As I look at families in my neighborhood, I marvel at their togetherness and family love. For me, the often badly used  “F” word by the younger generation stands for two words: Family and Friends. Nothing is more important to me than those two elements.

The Talmud in referring to friendship, uses a phrase which has been for me the essence of my life.

“O chevruta o mituta”…. Give me friendship or give me death. Simply put, a life without good friends is not a real life…it is, rather, a living death.

The same could be said of families…mishpachot.

As the years fleet by and old age is upon us, it is comforting to return to the mishpacha.  So many of them are no longer living and it saddens me when I recall the happy and joyous memories of long-ago years..

Of my father’s surviving family I have only one cousin and his wife and children left. Binyamin and Shula live in Ramat HaSharon. His father and my father were born in neighboring villages of Grodno Guberniya in the former Russian empire. His grandfather and my grandfather were loving brothers.

My father’s family was a very warm, loving, united, devoted family. “All for one and one for all”.  Yom tovim were always celebrated together. Every simcha brought children and grandchildren to share in the joy with their parents.

As an immigrant family they shared the same values…brotherly and sisterly love for one another. There was never an ounce of jealousy or anger between them. On the contrary, each one was filled with pride for one another.

My father became a lawyer and his brother became a doctor. Although they lived about 40 kilometers from each other, they visited once every week and spoke on the telephone every night, wishing one another “Laila tov. Shaina metooka  v’chalomot paz”… good night, have a sweet sleep and happy dreams.

The love of the two brothers was legendary and deeply admired by non-related friends.

It was a time when families were close and not scattered.  I have only one brother who lives 290 kilometers from me. We speak often on the telephone and exchange messages by e-mail but regrettably we meet only once a year.

Mishpacha  is important to him and he is devoted to a wife, children and grandchild as I am devoted to the memory of my beloved wife and the joy of my three children and three grandchildren.

The surviving family on my mother’s side is not as close as my father’s side. In fact, they never have been.  So I treasure the last remaining cousin…. the last living survivor of my father’s family.

Happily, my three children are devoted to one another and speak and see one another frequently. And my grandchildren are a precious treasure, as devoted and loving to me as I was to my zaideh.

Since they were young children, they saw family love in our home. It was contagious. And now, as grown adults, they continue sharing that love.

As we begin another year, hopefully a year of life and good health, our family will be joined together in praying,  eating,  praying some more,  eating much more.

Isn’t that what a happy mishpacha is all about?