All the Way Home
click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​




All the Way Home

All the Way Home

How six words transformed my world.

by

"You have to honor your parents."

These words were delivered in a thick foreign accent by the rabbi -- a diminutive, olive-skinned, white-bearded stranger dressed in black suit and hat -- in a kosher luncheonette on 47th Street. If I had to pinpoint one event that divided my life into before and after, those six words would serve as the turning point.

I'd met the rabbi ten minutes before, while waiting on line for a phone booth outside the New York Public Library. Something about his appearance (I'd seen pictures somewhere of religious Jews -- maybe National Geographic?) had vaguely rung a bell, and I'd turned to say, "You're Jewish, aren't you."

He stared, taken aback. "You a Jewish?"

And now he was introducing me to my religion over a slice of poppy-seed cake.

In memory, all this occurred around a thousand years ago.

If these were Jews, what relation could they possibly bear to me, whose childhood was spent on the fringe of a genteel WASP suburb.

The restaurant was on an upstairs balcony inside the Diamond Exchange, and the Diamond Exchange was the huge room down below on the ground floor, full of busy men in black and white who all looked like him, and shining glass jewelry cases beneath bright lights, and talkative women in silver and gold, trying on necklaces and diamond rings. In nearly two decades on earth, I'd never seen anything like it. Who were these people? If these were Jews, what relation could they possibly bear to me, whose childhood was spent on the fringe of a genteel WASP suburb, gazing in hopelessly at sedately well-mannered country clubs, and community carol sings on the snowy village-green?

Across the Formica tabletop, the rabbi was laboriously spelling out something in capital letters on a paper napkin (he hadn't had much practice writing English, that was obvious), mouthing out the words as he went along. He announced that these lines were what Jews say in Hebrew before eating various foods. (What they say? You mean, like grace?) He'd already said I should transfer to college in New York, live with my parents (you must be kidding!) and work for my father at his office. (Ha! For my father? An office job?!)

"Yes. Days, you work. The nights, night school. Will be very good. Your father," he said, "will be so happy."

"Yeah, but I --"

"You have to honor your parents. You come to us for Shabbat."

"What?" I'd never heard that word.

"You will meet my wife. You will be friends. You see them?" I followed his glance to the right. At the lunch counter were seated two annoyingly pretty girls around my own age, giggling and chitchatting in typical teenage fashion. They were in long-sleeved, calf-length dresses, their glossy hair pulled back smoothly into ponytails. "Those girls they are Orthodox."

Something in me recoiled with distaste, scorn, bafflement, and -- unbeknownst to my own self -- an envy in the marrow of my bones. Those girls -- examples, supposedly, of my own people -- were card-carrying members in a universe as weirdly inscrutable to me as China, a club even more off-limits to someone like me than...my own hometown. Who did they think they were! Holier than thou! What made this man think he could just come up and pontificate to me like this -- it was ridiculous, such quaint, old-fashioned ideas!-- I should get up and walk out! Get up and walk out! But...in a way...it was interesting, being bombarded by all this 19th century stuff (and on some strange level, it was striking a deeply resonant chord, familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.). To go work for Daddy -- as if I needed my father's approval! -- that would be exactly the opposite direction from where I had to go in life. The whole point was to become independent. That was the most important thing -- to think for yourself. My whole way of seeing things was totally different from my parents'. They were middle-aged! I had to find my own way in life -- even they would agree with that.

And anyway, who said that Daddy would even want me there, in his office?

What would I wear?

He'd be embarrassed.

And I couldn't touch-type, or do shorthand.

The rabbi glanced nervously at his watch a few times and signaled the waitress for the bill. So I gulped down my coffee and with a mental nod to my diet (I won't have lunch) finished off the cake. He pointed to the table napkin he'd written on and gestured for me to take it. "Remember, before you eat. Will be a blessing for you."

Outside again in the blazing heat, amidst the rushing lunch-hour crowds of midtown Manhattan, he stopped a few moments now on the sidewalk to give directions to his home on the East Side. On Friday night, he informed me, his wife would be lighting at 7. I should get there by quarter of.

