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Happy father = happy family

Friday, 9 February, 2024 - 4:48 am

I was invited some time ago to speak before a group of fathers in the Chabad community in Israel. It was during the month of Adar, and I was asked to speak about joy and happiness – as it says, “When Adar comes in, we increase happiness.” 

I chose to speak about “Happy father = happy family.”


The central message is twofold:

a.       A father should understand that he has the role of head of the family – the one who leads – and every act of his has meaning and consequences for the entire household, like in the food chain. And before you start imagining an Arabian sheikh, I will say that when I speak of the “head of the family,” I mean not so much the rights involved, but mainly the obligations.

b.      Speaking of happiness, the head of the family must understand that it is in his hands to make the day a happy day, or the evening a happy evening, and, in general, that the family should be happy.

I also quoted what the Rebbe said at the beginning of the month of Adar 1992 (5752), when he spoke about increasing happiness in Adar. He went into detail: “[This means] to make oneself happy, as well as to make others happy, starting from the members of his household – the husband increases his efforts to make his wife happy, and the parents increase their efforts to make their children happy, in ways that naturally make them happy.” I think the message is clear. Anyone who has ever tried it has seen that it works. When the father comes home happy, he infects everybody else with his joyful state of mind.

I remembered my wife’s uncle, Rabbi Shalom Ber Gorelick z”l, who was, by all definitions – a happy Jew; not so-so, not sort of, and not even “In principle, I’m happy”. He was simply a happy Jew.

I thought it would be interesting to hear from his children what it is like to be the children of a happy father. I called up one of his daughters and asked her about this. It didn’t take her long to come up with an answer. Here is what she said:

A.    Forever young. I had a father who was forever young, even when he was sick, and even when he was in his last days, he was young. Because a person who is happy remains forever young.

B.     Happiness with mitzvot. Nothing was too hard. Even if there are many guests and it was very busy and crowded, when your father is happy and excited, you don’t feel the difficulty. Or, for instance, complete strictness when it came to the Chabad laws of Pesach – when it is combined with joy, you don’t feel the difficulty or the pressure – just the joy.

C.     As children and as adults we always felt comfortable asking, wanting to be spoiled and sneaking in requests even in matters beyond the letter of the law, because as a happy person, he would say to himself, “Nu, how wonderful it is that they are healthy children and that they have an appetite for something yummy, or that they want something or other. Baruch Hashem that they ask, Baruch Hashem that they want.”

D.    It’s catching – it was passed on to us, the children, and from us to the grandchildren; which means that my father has especially happy grandchildren, and he has only himself to thank.

One more note from me: there are only a few things that we can do and see instant results. Usually it’s a matter of a process, but here there are immediate results. A father who comes home with an approach of expansiveness and happiness will see the immediate results in his own family.

 

So – go for it!

 

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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