Posts Tagged ‘Role modeling’

Shortly before Pesach this year, I sat listening to a hesped (eulogy) for an elderly woman who I had greatly respected. The speech, delivered by Rabbi Ivan Lerner, spoke of a lifetime well spent. I was deeply moved by the beauty of her spiritual legacy. I would like to share with you what I heard.

Mrs. Rivka Ehrenfeld had fled her native Germany in the years before the Holocaust and gone to Palestine. Her life was a series of ups and downs, yet Mrs. Ehrenfeld always looked for the good in every experience. Her spiritual legacy is exactly the one I believe every Jewish parent would want to leave behind.
I reprint below, by permission of Rabbi Lerner and Mrs. Ehrenfeld’s family, most of this beautiful hesped.
“The Gemorrah Shabbos Kuf Bais Zayin states that there are 6 things that bear interest in this world….hospitality to strangers, visiting the sick, devotion to tefillah, commitment to study, commitment to educating our children in Torah, and judging others charitably. These were the things that Rivka did every day of her life. They came naturally to her.
… I am going to address myself to Rivka: Rivka, I knew you well and I hope you don’t mind but I believe this is what you would have said at your own hesped:
To my children, I say, don’t save too much. My pockets are empty but my heart is full… I come from a long line of savers.(.but)… I know a lot of people who save too much. They buy books that have never been read, appliances that have never been used, and wine that was being saved for a special occasion and never opened. They have sofas that were always covered with cellophane and never really enjoyed. So to you my children and my grandchildren, I say, “Don’t save too much! Don’t save dreams hoping that that they may come true Work on your dreams now! And don’t save compliments that you have for other people. If you have a compliment to give, give it now! Now is the right time….
… I’ve always.. (wanted to).. believe that when I was asked to come to the Heavenly Court, it would go something like this:
G-d would say, “Open your pocketbook, Rivka. What have you got left in there? And I would attempt to empty my pocketbook and it would be already empty.” And G-d would say, “Are there any dreams left in there that are unfulfilled?” And I would say, “No”. “Is there any unused talent that I gave you that you were born with that you didn’t use?” And I would say. “No.” “Are there any unsaid words that you wish that you had said to people when you were on earth that are still in your pocketbook?” And I would say, “No, my pocketbook is empty. I spent everything that you, G-d, gave to me. I spent it all. You gave it to me and I gave it to others.
Through the years, I have seen and experienced a world in transition. Miracles and tragedies happened every day. My generation has witnessed medical advances and technological breakthroughs that are truly amazing. When I grew up, who would have ever dreamed of television, cell phones, microwaves, computers. And who would have ever thought that though we tell people to be zocheh to live to 120, someone could actually live to be 120! Through the wars, and through..(other).. suffering, I learned many, many things in this world, but most of all I learned that you have to always be b’Simcha (happy). I understand the bracha Baruch Dayan HaEmes,(G-d is the true judge) that G-d, not human beings, understands what life is all about. As I grew older, I became more convinced that the trials and tribulations of my youth and throughout my life gave me a better appreciation of the meaning of life.

I was very lucky. I appreciated simchas (happy times) and I hope you do too …..To my adult children and grandchildren and G’d willing, to my great grandchildren, I bequeath all of these things that I have. These things that ..(my husband).. and I held dear I give them all to you: the value of a good name, unconditional love, understanding of what it means to be a mensch (a good person), compassion, tenderness and care for others.

The Yerusha (inheritance) that I pass on to you will not go down with the stock market. The Yerusha that I pass on to you can be passed to your children and your grandchildren with ‘interest’. It is the Yerusha of unconditional love. Never lose your sensitivity or your cheerfulness. Always remain inquisitive. Never stop being amazed for what you receive in this world and know that wherever I am, I am always with you. As I have always loved you, I love you now.”
Mrs. Rivka Ehrenfeld had her priorities straight.  A life well lived is a gift given by a Jewish parent to her descendants. I know I could not wish for anything more for my own children and grandchildren. May her soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.  May we all be inspired by her example.

©2009 Debbie Katz , JPARENT, LLC All rights reserved.
Want to ask a question? Click on the Ask Debbie page at the top of the blog to submit your questions


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Jewish parenting is fundamentally about role modeling. No other form of instruction compares in its depth or lasting quality. Hashem has fashioned our brains to learn by imitation, starting from the first day of life.
Our children know what is important to us. The way we consistently go about our daily lives tells them the real story.   Here are some examples:
•    No explanation is needed when your young child observes you arrive in Shul early and daven(pray) with deep kavannah (concentration).    He is an eye witness to your personal relationship with Hashem.
•     Your integrity makes an impression on your school aged child when you return to the store if a cashier gives you too much change.
•    Your toddler grasps Kibud Av v’Aim when you interact lovingly with your parents, his grandparents.
•    Your teen learns persistence and courage when he sees you try again after a major disappointment.
•    Your daughter learns about tznius and self respect when she observes her mother dressed with dignity.
•    When you show compassion and esteem to every meshulach and every guest, your child understands the way to show respect for all people.
•    Your daughter learns gevurah, self discipline and inner strength when you retain your composure despite ongoing stress and exhaustion in your life.
•    When you avoid inappropriate conversations about others, your teen learns how to apply the laws of shmiras halashon (guarding one’s tongue).
•    Your son learns how to value his body when you demonstrate careful eating, exercise and rest habits.
•    Your child understands financial restraint when you usually decide against luxury purchases.
•    Your children knows how important your family is to you when you turn off the cell phone and the blackberry when you are together.

Now think about tzedakah, intellectual curiosity, responsible use of the media, loyalty, punctuality, organization, humility, community service?  What about being sameach b’chelko (happy with his life)?

Too overwhelming to think about?  Not at all.  We humans are all in the same boat. We are works in progress all our lives.  Kids just give us Jewish parents a good reason to do what we are here to do anyway—to keep working at getting better.  And, there is some really good news.  As we choose to improve ourselves, our children will learn a beautiful and important lesson.   They will learn that change and growth will be possible for them throughout their lives as well.    And you will have given them the most important modeling lesson of all.  It’s always the right time to grow.

©2009  Debbie Katz , JPARENT, LLC All rights reserved.
Want to ask a question?  Click on the Ask Debbie page at the top of the blog to submit your questions!

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