The gift of life

Just a Few Minutes…

Today is the 55th anniversary (yahrtzeit) of my father’s sudden and tragic death at the age of 41 — a few months before my fourth birthday.

Aside from reciting the requisite prayers at synagogue and visiting his gravesite, I usually hunker down at home on yahrtzeit day, not having the energy to talk to fellow humans much.

It is a tough day, and I am finding it to be progressively more searing as the years move on. You see, when I was young, I felt bad for me on yahrtzeit day. When I married and was busy with work and kids round the clock, the day seemed to pass faster.

Nowadays, having walked our children to the chuppah/wedding ceremony, and having had the great privilege of seeing our newly born grandchildren through the plate glass windows of hospital nurseries, I just feel so bad for him on this day; for all he missed, for all the things we take for granted that he never got to do.

It’s almost unbearable.

In Jewish tradition, it is common practice to study Torah or commit to doing a good deed in memory of a friend or loved one on yahrtzeit day.

In that spirit, I respectfully ask parents of young children to take just a few minutes this afternoon or evening and appreciate the gift of life.

One of the great ironies of life is that when our children are teenagers and beyond, it is so challenging to get them to spend time with us. However, when they are younger and craving our attention, we are often too busy, too preoccupied, too distracted and unaware of how important our time with them is to their emotional health.

Time with you is the greatest self-esteem builder for your children, for it sends a message that your connection with them is so meaningful to you. It allows you to get to know your children — really know them — and helps build the trust, affection, and deep personal relationship that are all prerequisites of their confiding in you and seeking your guidance later in life.

So, turn off your smartphones for a few minutes this evening and spend that time with your kids. Read them a bedtime story, ask them how their day went and really listen, look them in the eye and tell them how much you love them and what they mean to you.

In short, do what my father would have done if he were granted three minutes to return to this world while we were growing up.

May the memory of my father — Shlome ben Yakov Moshe Ha’levi — be for a blessing.

About the Author
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, Director of The Center for Jewish Family Life/Project YES, conducts child abuse prevention and parenting workshops internationally. He is the author of two books and published the landmark children’s personal safety picture book Let’s Stay Safe!, the Yiddish edition Zei Gezunt!, and the new Hebrew adaptation, “Mah She’batuach – Batuach!”
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