It is universally accepted that it is a father’s responsibility to educate his son. As it says in our great Books of Wisdom, the Book of Proverbs (chapter 1, verse 8): “Listen, my son, to the words of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.” It very clearly states “Listen, my son.” And then you, my beloved son, came along and changed the way of the world. In the Book of Wisdom that you penned during your abbreviated walk through life it is written: “Listen, my father, to the words of your son.”
On the day you were born, I held your mother’s hand as she screamed and writhed in pain. I cringed inside as I observed the obstetrician, Dr. Gadi Sadovsky, bent over you the same way he had bent over my friend, Surin Hershko, on our long flight back from Entebbe, hoping for the best. For a while, your cry enveloped us in the illusion of a normal birth. That illusion faded away when I read one enigmatic phrase in Dr. Sadovsky’s postpartum report: “Funny Looking Face.”
I now understand that you chose Dr. Sadovsky as the first of many messengers to present me with riddles throughout the course of your life that would slowly and systematically teach me about your transcendent and enlightened morality.
“What did you mean by this?” I asked Dr. Sadovsky. “I’m not sure,” he responded. “Something’s not right here.”
I now understand that you wanted to prepare us, to soften the blow for the barrage of blows that would shatter our preconceived notions about parenting. To ready us for the greatest of concessions, forcing us to abandon hope that you would one day become a healthy and independent person who would navigate the world on his own. Teaching us to be grateful for a little smile. A smile of pure joy, behind which there is endless kindness, the likes of which hold the key to true Tikkun Olam (healing the world).
Charlie Chaplin once said that “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” You believed that a day not spent fighting exclusion and discrimination against people like you was a day wasted. That a day not spent doing everything possible to empower the most vulnerable among us was a day wasted. You made it clear that the very existence of this precious population expresses the importance and centrality of compassion in our world.
I often look at one of the last pictures we have of you from a Yom Haatzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) celebration at the rehabilitative village we built for you. The Israeli flag flutters in the background. In the foreground, your smiling face. I thought that smile would carry you through life, even long after your mother and I would pass. I now realize that it was a farewell smile. A smile that said “I know that I was able to educate you in the ways of empathy and compassion, my father. Your ethical enlightenment is complete. It’s time to move on without me.”
Once again, I stand here looking at this picture, my son, taking in your smile and knowing how much I still don’t know.
Forever yours in endless longing and love,
Penned by Major General (Res.) Doron Almog, Founder and Chairman of ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran