Tears at Graduation

This evening, my eldest boy graduated from elementary school. As I sat in the room with a few hundred parents, grandparents, and siblings, my heart was overflowing with feelings of joy and gratitude.

Every parent naturally is proud of their child when they reach a milestone. But there is something extra special when you experience this as a single parent, and you know that you have raised this child, primarily alone.

From the audience, I watched as my son went up to deliver his speech. I could hardly recognize my own boy. There were no caps and gowns – just a black suit, a white shirt, and a black hat. Sitting there, I recalled the different milestones in his life. I remembered, as if it was just yesterday, holding him for the first time in my arms, when he was but a few moments old. My mind flashed back to his bris, and the hopes and prayers that I had, as I stood at that wonderful celebration.

As I sat and watched with pride, I realized that my little boy had become a man, before my very eyes. I thought back to the struggles and the painful days that we experienced. Parents often hope that their children will look up to them for guidance, and to chart their course in life. Here I was, looking up to my little boy, thinking of how proud I was of him and his unbelievable accomplishments.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, when all was said and done, I took him in my arms and embraced him. I put my hand in my pocket, and pulled out a lemon. You see, the mantra in our home has always been: when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. “Avi”, I said. “Life has given you lemons. But you have produced the sweetest lemonade any parent could want.”

For a boy who doesn’t show much emotion, I saw a tear in his eye. In that one moment, fourteen years culminated. He had made it, and I am so very proud of him. The adage says that grown men don’t cry. The adage is wrong. The tears tonight were of joy, and immense pride, mixed with tears of gratitude to Hashem, who has held this little boy’s hand, and never let go.

Life is complex to begin with. Divorce creates a delta that is often impossible to overcome. Tonight’s graduation was about so much more than just his scholastic studies. For me, it was about how in just 14 years, this special boy overcame so many of life’s obstacles and complexities, and came out shining. I have never tasted sweeter lemons.

About the Author
Cantor Benny Rogosnitzky is a world-renowned Cantor, lecturer, teacher, mentor, and event producer. Affectionately known as “Cantor Benny,” he serves as Cantor at the historic Park East Synagogue, located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Born in Liverpool, England, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Talmudic Studies in Manchester Yeshiva and an advanced degree in Music. He has performed for audiences of thousands at some of the world’s most prestigious venues, including the White House and the United Nations. As a lecturer of music and its application to prayer, Cantor Rogosnitzky routinely studies and practices both traditional and modern liturgy and music. In 2012, he worked with Sony Music on the production and marketing of the historic album and concert series, “Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul,” a collaboration between world-famous violinist Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot. At Park East Synagogue, where he has served as Cantor since 2009, Cantor Rogosnitzky also leads marketing and community engagement efforts for both the Synagogue and Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School, where he serves as Director. He serves on the board of several charitable organizations and is the co-founder of Cantors World and the founder of Frum Divorce. Cantor Rogosnitzky is married with four children and resides in New York. Follow Cantor Benny: