Plaisirs de Jeunesse/ The Joys of Youth

Oh what a delight it must be to be young again. I have forgotten those happy years. Glancing at my family… Eitan is in Thailand (hopefully enjoying Thai massages), Tammy and Yitzchak are enjoying their visit in Florida and New York, Michelle is in Costa Rica (and wants to stay there for a long time) and Binyamin, Shula and me are enduring the local weather at home.

Yonatan and Tal are hopefully getting a rest from long duties on the Gaza border and on the Golan Heights. Not nice vacation places for two young men serving their country. May Hashem protect them.

When I was a graduate student in France in the mid 1950s (seems like a century ago), there was a very popular 18th century love song sang by every French chantreuse. It was called “Plaisir d’Amour,” written in 1784 by Jean-Paul-Egide Martini with a text from a poem by Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian (1755-1794).

The first lines and the last lines  are as true today as they were when first written:

“Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment, chagrin d’amour dure toute la vie”….

The joy of love lasts only a moment, the pain of love lasts a lifetime.

C’est vrai mes amis. It is true, my friends.   Youth blossoms and then withers and fades. Love that we once cherished remains a life of memories… some sweet, some bittersweet.

I always encouraged my children (and now my grandchildren) to spread their wings, to travel, to taste the cultures of other lands and other peoples  (and to taste the food, but only if it’s kosher… no frogs-legs or Parisian snails).

The years of my youth spent in traveling… studying in France, teaching in Holland… are memories still fresh and alive in the mind of an old man. The friends of my youth (those who are still alive) remain my dearest friends to this day. And all of them are in Israel, the country of the truest friendships in the world.

Only the last line of the famous song, “the pain of love lasts a lifetime”, lingers with me. The lost love of a beloved partner of 56 years is the pain that will last forever until I lie beside her in the cemetery.

Wherever I traveled I kept a diary of sorts, notations of whom I met and what I did on any particular day or occasion. Frequently I re-read the words which I wrote eons ago, mostly happy words,  occasionally a bittersweet memory.

I had private meetings with two Israeli Presidents, an audience with a Dutch Queen in the palace in Holland, an Israeli Prime Minister (Menachem Begin) and Foreign Minister (Shimon Peres), the Minister of Culture and Education of Egypt in Cairo (before there was an Israeli-Egyptian peace), and was invited to deliver the opening prayer in the Congress of the United States in August 1982, published in the Congressional Record,  among other long-ago memories which I cherish to this day.

Plaisirs de la jeunesse… oh, the joys, the pleasures of youth!

No lower back-aches, no leg and knee problems, no cane to hold on for support, no falling.

And joyfully, no memory problems. When my daughter comes home in the evening she always asks me what I ate for supper. And most evenings, I don’t remember. I have to glance at the garbage pail to see remnants of food or the packaging. I remember that the meal tasted good. Only I cannot remember what it was !

There are no pills to restore a by-gone youth. But there are written pages to share with loved ones in which memories never-to-be-forgotten are recorded.

And through them  the plaisirs de jeunesse linger on.

Stay young, my friends. If not in body, then in heart and mind.

These are the true plaisirs!

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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