Lighting?

"And now you go, tell your father. Maybe you start tomorrow."

With quick, determined steps he scurried towards 47th and 6th, and for lack of anything better to do, I guessed I would walk over to my father's office a few blocks uptown. Waiting on the corner for the light to change, I was standing aside the rabbi (he couldn't have been more than 5'2") whose mind now was obviously on other things, when my eyes crossed the street and alighted on a fat, squat grandmotherly type on the opposite curb. Long sleeves, buttoned collar. Some sort of round little hat atop her head. With a small flicker of satisfaction I recognized the whole get-up -- I was an expert already -- and gestured in her direction. "She's Orthodox, too, right?"

"Yes," the rabbi replied curtly. Then, as the light turned green: "One day you will be Orthodox."

"Ha!" I shot back with a tart laugh. The warning bells were going crazy. "Never!"


So for $100 a week I got a job in the Classified Ads Department of The Saturday Review, edited by my father, Norman Cousins, a position which required knowledge of the ABCs and how to open and close a filing cabinet. I signed up for night classes to finish my degree, moved back in with my parents, and spent the weekends with them at home in Connecticut.

And an amazing thing happened: my mother and father were so happy. So, so happy. I hadn't known they would feel this way.

Even more amazing, I was happy. Happy to be making them happy. I didn't have to think my way into it, this happiness, it just sprouted by itself, like grass, or wildflowers.

Happy like the rain, as natural as the relationship between earth and sky.

Not since I was a little kid in elementary school had this kind of happiness, plain and simple, been mine, day after day.

Not since I was a little kid in elementary school, or maybe even kindergarten, had this kind of happiness, plain and simple, been mine, day after day. It didn't go away. Every once in a while, I'd turn around to see what I'd left behind, and there, stretching into the distance, was a huge, convoluted grey maze drifting away into the past. I realized now that I'd been wandering around in there for what seemed like centuries. Until a pintsize stranger had appeared out of the blue, pointing to the exit and ordering: "Thaddaway!"

I could have just ignored him -- it would have made sense to ignore him; I came very close to ignoring him. Instead, I found myself in a landscape, green and hilly, fed by streams of water and light from some long-ago era. As if I'd entered a garden that had been right outside my door all along, but which I hadn't visited since the beginning of time, and had then noticed that my name -- in Hebrew letters -- was inscribed on the gate.

A door had opened before me to another dimension...larger than myself, a vast...something or other, and it belonged to me. I recognized it.


A daily rhythm established itself. On weekday mornings, I'd get up early and join my father for breakfast at the hotel across the street, ordering coffee in a Styrofoam cup and enjoying vicariously Daddy's daily two eggs over easy, two slices whole wheat. I myself was eating kosher now, a form of abstention which dovetailed nicely with my diet, and made me feel spiritually elevated amidst the consumers of bacon and sausages at the surrounding tables. Then the two of us would catch a cab to the office. Like two colleagues.

I'd never had so much time alone with him.

Nor had I ever seen him at work, up close. It was a revelation. He worked so hard, I'd never realized. There he was, responsible for getting out the magazine every single week, week after week. But all day long, people didn't stop knocking on his door, complaining, beseeching, imploring, demanding. He was a kind father to his staff as he was kind at home, kind to a fault. On one occasion, the head of advertising told me that in 30 years as editor of Saturday Review, my father had never fired anyone. "And believe me, he's had his share of jerks on staff, but your father -- he can't bring himself to do that to anyone. Did you know that?"

I shook my head meekly. If anything, while growing up, I'd averted my eyes from my father's professional self, harboring a hazy resentment towards all those people out there with whom I was obliged to share him. I didn't read his editorials, or his books – this was a point of pride, almost; a matter of personal policy. In some way I couldn't articulate -- and had never tried to figure out -- ignoring his public persona seemed to offer some kind of protection.

"Well," the advertising head continued, "you should be very proud. I'll tell him, 'Norm, get rid of this clown, he's not worth the trouble.' And your father just gets that look in his eyes, like he's thinking about his next editorial, and changes the subject. He's a prince, your father."

