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Jewish World Review
April 3, 2008
/ 27 Adar II 5768
Parents and the children who would be them
By Rabbi Y. Y. Rubinstein
Editor's note: This essay was first broadcast on BBC Radio, Nov. 26th, 2006
Most humor has a touch of cruelty. As funny as slipping on a banana peel may be to watch, it still hurts!
the joke about the grandfather who says to his grandson, "You know, I'm 83 today and my memory is just as good as when I was your age, touch wood. ... Come in!"
Since last month, when I had to find a care home for my Mum, who is 86, and since it has been the case that that joke could describe her memory, the above doesn't seem so funny anymore.
I love my Mum. Perhaps since I am an only child, I am especially close to
her. A wise Rabbi once told me: "As long as you have a Parent you still
remain a child."
And there are so many memories that I can retrieve so very easily, of her
holding my hand as we visited the dentist or drying away tears when I was
hurt or scared. And now when I take her for walks, she has to hold my hand;
she's as vulnerable and reliant on me as I was on her. All those years
If you have ever seen a picture of Moses descending from Mount Sinai, he is
carrying the tablets of stone on which were written the Ten Commandments. On
one side are five which deal with people's relationships with, and
obligations to, each other, "Don't steal Don't Kill and don't commit
The other five are people's obligations to G-d "honoring G-d
and Don't take His name in vain. Strangely that's the side amongst those
commandments where you find "Honor you mother and father". It's on the wrong
side, in the wrong column! The reason is because ultimately you ended up with
that Mum or Dad cause G-d decided that's where you belonged.
Some parents are geniuses at child rearing, some are very poor and obviously
most parents (like me) are average. Getting it right and often getting it wrong, too.
You can learn from the things your parents got right, copy them when your
own kids appear and learn from their mistakes too and not repeat them.
Was my Mum a genius at raising me? No! Just average, but now that she holds my hand and looks to me to look after her, I so clearly recall all the thousands of times she looked after me and I'm grateful to G-d.
'Cause I love my Mum.
My Mum passed away a week ago, today.
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JWR contributor Rabbi Y. Y. Rubinstein, an international lecturer, is a commentator for the British Broadcasting Company (BBC). He was cited by the U.K. paper, Independent, as being among the five most regarded people in the Britain to turn to for advice.
© 2008, Rabbi Y. Y. Rubinstein