MEGXIT

There is a corollary to the Yiddish proverb “Little children don’t let you sleep; grown children don’t let you live”. I would suggest that it read: “little children run their parents’ lives; grown children run their own lives”. As a parent, who adjusted to this corollary decades ago, I was served a poignant reminder of it last week. Like so many others, I read about the decision of Harry and Meghan to leave the “family business” and strike it out on their own. Unlike so many others, I am neither supportive nor opposed to their choice. As I rabbi, I cannot help but see their choice in terms of Judaism and its leaders.

Some 70 years ago, as those who somehow managed to survive Hitler’s “hell on earth” were rebuilding their lives, an American Jew paid a visit to the Satmar Rebbe who had recently arrived in New York. The visitor to the Satmar Rebbe was beside himself. His son had strayed from the path of Torah Judaism. Rather than rising early to go to synagogue to satiate himself with the spiritual, he was now staying up late to go to the tavern to satiate himself with spirits. Whereas once, his reputation was such, that any number of rabbis knew him by name, now his reputation was such, that any number of women knew him by name. The Poker Table had replaced the Shabbos Table. In short, he was a bum. The father wanted to disown his wayward son, and he was seeking the advice of the Satmar Rebbe on how to go about doing so. “Heaven forfend” exclaimed the Satmar Rebbe to the disconsolate father. A child, you don’t disown! A child is a gift from HaShem. How can you despise a gift from HaShem? Children do not come with guarantees.

Down the street from where we lived in New Jersey, there was a nice, quiet Jewish couple. If they did attend synagogue services, it must have been at another congregation, because never in the 20 years I served as rabbi at that pulpit, did I ever see them at services. Once and only once, did they turn to me for help. There had been a death in the family, and they asked if I would officiate at the funeral. I was there for them and did what I could to help them through their loss. In gathering information, I asked my neighbor what his father did for a living. Without blinking an eye, he told me that his father was a Lieutenant for Abner (Longy) Zwillman, a Jewish Mafioso of renown. Thinking back to this neighbor, serves as a reminder of a different nature, that children do not come with a guarantee. There are good, decent law-abiding citizens who were brought into this world by parents of ill repute. On a totally different level, we are constantly reminded by the Jewish world of today, “this is not your father’s Judaism”.  There is a growth of congregations and kosher restaurants opening in newly established observant communities, where two generations ago, neither Shabbat nor a kosher kitchen played a role in their families. Nowhere is it etched in stone, nor should we assume that children retain the values and beliefs of their parents.
  
There is a fable found in the writing of Gluckel of Hameln. It tells of a mother bird and her three little fledglings. There was a river to cross which was simply beyond the flying capability of the young birds. The only solution was for the mother bird to take one of her offspring in her claws and carry it across the river and safely deposit it in dry land and then circle back to transport the next offspring. As the mother bird was halfway across with the fledgling in her claws, she remarked to her child, “look how I am struggling and risking my life on your behalf.  When you are grown up, will you do as much for me and provide for me in my old age?”  The fledgling replied, “Only bring me to safety, and when you are old, I shall do everything you ask of me.”
Immediately, the mother bird dropped the fledgling, leaving it to fall to its death. Swooping back, the mother bird transported her second child. Again, she asked “will you do for me and provide for me in my old age?  The second child gave the same answer only to meet the same fate. Carrying the third child in its claws, the mother posed the very same question. “Mother,” answered the third fledgling. “The best I can tell you is that just as you have been there for me, so too will I be there for my children”. And with that, the mother bird carried her third child to safety.

The latest news out of Britain should serve as a reminder, that contrary to Jewish teaching and tradition, it is not always true that “Ma’asei Avot Siman L’Vanim”  or the actions of the parents impact upon the children. Children do not make the dreams parents have for them come true, nor do they necessarily meet their parent’s expectations. There are honorable parents who have children who are embarrassments to society and there are honorable children who have parents who are embarrassments to society. Above all, the obligation of parents is toward their children; the obligation of children is toward their children.                                              

WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT

Be still my heart! Is it true that at the request of Her Majesty’s Government, the Duke of Cambridge – aka Prince William – will be embarking on what appears to be state visit to Israel?

There is a Yiddish expression: “Az meh lebbt, derlebbt men.” Loosely translated, it means, if you live long enough, you will live long enough to see everything. The upcoming trip will be the first time there has been a state visit by the British since the Royal Army departed Haifa Port in May 1948, thereby ending 21 years of British rule. Up until now, whenever Israeli officials have visited 10 Downing Street and extended an invitation to reciprocate with a state visit to Israel, without fail, the British have answered: “When the time is right.”

Mah Nishtanah? Why is this year different from all other years? A political analyst, I’m not. Nevertheless, I cannot help but feel that there are at least three reasons for “dispatching the duke.” Regardless of how one views the American decision to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, most will agree that it has produced positive repercussions throughout the world. Seeing that such a move did not result in any Arab rising, realizing that the mantra Itbah al Yahud (murder the Jew) did not pierce the air over the Gaza Strip, governments of various countries have been rethinking their concern that such a move would be catastrophic throughout the Arab world, making their countries perfect targets for “humiliated Arab militants.” Put differently, other countries may be taking the approach of “if it’s good enough for Uncle Sam, it’s good enough for me.” This is not to suggest that Britain has any plans to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv. It does appear however, that Jerusalem has achieved a higher level of “political kashrut” in the eyes of world leaders.

Perhaps it’s time for the British to stop the charade they have been playing. The unofficial boycott of Israel that has been in place for these past 70 years was due in no small part because of the indignation on the part of the British toward Zionist extremists (Lehi and the Irgun) who (finally) dared to retaliate against the British for sending Jews to the gallows for crimes committed against the (British) government. It’s not just that time heals all wounds; it’s that over the years, the British have made state visits to Kenya as well as other countries where anti-colonialist combatants have carried out even more heinous executions against the British. Such a double standard on the part of the British is intolerable as well as indefensible.

Thirty years ago, Princess Alice of Battenburg (great-grandmother of the Duke) who proudly wore the designation of righteous Gentile bestowed upon her by Yad VaShem for providing a home and shelter for the Cohen family, as the Nazis were hunting down Jews, was reinterred in Jerusalem. In accordance with the request set forth in her will, her remains were taken from Saint Georges Chapel at Windsor Castle and placed in the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives. Since that time, there has been any number of clandestine visits by the Royal family. When Prince Charles was in Jerusalem for the funeral for Shimon Peres (an unofficial visit) it was prearranged that he slip away and visit the grave of his paternal grandmother. It was only after the Prince of Wales had departed back to England that the press was permitted to disclose that he had performed the “mitzvah” of “Kever Avot.” Perhaps it’s time for the British to stop this hypocrisy as well.

And so, from the bottom of my heart, I say “cheers” to the “Duke” which roughly can be translated as Todah Rabbah!