplest of terms, a Tzadik.  A righteous man; a man who knew who he was, and a man who was so in love with his grandchildren that his every thought and his every smile were both brought to him by them, or dedicated to them.

That being said, how could G-d not  have a beautiful grandson waiting his arrival into Gan Eden, the paradise that is the Olam, haBa, the World to come.  Enter my Brandon.  My beautiful boy was taken to be there for his Grandfather's arrival.  Who better to greet my dad in Heaven, but his Grandson whom he had not had the time to know or grow close to, as G-d's plan was different.  I no longer ask why.

On Shabbat, somewhere between the Kiddush and Motzi, we parents place our hands on the heads of our children and offer our Blessing.  I pardon your indulgence for, but a moment as I ask that you stand with me as I send this Blessing to my beautiful boy on the nineteenth anniversary of his passing:

Brandon, I know now that G-d has made you as Ephraim and Menashe; He has Blessed you and He has kept you; He has shined his countenance upon you and been gracious onto you; and above all, G-d has kept you with Him and has brought you Peace.

We do not always know the reasons behind the magnificent works of haShem.  It is at times difficult to not know and to not understand.  It can be frustrating and at times even maddening.  But, for those times that we do understand, Oh, for  those times, the world, even in its heightened levels of craziness becomes a truly enlightening and beautiful place.

From the Sunny Left Coast, I send Ahavah u'Vrachot, Love and Blessings.

--Rabbi Alan Abrams

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Why Must we Tolerate?

On my way to California a couple weeks ago, my very wise eighteen year old had a very interesting and enlightening thought.  He asked me, "What is Tolerance?  Why must we have to tolerate anyone?"

I thought about his question, and listened to him as he explained his reasoning:  If we were all created in the image of G-d (Genesis 1:27), then, we are truly all the same, regardless of our skin colour, belief system or sexual orientation or preference, right?  Or are we?

If I am of the belief that we are all created in G-d's image, I must, by definition, believe that we are all the same, and be this the case, we must be accepting of others, not "tolerant".  

BARUCH haSHEM, THANK G-D, we are all the same now and no longer must we be "politically correct" and "tolerant".  Would this not be a truly wonderful world, if this were a true statement.

The problem, my friends, is that we really are all the same, or made the same, but some of us have slightly different views on things.  Not necessarily the colour of car that we prefer, or our taste in foods, but matters of somewhat greater importance, like for instance, our cousins in places like Syria and Iran who live their lives to end ours; Gazans who enjoy hiding behind young children while shooting missiles at our children; Youths with shaved heads in Europe who continue to paint Swastikas on buildings and Government officials who are more interested in the Human Rights of admitted Terrorists and where Jews build housing for Jews, than the deaths of hundred of thousands in Africa, Asia and other third world locales.

Must we be tolerant of these people, or is it enough and more correct to be accepting?  To be "tolerant", according to dictionary sources is: the ability to accept something while disapproving of it In social, cultural and religious contexts.  Does this not mean that we deem ourselves right and they are wrong?

Are we not better off being "accepting" (willingly or readily accepting or receiving; receptive)?  I believe that we should be accepting.  In fact, I completely accept the fact that the Arab World wishes to push us into the sea and destroy us.  I also completely accept that we must protect ourselves, and with G-d and Torah, we will be able to overcome their intentions; I completely accept that the United States, and the State of Arizona in particular has a massive border control problem; and I completely accept that the current Federal Administration is the first to be blatantly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, yet I am also fully accepting of the fact that Israel does not need the United States nearly as much as the United States needs Israel.

I am also totally accepting of the reality that while we each have our own ability to choose, I believe that G-d wants, but one thing from us, and that is to be good people; to love our fellow person as we do ourselves (maybe even more than we do ourselves), and to love Him with all of our heart, soul and strength; and that it is up to us to accept G-d for who He is to each of us individually, and to not simply "tolerate" people whose beliefs are different than ours.

It is also incumbent on us to accept ourselves for who we are.  Don't ask, don't tell?  Forget it!  Be YOU.  I'll be me and your neighbour down the block well be her.  Accept yourself as yourself.  Be proud of yourself; your accomplishments as well as your dreams.  There are no failures, just a bunch of tries that have not yet been successful.  And should you desire to become a better you, ask any Rabbi what the Torah says.  I'm certain that he will look it up for you.

From the Left Coast and Sunny Southern California, I wish you Ahavah u'Vrachot, Love and Blessings...

--Rabbi Alan Abrams