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D'var Torah - Perashat Korach

06/14/2018 05:00:50 PM


Rabbi Hayyim Kassorla

Father's Day. Why must there be a special day to honor our fathers? Aren't we supposed to honor them every day? We are. And yet, this day is very much in keeping with Jewish tradition.

I heard an interesting statistic on the radio. While most long-distance calls are made on Mother's Day, the day with the most collect calls is - you guessed it - Father’s Day.

The Torah realized that fathers often come up short in the honor department. This is why, according to the Talmud (Kedoshim 30b), the Ten Commandments mentions father first when it says, “Honor your father and your mother.” We are more inclined to honor mother who gave birth to us and nurtured us than father. Perhaps by setting aside a special day, it will help us not to take father for granted.

The Talmud (Kiddushin 30b) teaches, "Shlosha Shutfim Heyn Baadam," "There are three partners in the creation of a human being," Hakadosh Baruch Hu V’aviv V’imo, the Holy One Blessed Be He, and the father and the mother.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, the political commentator, has a brilliant insight from Hebrew that makes the same point. Yes, 'Av' in Hebrew means 'father,' and 'Eym' means 'mother,' but there is no word in Hebrew for 'parent,' in the singular. One can only say, 'Horim,' 'parents,' which comes from the root, 'to teach.' It's because it takes two to parent, each with very special and unique roles, to raise and teach a child. Sometimes a single parent has to do both. But every single parent will tell you how much better it is to have a mother and a father being horim, or teaching.

Let me conclude with a story that came out of the earthquake that almost flattened Armenia in 1989. (Mark Hansen, Chicken Soup For The Soul, p. 273) If you remember, it killed over 30,000 people in less than four minutes. “In the midst of utter devastation and chaos, a father left his wife securely at home and rushed to the school where his son was supposed to be, only to discover that the building was as flat as a pancake.

"After the traumatic initial shock, he remembered the promise he had made to his son, 'No matter what, I'll always be there for you!' And tears began to fill his eyes. As he looked at the pile of debris that once was the school, it looked hopeless, but he kept remembering his commitment to his son.

"He began to concentrate on where he walked his son to class at school each morning. Remembering his son's classroom would be in the back right corner of the building, he rushed there and started digging through the rubble.

"As he was digging, other forlorn parents arrived, clutching their hearts, saying, 'My son!' 'My daughter!' Other well-meaning parents tried to pull him off what was left of the school saying, 'It's too late! They're dead! You can't help! Go home! Come on, face reality, there's nothing you can do! You're just going to make things worse!'

"To each parent, he responded with one line, 'Are you going to help me now?' And then he proceeded to dig for his son, stone by stone.

"The fire chief showed up and tried to pull him off of the school's debris saying, 'Fires are breaking out, explosions are happening everywhere. You're in danger. We'll take care of it. Go home.' To which this loving, caring Armenian father asked, 'Are you going to help me now?'

"The police came and said, 'You're angry, distraught and it's over. You're endangering others. Go home. We'll handle it!' To which he replied, 'Are you going to help me now?' No one helped.

"Courageously, he proceeded alone because he needed to know for himself, 'Is my boy alive or is he dead?'

"He dug for eight hours . . . twelve hours . . . twenty-four hours . . . thirty-six hours . . . then, in the thirty-eighth hour, he pulled back a boulder and heard his son's voice. He screamed his son's name, ‘ARMAND!’ He heard back, 'Dad!?! It's me, Dad! I told the other kids not to worry. I told 'em that if you were alive, you'd save me and when you saved me, they'd be saved. You promised, 'No matter what, I'll always be there for you!' You did it, Dad!’

“‘What’s going on in there? How is it?' the father asked. 'There are 14 of us left out of thirty-three, Dad. We're scared, hungry, thirsty and thankful you're here. When the building collapsed, it made a wedge, like a triangle, and it saved us.' 'Come on out, boy!' 'No, Dad! Let the other kids out first, cause I know you'll get me! No matter what, I know you'll be there for me!'

This Sunday is Father's Day, an American cultural tradition created by the retail business world so that each father will receive cards and shirts and ties and wallets and golf balls from his wife and children. But we, as Jews, should embrace it with great enthusiasm as an opportunity to observe the Fifth Commandment. For those of us still fortunate enough to have their fathers, let Father's Day be a time for saying thanks to them and to God. For those whose fathers are gone, let this be a time for remembering how much we took for granted while they were alive, how they cared for and supported us, how they were, no matter what, there for us.

And for those of us who are fathers, it shouldn't have to take an earthquake for our families to know, no matter what, we'll be there for them. Hug and kiss your loved ones this Father's Day and everyday. Hold them tight and make each moment with them count, for in the end, that is what really matters. Happy Father's Day.


Thu, August 6 2020 16 Av 5780