I can hear it in his voice -- a wisdom, a deepness that seeps into his words, alerting me to the fact that something special is occurring halfway across the world. The words are no different from any other Friday afternoon -- the voicemail wishing me a ‘good shabbos’, telling me he loves me… and yet, today, this message is infused with spirituality, sent not from the car on his way home from work but rather in a city that bustles with preparation to welcome to Sabbath queen, from Israel -- the land of freedom.
And nothing gives me more joy than listening to his message.
My dad, the one who would go hiking while we went to shul on Saturday mornings, the one who hungered for bacon and eggs when we went out for breakfast, the one who was raised in an orthodox Jewish home and then moved across the country to build a life that bore no resemblance to the one he had come from. My dad seems to have grown into his skin. He fills the shoes of those who walked before him and he has discovered the beauty buried within the traditions and rituals that he practices on a daily basis.
I’m often asked what it’s like -- being raised as a rather non-religious conservative Jew -- to now have orthodox parents who keep strictly kosher and don’t drive on shabbos or turn on the lights, who study with a rabbi every week and are more involved with the synagogue community than any other. And sure, there are things that take some getting used to -- and the day that my mom starts wearing a wig or my father grows long peyos, the long curls by the side of his face, I’m sure I’ll have a moment of panic. But mostly, it brings me joy.
It brings me joy to watch my father rush off to shul rather than off to the hospital to do rounds.
It brings me joy to watch my father rush off to shul rather than off to the hospital to do rounds. It brings me joy to listen to the passage that he studied with the rabbi and his thoughts on it. It brings me joy to hear the humility mixed with spirituality in his voice when he tells me “the world is well managed” -- this from a man who used to announce his disbelief in God with pride.
And, not surprisingly, he is returning to his roots -- resembling his observant father more and more by the day… but not the father from childhood he remembers: demanding, punishing, disapproving, but rather the grandfather I knew, the father he met in older years. The grandfather that donned tefillin every morning and prayed as he welcomed in the day. The grandfather that held my hand and pointed out the different plants and trees on our walk through the park. The grandfather that survived unimaginable horror and still believed, who loved with a whole heart and when he spoke in his soft voice, we all leaned in to listen.
Today, when my father speaks, I lean in; anxious to learn from him, to share in his journey, to let him know I see this man he has become, and even if he didn’t hear it enough growing up, perhaps he can hear it from me:
I have never been prouder of the man, soul, father, friend that you are. Good shabbos Dad.