I wanted to be exactly like my parents, down to the wedding bentchers. When I was little, I could think of nothing better than to grow up and be like them. Now that I'm older, I still can't think of a greater compliment than to be told that I am like one of my parents.
Longtime readers of this blog already know that my mother and my father are extraordinary people. I have had living role models by my side all my life, pillars of tradition and Torah who gave me everything I needed and more. In my Bat Mitzvah speech on Shemos, I connected the two haftorahs to my two parents. I said that my father was my pillar of textual wisdom and my mother was the pillar of tradition. With the two of them supporting me, I was given an introduction to Judaism the likes of which I couldn't have found anywhere else, and for which I am still grateful.
Judaism to me is a living, breathing, beautiful, inherited spiritual tradition. When I wake up in the morning, I do not grapple with questions about existence. I know there is a God. I know it powerfully. I know it in every fiber of my being, and I know it because my father would tuck me in at night and say Shema with me, because my mother would have me repeat 'Thank You, Hashem' after her. I know it because my parents live a life that exemplifies Judaism.
My mother polished and sharpened me like a jewel. My friend Carey wrote in my high-school yearbook, "Your combined mastery of martial arts and the entire canon of Western Literature terrifies me." He was joking, but there was some truth in it. When it comes to my literary prowess, that is entirely due to my mother. I will never be her match- in her literary exams, she ranked third in the country- but I do reasonably well, and that is because of her.
When it comes to my Tanakh abilities, that harks back to my father. Many a Friday night I spent grumpily sitting at the table as my father leined through the Parsha, but whether I realized it or not, I picked up knowledge. I devoured The Little Midrash Says and I got excited about texts and I was commanded to say Divrei Torah by heart every Shabbat, and I did so. My father was the one who handed me the books by Rabbi Ari Kahn, who ensured that I would be enrolled at TI even when I stubbornly determined that I hated all Jews. It's my father who influenced me to go to Stern and it is solely due to my father that I have a Masters in Bible.
Ever since I was a little girl, the worst thing I could do to one of my parents would be to hurt the other in front of them. My father would not brook the slightest word of disrespect about my mother. He was a towering force, the voice of God on high. And my mother would certainly not allow me to malign my father. My parents are a team and in the end of the day, they will always be a team. They love each other, protect each other and defend each other.
The only tears I have seen my parents cry have been for us, for others or for each other. My parents would cry when any of their children were suffering. It tore them up inside. They would cry when they would hear about horrible things happening in the world, like terrorist attacks in Israel. They would cry when they saw one another's pain. I never saw my parents cry for selfish reasons. It wouldn't occur to them. The most powerful moments in my mind, the times that my parents have cried, have been for us, for me, for each other. I can go back to those moments in my mind, and though they were moments of pain and sorrow, they were also beautiful. I knew that my parents shared a deep, profound love for each other, for their nation and for humanity as a whole.
And that love is my inheritance. I have been incalculably impacted by watching the ways in which my parents interact with people. Whether it was my mother cooking meals for women who had just given birth, crying after witnessing the death of a newborn or my father teaching countless young men how to lein, never asking for payment, it has been clear. My parents love not only one another, but the community they are a part of and the world that we live in.
They have had their disappointments. There are things they have given up for us. There are privileges they have denied themselves. We have always been their first priority. Their lives have been about us, and about each other.
So when I look to a couple that I want to model my life after, people that I strive to be like, I don't have to look far. I have been blessed, and I strive to deserve the blessing.
Happy Silver Anniversary, Mommy & Daddy.
Hope you have many, many more.