Thursday, April 14, 2011

For Papi: My Other Dad

A wise person once said "If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all".

Advice like this came from not only my own dad, but from our "Papi", the father of one of my closest and dearest friends, and a man whom I loved as much as anyone could love a second father. I dedicate my return to the keyboard to Papi, who was called home to haShem last week after a courageous battle with cancer. Through it all, though, when asked of his health, the reply was always: Never better. He always was.

During my own family struggles these past several months, (which kept me from writing), Papi was always the man of reason. He was always there for me with a joke and a smile, and every Friday night, he stood in proxy for my own dad and gave me the Parental Blessing. I will miss him.

And so I return now to this column after several difficult months, wherein I refrained from writing for fear that any negativity that I may have been feeling would seep out into this Column; and as such, I kept my pain (as well as my joy) to myself and kept my relatively big mouth shut; until now.

A year ago, I wrote that I find this time of year the "most wonderful" of all the seasons. Spring flowers are in full bloom; the grass on fairways is green and the sound of wooden bats cracking baseballs 400 plus feet over outfield walls has again made its way back into our lives.

The most wonderful sound, though, is the voice of the youngest at the table asking "Why is this night different from all other nights?", and our response that we were once slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. Add to this, the magic of being surrounded by loved ones; friends and family and friends of family and the sum of this equation is simply this: It is the most wonderful time of the year.

This is a time to reflect on the past. A past of some 3,200 years ago when G-d took us from bondage and slavery with a strong hand and an outstretched arm and gave us Torah fifty days later. It is a time to celebrate our freedom from our slavery in Egypt and a time to rejoice in our independence.

I would agree with everything that I have just written with the exception of the existence of one minor question: Are we free from bondage?

A year ago at our Seder, my first in the presence of only my boys, my youngest son, who is now 15 years old noted that we each live in our own Mitzrayim; our own "personal Egypt". Whether we be slaves to our school work, our jobs, our rent or mortgage; car payment or simply slaves to our society or the expectations that society places on us, our freedom can and will come from one source and only from one source: Faith.

Faith that the sun will rise in the morning; faith that the moon will show its wonder after dark; faith that I will awake with the sun, breathe and again be able to enjoy another day in this mixed up, yet wonderful world. Above all, faith that one more person today, just one more person, will also begin to have this faith, for until many more of us do, our woes as a world of human beings will continue.

It is said and believed that each of us has reason to be here; that we each have a purpose in this life, and whether or not we know what that purpose is, is irrelevant. The mere fact that we are here says something.

The wonderful poetess Linda Ellis, in her poem "The Dash", wrote of the dash between the dates of birth and death on our tombstones:

For it matters not how much we own;
The cars the house the cash
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

Papi lived this way. His dash bright and knowing; full of life and living; caring and loving; and most of all, in awe of the wonders of G-d and of Torah.

May we too, this Passover season, find our own personal Egypt and from it, find our own peace, independence and salvation from affliction, slavery and bondage. By listening to the Papi in all of us, maybe the beautiful words of Linda Ellis will help us to realize what life is really about, and if it is still difficult, just look outside and wonder in the amazing world that G-d created for all of us to enjoy.

From the Left Coast in Sunny Southern California, I wish you a very happy and healthy Passover, Shabbat Shalom and as always, Ahava u'Vrachot. Love and Blessings...

--Rabbi Alan Abrams

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