I look at the name of the blog and wonder if it even comes close to the enormity of what I’m about to share. I’ll let the readers decide.
On Thanksgiving, I was invited to the home of a famous heart surgeon and his large family. They are great friends, an extended family that I enjoy dearly. The parents were a secular power couple, both rose in their professional ranks rapidly. When the husband was just a young doctor, he was proclaimed a genius, was sent the most difficult cases, operated on people who were declared inoperable’ and saved their lives. The mom was a brilliant corporate consultant. Together they accumulated wealth, a palatial mansion and indulged their passion of collecting exotic cars. They tell me that they felt arrogant and not really fulfilled. Soon, the babies started to arrive. There were three boys and the mom decided to stay home to raise them. After all, money was not an issue, the now superstar dad made enough to give the family the best of everything. They traveled, went to museums and theaters, had live-in help, frequent parties and despite it all, they also had a sense of emptiness. When the boys became of school age, the parents chose the best private school nearby. One which also pleased the man’s parents who are Orthodox Jews. It happened to be the city’s best hebrew day school. It also turned out to be a strictly Orthodox school, with the best teachers and scholars, most of whom really had a way with kids.
The school imparted a deep appreciation of the joy and peace that genuine Jewish religious observance brings.
This all happened a long time ago. The oldest son (now a young, successful psychotherapist) came home from school one day and asked his parents to go to shul and at the same time, insisted on having the kitchen kashered. Meanwhile, his slightly younger brother refused to remove his tzitzit and kippah even for bedtime. A typical kid rebellion when they find something cool’. He also asked his mom to have the dishes changed and the kitchen kashered. The boy (now a young Rabbi) was fascinated by the spiritual values of kashrut he learnt about at school. He was pre-bar mitzvah age and his spiritual path was open before him.
Today, the youngest brother is an amazing, observant neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic. They are all married now with multiple children, all glowing with a peaceful happiness. Their wives, highly educated brilliant women, raise the kids with their husband’s help. Two of them work as therapists and one as a teacher. I find them to be delicious for being so clear about who they are. For never judging anyone and remaining fun, real and massively approachable. The tiny tots and the entire family took a kosher cruise – parents, grandparents and all. Some dressed modern, the others presented with payes and tzitzit visible for everyone to see. Even the tiniest little toddlers grow long curly payes and wear their kippahs and tzitzit proudly.
It took little time for the parents to follow suit. The free-living power couple became Orthodox and began to observe kashrut inside and outside the home. Instead of focusing on how they present to the world or impressing others in their social circle, they found themselves focused on family, community and Jewish spiritual wholeness.
It happened in degrees for the grown-ups, but for several decades they’ve happily followed the strictest rules of Judaism – content and beautifully glowing. At the last night of the cruise, at dinner, the great-grandfather, a humorous and young spirited man, asked for silence. He stood up, looked around the elegantly set table and at his offspring. At 96 he stood up straight with pride and re-told the story of how the insistence of three small boys to observe the laws of the sacred books and to keep kosher, brought true and lasting happiness to four generations in their family. People were misty eyed and smiled with gratitude and an open heart.
They had a lot of reasons to give thanks.