I dedicate this post on my blog to my uncle, Chaim Perl of blessed memory, who suddenly passed away on Leil Shabbos, August 15, 2014.
Ready or not, Elul is here. Elul is the time to finally stop kicking the can down the road. This past year on Rosh Hashanah, many of us were inspired to engage in self-improvement in one way or another. For some of us it was in the area of our relationship with G-d; this would be the year that our engagement with prayer and Torah study would significantly improve. For others, it was the focus on improving relationships. The myriad of relationships we have in life are often complex and troubled. It takes a significant investment of commitment, time and energy to ensure that the relationships we have with our spouse, parents, and children are healthy and meaningful.
Despite all the good intentions we may have had at the onset of the year, we find ourselves bogged down with daily routines. Life is busy and we get distracted easily. Often times the distractions need to be dealt with immediately. Keeping our priorities straight and not lose perspective is challenging. We get confronted with situations that can be so stressful that it knocks us off our mark and we forget about our priorities and the perspectives that we had on Rosh Hashanah.
I am writing this shortly after leaving the shiva that observed the passing of a man I thought I knew. This man was my uncle who suddenly passed away and left behind his grieving wife and six children. His children spoke with pain in their voices but with a deep sense of pride about the man that was their dad. As I left the shiva home I reflected about my uncles rock solid priorities and perspectives.
He had many priorities, but he always put his family first. At 5:30 am, he went to pick up my elderly grandfather to drive him to synagogue so he could attend a pre dawn Talmud class. Afterwards, he drove to attend the Talmud study program that he participated in. Despite the many hours he spent in business, he was always there to go over homework with his kids every evening. In an age where there is not nearly enough times that children hear and feel they were loved, there was no doubt that his family felt the intense love. His wife reflected that in 30 years of marriage, he was home for every Shabbos with the exception of four.
When it came time to select a shul to daven in, he had one criteria -- he must have room for all of his sons to sit next to him. In an age where many people select the shul based upon the best kiddush club or who they can socialize with, this is all the more unusual.
Even when it came to legitimate grievances that many people have within the Orthodox Jewish community, he maintained the proper perspective.
The issue of rising tuition cost for yeshiva day schools has frustrated many and caused much anger in our communities. My uncle simply told me that the fact that he pays tuition for six children in the yeshiva day school system is the best investment. He and his wife were investing in the long term spiritual growth of their kids.
Rest in peace, dear uncle. Your days in this world were few and finite. Your days in the world of truth , undoubtedly, will be eternal and infinite.