Lucky for me, because by this time (though no one said it to my face) the boss's daughter had messed up some crucial details of a Classifieds column, and upon arrival at the office one morning, I discovered I'd been promoted. My new position, two cubicles over: Assistant for the Annual Photography Contest. My job: to number the submissions as they came in and keep a running list of the photographers' names and addresses.

Eventually, to my lasting shame, I messed up in this department, too, even more extravagantly than at Classifieds. Finding it a challenge to keep up with the hundreds of incoming contest submissions, I decided one evening to take a few hundred of them home with me in a Macy's shopping bag, and finish numbering them on my parents' dining room table. Call it The Mystery of the Missing Pictures -- only a genuine space cadet could have achieved such a stunning sleight of hand -- but somewhere on the subway, between 52nd and 34th , that bag got away from me.


I could tell they looked forward to the time I'd get through this phase, just as I'd gotten through my Zazen meditation phase and the Nam myo ho Japanese chanting stage.

While Mommy and Daddy must have realized that all these harmonious developments (not including the lost bag) were related to my becoming religiously observant, our new arrangements were not without strain. They'd never stoop to say such a thing, but I could tell they looked forward to the time I'd get through this phase, just as I'd gotten through my Zazen meditation phase, and the transcendental meditation phase, and the Nam myo ho Japanese chanting stage, shedding the successive spiritual disciplines, one after the other, like so many flaking sunburns. For although I'd taken on the mitzvah of honoring my mother and father as part and parcel – or to be more exact, as the central pillar -- of my Torah observance, almost everything I did religiously seemed perfectly calibrated to worry them and give them pain.

First of all, the silverware. I recall standing in front of the stove in my parents' rented Manhattan apartment, waiting for some of my mother's knives and spoons and forks to come to a boil in her stainless steel frying pan. I'd waited for an afternoon that neither of them was expected home, but I suddenly became aware of someone's presence behind me and spun around.

"Oh!" I exclaimed cheerily. "I didn't know you were here!"

My mother was looking at me with slightly narrowed eyes; lips parted as if to speak, but no sound came out.

A couple moments passed.

"Sarah..." she said quietly. "What are you doing?"

"Oh! I'm just koshering some silverware! You have to boil it!"

"I see." She was still looking into my eyes. More silence. Then: "You really think God cares?"

The question pierced me.

All I knew, at that point, was that I cared, for reasons I couldn't yet articulate. Did God care? Really? My mother's opinion was obvious -- she whose opinions and tastes and beliefs had always laid the foundation for my own.

So what was the answer? I wanted truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Five years later, I would have explained that separating milk and meat is the Torah's way of encouraging ethics and compassion in human beings, based on the prohibition against cooking a kid in its mother's milk. Ten years, and I would have said, "This is how a human being can connect to that which is eternal and infinite, precisely because it's beyond rational explanation." Twenty years, and it would be: "God gives us physical mitzvahs as a way of making His Presence a reality in our lives."

Thirty years, and it would be: "Yes, Mommy, God cares."

But by then, she wasn't around.

Then there was her cooking. It's only now, as a mother of grown children, that I can imagine how disheartening, how aggravating it must have been for her each time I politely declined to partake of something she'd made. "No, thank you," to her vegetable chicken soup, from her organic garden, and to her homemade herb bread that I'd always loved, and her cabbage salad.

"Would you like some of these string beans? I didn't put anything in them, just a little butter."

"I'm so sorry, Mommy...I..."

Above all...it was Shabbat.

Whenever Friday afternoon rolled around and the three of us would pile into the car for the drive home to Connecticut, they in the front seat and I in the back, talking and talking, singing our old family favorites all the way to New Canaan...it was a joy, it was wonderful.

But my two little fake-silver candlesticks that I'd bought from a kiosk on 72nd -- where could I light them to ensure that they wouldn't get blown out or inadvertently moved? And why did I have to make such a big deal about lighting exactly on time? I imagined they were thinking, You really think God cares? And unscrewing the light bulb in the refrigerator, how could I do that without inconveniencing her? And the lights I'd leave on in the kitchen and living room, which someone inevitably would switch off without thinking. The chicken giblets I'd bought from Meal Mart on 72nd, and the yummy chopped liver, and the broccoli quiche...I wanted to share it all, of course! Nothing would have made me prouder! But nine times out of ten, someone would end up using a treif knife or fork, and I wouldn't be able to eat it, and they would be distressed.

