What was it that my dear friend Daniel said to me years ago, that the definition of a dysfunctional family is any family which has at least two people in it!? Such a complex subject. Of course the mother of all family stories is the Bible itself; Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, Noah and his sons, Abraham & Lot, Isaac & Ishmael, Jacob & Rachel, Dina & her brothers, Joseph & his brothers, Moses and Aaron, and of course the travels of the Children of Israel for 40 years in the desert before entering the Land of Israel. And that's just the tip of the iceberg from only the first five books of the Torah!
So why am I writing about family today? My parents, may they live to 120, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary yesterday. An attempt was made initially to somehow organize an appropiate celebration in honor of this once in a lifetime milestone. The thing is that we are 15 siblings, scattered throughout the United States and Israel. My parents live in Iowa. And so instead of having a party somehere on this globe, my brother Yaakov organized the next best thing, which was a surprise family conference call to our parents.
We actually have a family email group which helps us all stay in touch with each other, in addition to the weekly call to our parents. But to have all 17 of us simultaneously on the phone line was really something quite powerful. The phone call itself went on for over three hours. Each one of us shared our childhood memories and blessings to our parents, and theirs to us. I mean just think of it. Fifteen children. It's really something, and the moment spent together was very special.
So what's so complex, you ask. I am 22 years older than my youngest sibling. My oldest daughter is close to his age. The reality is that while we are one family, I am in fact a lot closer to some of my siblings than to others. Cosidering that I also left home to study out of town at the young age of 14, you can understand to some extent the impact of that.
The thing is though, that when we speak to each other through the family, as we did last night, the family as a whole filters out those differences. That was the beauty of the phone call, almost like a group therapy session. Maybe that's what it was! The true beauty of family is this ability to retain your unique identity and yet communicate and relate with someone else who may be very different from you. Maybe you are even angry or have issues with one or more in the group, but as a family together sharing the love and common bond which we have, the differences can be spoken about with an air of respect.
My family, quite a large one, can be a microcosm of the global family at large. When we truly internalize that with all our differences, we are all at the end of the day part of the one family of G-d, only then will we too be able to relate to each other not with warfare, but in peace.
Mazal tov Mommy and Daddy.
Jewish Book Review » You Come for One Reason But Stay for Another: Making the Odyssey to Israel could be subtitled “It takes an Optimist”