Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Talmud? Relevant? I don't know...

I thought it might be a bit weird to write about death on a blog, but after Brownsville's bird incident , I figured the arena was open.
My family (myself included) was making its way through Sunday New York traffic to visit Grandpa Jack in the hospital, but when we got there, we'd found out that he'd already been dead for about an hour. Throughout the car ride, I was going over the various things I'd like to include in the last conversation we'd have together. I wanted it to be emotional yet honest, because there is not a time in my life that I can say I had a conversation with my grandfather that traveled outside the realm of small-talk. I saw him three times a year on average.

So why didn't I make sure that those three visits with him were as fulfilling as possible? Family disagreement placed static tension between us, making it seem as though it were impossible to see him as anything more than a grandfather by title.

His second marriage, after my grandmother, was to a woman who facilitated the severance between him and his first family(my family). But who can say that she is solely to blame when he had the choice to maintain a connection with us and chose not to? And what does this therapy session have to do with the Talmud?

Well, I go to a Talmud class every Shabbat, and I felt that the topic from this past week applied especially well to my family situation. The topic was honor. Who is worthy of honor? We honor sages, "Mi she kana chochmo" or "one who acquires wisdom" (kana usually means "bought," but here it is used as "acquire") Kiddushin ch. 32. This includes both young wise people and elderly wise people.
So what about people like my grandfather? I hate to say it bluntly, but I don't consider him a wise man. The rabbi at his funeral spoke about how he was always there for his family and interested in his grandchildren. That just isn't true. We barely saw him...consequently making him a stranger to us. What is the Talmud's answer for that? Do I honor him just because he was elderly?

Yes. Even if you do not consider an old person to be wise, you still must honor the fact that they have been on this earth longer than you and had more experience. My granfather was not there for me, but he was there for his synagogue. He acted as President in past years and just this year as Vice President. I honor him the most for bringing my mother into this world and contributing to her life. For all the anger and resentment I feel towards him for what he didn't do, I still honor him for accomplishing 85 years of life.

So next time you have a question or a problem in your life, skip out on Dr. Phil and go look in the Talmud. Maybe you'll find something worthwhile.
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