The trouble increased as winter came on. When Fridays grew short and they'd set out for Connecticut too close to sundown, I'd stand at the door and bid them sadly farewell. "But Sarah, you'll be all alone!" I remember my father's worried eyes. "Can't you come? You're not doing the driving!"

I'm so sorry, Daddy. So sorry, Mommy.

And indeed, I felt like a wandering Jew, a wondering Jew, a Jew in my own personal desert -- those silent Shabbats all by myself, staying behind in their rented apartment in New York City. Friday night and all day Saturday, with a container of cole slaw and cold Meal Mart chicken to keep me company, along with The New York Times...unable to take the elevator up or down nine floors... Regarded as a weirdo by the hotel employees as I'd get trapped yet again behind a locked security door...

Take the key with you, miss, the clerk would advise.

But you see, I can't carry it outside...

Oh, all the strange looks, and lonely times!

But one cold and rainy Friday afternoon, as my two little candles already flickered on the window sill and my parents in their overcoats were taking their leave, my father suddenly stopped at the door. "Ellen, I almost forgot! Where's the neckla--? "

"Oh! Right here!" She reached into her purse.

It was from a jewelry store, and when I lifted the lid of the tiny box, looking up at me was...a Jewish star.


There weren't any yeshivas for newly religious Jews in those days, at least not that I was aware of. I just made my way through a big black volume that I'd found in a bookstore somewhere, with the word "JUDAISM" on the spine in dull gold letters, by Meir Meiseles.

I recall sitting by myself at my desk in the Classifieds Department (or, excuse me, the Photo Contest Department) with my Dannon yogurt or tuna-fish sandwich...how I used to prop up my big old black book against the Selectric typewriter to read during lunch hour, when all the other employees would have gone off merrily to the nearby steakhouse. And I'd read:

Honor your father and mother, that your days may be prolonged upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Exodus, 20:12

You shall fear, every man, his mother and his father, and my Sabbaths you shall keep; I am the Lord thy God.

Leviticus, 19:3

How could it be that my heart's desire, above all, was to do two things God wanted -- to honor my parents and to observe Shabbat -- but that the two seemed mutually exclusive?

How could it be that my heart's desire was to do two things God wanted but that the two seemed mutually exclusive?

This was the 1970s, when making your parents happy wasn't on anyone's New Age agenda. To be a self-respecting adult meant becoming your own man, I mean, woman. You had to be proud to be a woman, and not act subservient. Women didn't want to be men, of course, just have the same pay, and be respected like men, and wear miniskirts and pantsuits. And not to be in charge of dishes and the laundry.

The Sages, wrote Rabbi Meiseles, taught that whenever a man honors his parents it is as if he had brought down the Divine Presence to dwell with them and honored God Himself. But whenever a man grieves his parents, God withholds His Presence from among them so that He might not, as it were, be grieved as well.


I'd been working at the office about six months when my father was sued. A longtime staff writer had recently died, having stipulated in her will that what remained of her pension should be returned to the company. Now her son was claiming that his elderly mother had been pressured to surrender what was due her, thereby depriving him of his rightful inheritance.

I learned from my mother that Daddy -- much to her annoyance and mine -- didn't wish to challenge the man's claim. This was the case, she confided, in spite of the fact that in the legal opinion of Saturday Review's lawyer, the unfounded charges would be swiftly disproved in court with my father's testimony, and the magazine would prevail.

On the day of the hearing, on our way downtown in a taxi, Mommy and I were still trying to change Daddy's mind as we made our way through the cross-town traffic. But he just listened thoughtfully, un-budged from his position, and upon arrival in the courtroom, was immediately summoned off to one side by the lawyer for last-minute consultations. So Mommy and I, amazed by this unjust world, went ahead and found seats up front, grumbling to each other under our breath.

