I own a business which takes most of my time. As a matter of fact, I don't have any time left over for my wife and kids or anything else. My wife and kids are the most important people in my life, I just want to be the best husband and father I can possibly be.
But I feel that something is missing. When I attend synagogue, I find myself reading the prayers or the Torah portion without any emotions, almost as if it was just a book. Do you have any suggestions how to make my life more real and more meaningful?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Your letter reminds me of a story:
Mr. Schwartz is an investment banker in a major Wall Street investment firm. He's spending most of his days trying to reach his lifelong goal: to earn $25 million. He and his wife have three kids.
One day, a wealthy philanthropist named Cohen, who unfortunately has no children, comes to pay Schwartz a visit. He says, "Your kids are growing up without a father. You're off to work before they get up, and home long after they've gone to sleep. On weekends, you're at the club entertaining clients from out of town. A child needs a father. I'll give you the biggest shortcut of your financial career. You're spending your whole life to make $25 million dollars, right? I'll write you a check right now for that amount. All you have to do is give me one of your children to adopt."
Now, what does Schwartz the banker say to this generous offer?
$25 million dollars gets his attention. But even he realizes that there are things in life that you can't put a price tag on. He stares Cohen right between the eyes and announces: "No deal."
Now imagine the scene. Schwartz has just shut the door on $25 million dollars. He drives home, walks inside and sees his three kids playing on the living room floor. What do you think he does when he sees them?
He rushes over, and with tears in his eyes, gives each of them a big hug and a kiss. "You darling creatures are worth more than all the money in the universe!"
Then he says to himself, "Where have I been all their lives? I have something at home that's worth more to me than all the money in the world and I'm lucky if I spend an hour a week with them."
So what does Schwartz do? He calls the office, announces he's taking a two-week vacation, sends the maids, nannies and babysitters away. He's going to spend two blissful weeks with his kids.
After struggling for half an hour to get the stroller open, Schwartz makes it to the park. He and the kids are having a grand time. But then comes dinner, bath and story time. After enduring food fights, floods in the bathtub and endless readings of "Babar Goes to the Circus," Schwartz flops down on the couch, turns to his wife and says, "Perhaps I was being a bit hasty in taking that two-week vacation. You know I have a lot of responsibilities at the office..."
Similarly, I hear from your letter how deeply you care for your family. But emotions have to be given a setting to properly express themselves.
You are suffocating emotionally under your workload, to the extent that you do not even have time to spend with your family that you love more than anything.
If you cannot manage to find time for your family, how do you expect to feel anything when you pray?
A person is not a machine, and prayers are not switches that you turn on and off.
You must spend a little time before praying, think about one of your lovely children and how much you care for her/him. Then thank God in your heart for that little smile that you care for so much. Imagine soft, moving music in the background while you think about how grateful you are to God, and how much you would like to get close to Him and connect with Him.
Ask God to bring you close, and He will. But give Him a chance.
You know what our priorities should be. You just sometimes get distracted. So you need to concentrate on connecting your heart to your mind – and acting upon that which you intellectually know to be right.
But if you are always running around taking care of business, it's not going to happen.