As I am writing this, I am on a red-eye flight on my way to Baltimore. The reason for this trip is to visit my dear grandfather or rather Zaidy, as we call him, Rabbi Hirsch Diskind. He lives in Israel, but has not been well recently. He has terrible pains regularly throughout most of his body. The doctors in Israel discovered what appeared to be a broken vertebrae but weren’t sure. His children for a number of reasons decided to bring him to The United States for medical treatment. The doctors here took some more tests that were also inconclusive. They have been hoping, however, that it may simply be an infection in the spine. Regardless of what it is, it seems that this is the source of the pain. This past Monday they took a biopsy and we should hopefully have a diagnosis soon.
I enjoy taking red-eye flights when traveling alone since I generally have no problem sleeping on the plane. By taking the red-eye I waste no time during the day flying. This time, however, I have been finding it difficult to fall asleep. Thoughts of my grandfather and memories of spending time with him have been wandering through my mind, keeping me awake.
There is one memory that particularly stands out at this moment. I will introduce it with an explanation that I once heard from my Rebbi, Rabbi Yitzchok Berkovits, in regards to understanding relationships. He explains that it is extremely hard for us to fully comprehend our relationship with G-d. It is a very deep and complex relationship. In order to help us understand it, G-d created many different types of relationships in this world. There is a friend relationship, a parent-child relationship, a husband-wife relationship, a sibling relationship and more. Throughout life we find ourselves on different ends of different types of relationships. We often experience life on both ends of the same relationship. For example, we all started in the parent-child relationship as a child and most of us have reached (or hopefully will reach) the other side of that relationship too – the parent end of it. Each relationship and the place within that relationship that we find ourselves help us understand and relate to another aspect of our unique relationship with G-d. This is the reason G-d built so many different types of relationships into the world. We now have a tool for understanding our relationship with Him better.
With that introduction, I’d like to turn back to my grandfather. Zaidy is known throughout the family as being very sentimental. Whenever he gives a speech by the simcha (happy occasion) of a grandchild, whether it be a wedding, bar mitzvah, or brit, his eyes well up with tears. He is often so choked up that he has a difficult time finishing what he wants to say.
It is very easy for one to get sentimental about one’s relationship with one’s children and grandchildren. Our children are essentially an extension of ourselves. We work hard on bringing up our children appropriately. When we see our children succeeding in life, it moves us emotionally in a strong way. The lesson we are supposed Lewis’s n from here, however, is that in the same manner we are on a certain level an extension of G-d. Our relationship with our children is analogous to certain aspects of G-d’s relationship with us. One who truly learns this lesson will be just as sentimental is his relationship with the Almighty as he would with his own offspring. Yet this type of sentimentality is extremely rare. How often do we see a person’s eyes well up when they speak of G-d’s greatness? It is common when one is praying for something that he gets emotional, but is it common to see one get emotional over his relationship with G-d in general?
Zaidy is such a person. I remember vividly one afternoon sitting with him at his dining room table. It was during summer vacation and I was visiting my grandparents in Jerusalem. Zaidy was telling me about a certain chassidic Rebbi who had an unbelievable ability for transforming non-Jewish songs into spiritually meaningful songs. There was one song Zaidy began to sing for me that this rebbi converted. The original song was a love song from a husband who had to leave town for weeks at a time for his job. The song expressed this husband’s longing for his wife who he had left back at home. The Rebbi transformed it into a song about how far away we are from G-d’s divine presence and how much we are longing to ‘go back home to it’. Zaidy began singing this song and immediately his eyes began tearing up. I can clearly remember him singing “Shechinah, Shechinah (divine presence), you are so far away…” and beginning to cry over it. It was an amazing sight that made a deep impression on me.
Let us all take an honest look at our relationship with G-d against the backdrop of our relationship with our children. Are we as excited to ‘go home to G-d’ and talk to him when we pray as our children are when we come home from work and they want to tell us about their day? Let’s refocus on our relationship with G-d, double checking that we are making it as real as we can.
Please keep my grandfather, Tzvi ben Chanah Golda, in mind in your prayers.