The courtroom proceedings had yet to get underway when a tall, lanky man around 40 slid into the row ahead of us, and draping one arm over the empty seat to his right, swiveled around with a friendly smile. "Hi, Eleanor," he greeted my mother pleasantly. "How are you?"

My mother's posture stiffened. "Just fine!"

"And the family? Everyone okay?"

I sensed my mother bristling speechlessly beside me, and from the side could see her green eyes' electric glare. I realized that this must be the guy who was suing Daddy! He proceeded to shoot the breeze about this and that, but Mommy -- her face as incapable of concealing her feelings as an open book -- sat there in strangled silence.

"You know, my mother...she wasn't the easiest woman to get along with," he said finally, as if to acknowledge the elephant in the room. "Even before she was ill."

Mommy managed some sort of grunt.

"So it's...you know, a difficult situation, for everyone. No hard feelings, I hope. She kept Bob, my brother, on the up and up, what was going on, but...me, you know, I'm out on the West Coast, and...you know how it is, sometimes, with family. How it gets. She and I were estranged." There was a long pause. "She hated me."

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my mother's mouth fall open.

"She was so attached to the magazine. Always saying, those people, they're like family. They visit, they do this, they do that. And she liked that Dr. Shriff, Shiffman, that Norman got, the oncologist. Don't get me wrong. We appreciate it, everything Norman did for her...you all did for her. Really. But... it's my money. Was my money, until this...break happened."

With one arm still draped casually over the back of the court bench, he wore an oddly wavering half-smile, and was beseeching with his eyes. "I have to get something back, Eleanor. This was my only option. I'm sorry it had to...be like this, but... I'm..." His voice trailed off.

For some reason I remember the sight of his long, pale, nervous fingers curved tentatively on the back of the wooden bench, emerging from the cuff of his navy blue jacket. But I can't recall where the conversation went from there, only that he must have switched seats (small wonder) whereupon my mother sprang to her feet, with me close on her heels. We darted over to where Daddy and his lawyer were still in a huddle.

The lawyer's open briefcase, full of papers, was perched upon his lap.

"Norman!" my mother exclaimed in a whisper, hands clasped over her heart. "Paul! You won't believe what [of course I'm censoring the name here] just told us." She proceeded to repeat all of it, then turned to the lawyer. "That's the proof we need!"

My father sat there, not responding as I deemed appropriate. "Daddy!" I chimed in. "It proves he's lying!"

He continued sitting there without speaking.

"Please, Norman," my mother entreated, to which he stated calmly: "You can't do that."

"What do you mean!" I demanded, sensing what was coming. "Can't do what?"

"To make something like that public. You can't repeat something like that, that a man tells you about his mother." My father gave one slight, decisive shake of the head,no.

It wasn't a jury trial. First one lawyer spoke, then the other. The judge rose; retired to his chambers; emerged a quarter of an hour later; instructed plaintiff and defendant to stand before him. And then...

In my mind's eye, I see the image of my father, awaiting the verdict in those moments: he stood upright, chin slightly lifted, hands clasped behind his back, with a matter-of-fact, quietly cheerful expression on his face of consciously chosen serenity. And I see Daddy's expression as the judge delivered his ruling: the rock-solid equanimity befitting a man who has emerged victorious over a deceitful legal claim.

Except that actually, my father's company had just been ordered to pay the plaintiff $25,000.

I remember my father's uncomplaining, amicable nod to the judge before turning to depart, and his courteous smile as he said, "Thank you, your honor."

True love involves a complete identification with one's fellowman, I had read at my desk one day in the Photo Contest department, over my tuna fish sandwich, with the big black book propped open before me, a full understanding of his needs and difficulties. He who benefits from his friend's dishonor forfeits his share in the hereafter. As Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, the Rambam, commented, love of one's fellow man means being as careful about his honor and money as if they were our own. We are taught that no price is too high for protecting a man from shame.

Afterwards, on our way back to the office, the three of us were riding along without talking in the back seat of a cab, when my mother leaned over and kissed my father on the cheek. "You were right, Norman."

