Truths My Father Told Me
Today, the 30th of Shevat, is the yahrzeit of my father, Rabbi Azriel Rosenfeld Z'L. Monday would have been his 76th birthday on the secular calendar, and the following day, the same on the Jewish calendar. My dad's yahrzeit and birthdays will invariably fall close together, as his passing, three years ago today, took place right in between his English and Hebrew birthdays. At the time, amidst my grief, I couldn't help being struck by this confluence, and its significance in light of my father's lifetime devotion to both science and Torah.
I still miss my dad so much. Aaron's death has done nothing to diminish that special, separate sense of loss, any more than having a leg amputated would make a broken arm less painful. Not a week goes by that I don't come across some fact, dvar torah, image, or joke that I wish I could share with my father, knowing that he would uniquely appreciate it. Just a few days ago, when posting a neat illusion I discovered, my first thought was "gee, dad would really get a kick out of this!"
Last year at this time, I shared my memories and feelings about my father's life and about his final illness. This year, I'd like to mention a few of the lessons he taught me, by word and, especially, by example. To share even half of the facts and knowledge I learned from my dad, both Jewish and secular, would probably tax the space limits of blogger. But in brief and concentrated form - as he would have liked it - here are some of the principles, the core truths, by which he lead his life:
- Whatever you set out to accomplish, do so to the utmost degree, both in intensity and in precision. Those familiar with the length, breadth, and depth of my father’s expertise and accomplishments in numerous fields, both Jewish and secular, and anyone who has ever had the pleasure of hearing his flawless, exquisite Torah reading, know whereof I speak.
- Never waste any time, whether your own or someone else's. To my father, the greatest sin was to keep someone waiting, and the greatest torture was to be kept waiting himself without a book or sefer at hand to study.
- Show the world who you really are, warts and all. Pretense and deception are not to be tolerated. Your accomplishments should speak for themselves, and as for your flaws, who cares what anyone else thinks??
- Never take another's place - make one for yourself. My father was extremely careful about this principle, especially in shul. On the rare occasions when he was forced to be in an unfamiliar shul,he would daven standing in the back rather than run the slightest risk of taking someone else's makom kavua [fixed place for prayer].
- Puns are the highest form of humor (sarcasm is a close second). Leave no conversational stone unturned in pursuit of a good pun.
- Never stop learning. Not for a minute, not for any occasion, not for any excuse. Learning is life, and life is learning.