When I was little, my father read me poems. He also told me stories, and cuddled up with me before he put me to sleep, but the things which remind me most of him are his tempered, even, but nevertheless evocative readings of "The King's Breakfast" and his playing Horsie with me. I cannot remember the number of times that I ran up to Daddy with my book and requested, "Daddy, read me a story," or begged him to play Horse with me. This, of course, is aside from the fact that all my very serious discussions have always taken place with him, no matter the hours of the night, and he has established a very clear way of explaining which of my actions are or are not appropriate.
When I was little, I didn't know about everything that my father gave up or had sacrificed in order to make sure that we would all have the lives that we do. Thank God, we have wonderful lives, with a beautiful array of possessions, and lack for nothing. When I was little, I simply assumed it was this way for everyone, but as I grew older, I learned more about my father, his personality, his teachings, his sensitivity, his kindness, his amazing ability to sacrifice despite his personal dreams and aspirations, and the humility with which he lives his life.
My father's favorite verse is found at the end of the Amidah, where we recite, "Nafshi l'afar la'kol tihiyeh" or, "My soul should be as dust to everyone." Why should one's soul be as dust? While this is discussed in Berachos 17a, my father taught me a different interpretation. If one scoops up a handful of dust, it is soft, and trickles through one's fingers. However, if one stomps upon it or beats it with a stick, it becomes more compact, hard and impossible to move [just as we learned with regard to the child's walker, agalah shel katan, Daddy!] My father believes that one's soul should be just like that. To one who treats one kindly, you should be sweet, compassionate, soft, "trickling through their fingers." And to one who treats you harshly, you should simply become compact, hard, impossible to break- but you yourself do not strike back.
This past year, my father was honored by his congregation for his years of service in the capacity of Ba'al Korei. My father does not accept honors lightly; indeed, he likes to flee from them; it is only when he feels that he has no choice that he accepts them. It was very special to be at that dinner, especially because, as Rabbi Paysach Krohn was speaking, he mentioned my father several times. He spoke about my father's capacity to truly connect with the leining as he was reading, and how beautiful that is.
Yet another illustration of my father's sensitivity is evident when you consider the letter he wrote to Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff, and how much Rabbi Rothkoff appreciated it. If you listen to the beginning of this lecture, you will hear Rabbi Rothkoff mention his "talmid in Chicago"- that is my father.
My father is a beautiful person- extremely caring, extremely sensitive to others, and a greater person than the majority of you will ever have experience to know (the greatness of a man lies in what he does not do, as opposed to what he does. No one knows what a man refrains from doing; they can only judge his actual actions- it is only God who knows what is in your heart.)
Happy Birthday, Daddy! My much beloved Daddy. May you be blessed and have all your wonderful wishes fulfilled throughout this year.