He reached for her hand.


The years went by. My parents got older. And so, of course, did I.

I moved to Israel, got married, had children, and the conversation with my parents about Judaism went on and on. We had angry arguments about evolution, and about the Chosen People; disagreements over the roots of Anti-Semitism, clashes on the subject of ritual and superstition. But our dialogue continued, our love grew, and our mutual respect deepened. And one day in 1988, I got a letter:

Dearest Sarah,

In the course of tending to matters in connection with my will, an issue has arisen I feel compelled to share with you. I don't want you to think anything is pending or that I have premonitions, it's simply prudent to take the necessary steps to avoid as much confusion and misunderstanding as possible.

My father then informed me that he was planning on being cremated, and told me what he intended to do with the ashes:

I would like -- given the concerns that have dominated my work these past thirty or forty years -- for my ashes to be scattered over Hiroshima.

The reason for this is that my father had been involved deeply, since the end of World War II, with providing aid to survivors of the Hiroshima Bomb.

I realize that there may be sensitivities for you on this point, but I hope you will agree that, given my philosophical bent, this is an appropriate and acceptable choice.

Your feelings and responses matter more to me than I perhaps have ever been able to convey. I do not wish to make this kind of decision without discussing it with you. It means much to me to know that I have your support and understanding.

Love, Daddy

I called Rav Noach Weinberg for advice. "How should I answer?" I entreated. "What can I say?

Rav Weinberg asked: "Would your father ever want to hurt you?"

"Never."

"Tell him that if he does this, it would hurt you, and you know he wouldn't want to do that."

My reply was as follows:

Dear Daddy:

Your asking me about this beforehand is a gift for which I cannot thank you adequately.

I have to just go ahead and say that I think sprinkling your ashes over Hiroshima is a horrible idea and if my vote carries veto power, I vote NO. Giving up your presence so frequently during my childhood to the people of Hiroshima may well turn out to have been my chief contribution to world peace, but giving them your physical remains, as well, is absolutely out of the question. A child must certainly learn to share her toys but I see no reason at all for her to share her father's body.

More to the point: cremation is forbidden by Judaism. Though years ago I might have dismissed tradition as meaningless in and of itself, now I would say: Even if this is just a matter of tradition, come on, join the club. When our time comes, let's join the thriving, growing community of the happily dead throughout history whose bodies have graced Jewish cemeteries from time immemorial, from ancient Egypt to Levittown, right on down to our very own familial haunting grounds in New Jersey. Mt. Lebanon Jewish Cemetery may not be my idea of the best spot to spend eternity, but let us go from dust to dust, not dust to ashes. And if indeed -- inscrutably so to us mortals -- a spiritual relationship does exist between soul and body which is promoted by the gradual transformation of our bodies into the larger body of Mother Earth, as the Torah prescribes, let's not miss out.

I would want a place to go visit you, to talk to you, and it would hurt me not to have it, and I would be so sad if my children didn't have it. Please do not deprive me of this. It's probably one of the most basic human instincts.

Having said all of the above, I cannot accept anything less than for you and Mommy together to see my children grown, and see me personally into late middle age and beyond, and -- perhaps, who knows -- even on up into senility. I beseech you please, Daddy, employ that well-known will to live of yours to satisfy my extreme need for your presence.

I apologize more than I can say to be putting up an obstacle for you and to be hindering you in carrying what you believe. Please forgive me.

Love, Sarah

His response arrived a few days later, by express mail.

Dear Sarah Kit,

Please rest easy. I'm changing my will and all is well.

Love, Daddy


In late August of 1990, three months before my father's unexpected death from a heart attack, my parents and I were searching one Saturday night in Jerusalem for a nice place to eat out. But Shabbat ends late in the summertime, and all the kosher establishments were still closed. In the company of several tired, cranky little grandchildren, we were driving from one place to another, my mother and father getting visibly weary from these nocturnal wanderings around the Holy City, when at last, from the back seat window of their rented car, I spotted what looked like a kosher bagel spot. All of us brightened up, my father found a parking place, and off we set, the children skipping happily along before us.

Upon reaching the restaurant, however, a closer inspection indicated that it wasn't what we were looking for.

"But, Sarah," my father implored, baffled. "It says kosher."

"I'm so sorry, Daddy. It's not kosher. It's kosher-style." Back we all piled into the car.

Setting off again, it suddenly dawned on me that the Hilton Hotel had a dairy restaurant, one floor under its lobby, which would certainly be open by now.

"I'm glad you're leading a religious life," he said. I felt my mouth fall open. "You are?"

A half-hour later in the hotel elevator, having knocked in vain on the closed doors of the darkened Kumsit Coffee Shop, we were rising up through the bowels of the Hilton when I noticed my father's ashen face and felt terrible. His eyes met mine.

"I'm glad you're leading a religious life," he said.

I felt my mouth fall open. "You are?"

"Yes," he said with that small nod of his, of certainty. "It's consistent with my values."

My mother looked over at him, then at me.

That was the end of that, and since this was the last time I saw him, there was no opportunity to discuss the matter again. But years later when my mother and I talked about it, we both thought that Daddy had seen how even his little grandchildren were willing to go through physical and emotional discomfort for the sake of an ideal, and that this wasn't unlike what he had sought to do in his own life.

For me, honoring my parents -- an idea which to me as a girl had seemed so quaintly out of date -- was the pinpoint through which I had to pass. It sufficed in itself to transform my world, and served from then on as the unmoving center of a benevolent, unspeakably beautiful universe. From darkness to light, that single point was my North Star, and led me all the way home, to God.

Published: August 30, 2008


Give Tzedakah! Help Aish.com create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.

Visitor Comments: 45

(45) Asher Norman, May 18, 2012 4:09 PM

Understanding the Kosher Laws & Jewish Holiness

The Jewish laws of holiness regarding food, maritial intimacy and Shabbat may be characterized as separating between life and death. The Jewish People are commanded by God to "choose life." (Deut. 7:6-9) One way this may be understood is that “choosing life” is conceptually and physically expressed in God’s laws of holiness for the Jewish People. THE LAWS OF KASHRUT: The kosher laws may be undertood as a physical manifestation of the Torah’s conceptual idea of separating between life and death. Parenthetically, "health" is never mentioned in the Torah with regard to the kosher laws. The kosher laws apply to land animals, sea animals and birds. LAND ANIMALS: To be kosher, land animals must have two signs, they must have split hooves and they must chew their cud. Significantly, all kosher land animals with these two signs are strict vegetarians. All land animals that don’t have both signs are not strict vegetarians. Conceptually, vegetarians represent life and non-vegetarians represent death. Jews may only eat land animals that represent life. Further, meat and dairy must be physically separated for food to be kosher. Conceptually, meat represents death because it comes from as dead animal and dairy represents life because it comes from a live animal. Once meat is eaten, dairy cannot be eaten for several hours, creating a separation between life and death. SEA ANIMALS: To be kosher, sea animals must have two signs, scales and fins. Significantly, kosher sea animals will only eat live food and most sea animals that don’t have both signs will eat live or dead food. Conceptually, sea animals that eat live food represent life and sea animals that eat dead food represent death. Jews may only eat sea animals that represent life. BIRDS: Conceptually, kosher birds cannot be of birds of prey because birds of prey eat other animals and therefore represent death. Jews may only eat birds that represent life.

(44) Debbie W., May 16, 2012 3:07 AM

A stunning article

...thank you so much.

(43) Sarah, May 16, 2012 1:04 AM

WOW

Wow, thank you for such a moving, beautiful read. brought tears to my eyes. Thank you!

(42) Anonymous, May 14, 2012 2:22 AM

How beautifully written

This is wonderful on two -no, three- levels. The substance is important and moving, the look at Norman Cousins' personal life interesting just as biography, and the writing is itself fine and moving and just so good.

(41) Anonymous, May 14, 2012 12:26 AM

magnificent article

reading this truly inspiring article was like completing a journey- touching the very core of your neshama. Chazak v"amatz!!!

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.


  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment
stub
Sign up today!