Skip to main content

The most challenging commandment...

Every weekend I visit my 95 year-old mother who lives in Woodmere.  She still lives in the same house where I grew up, but now with an aide who provides her with 24/7 care.  Although her mind is clouded with dementia, she still enjoys simple pleasures- sitting on her porch with family members, looking at pictures of her great-grandchildren, painting with watercolors, and especially noshing on pastries from her favorite bakery- Walls.
 My mother could eat an entire box of Walls cookies in a single sitting if we let her!  And who could blame her- they are SO delicious.  Walls has existed since I was a child.  It is legendary on Long Island (in the whole NY metropolitan area, actually), all you need to do is check Yelp to see the passion of its customers.  I remember tremendous long lines snaking out the door before the Jewish New Year with all of the locals anxiously waiting to buy their favorite honey cakes, strudels, the famous ‘Philly Fluff’ and ultra buttery rugelach. 
Most weekends, I make a stop in Walls to pick up a treat or two for my mom.  I am comforted by the fact that the interior has remained unchanged in 30 years.  Most importantly, the delicious pastries, pies, breads and cakes have remained unchanged as well.  This is probably because the bakery is still owned by the same original family.  The original owner’s son now runs the bakery, and he has maintained the business’s high standards. 
Most impressive to me, however, is not the respect the son has for the business, or the cherished recipes, but the reverence and honor the son shows for his father.  Stanley, the original owner, does not bake any more.  He is still somewhat spry at age 90, but instead of manning the back of the bakery, he now occupies a bench in the front of the store.  From this perch, he can watch the hustle and bustle of his thriving business with pride.  He can see his beloved son Marc, chatting with some of the same customers he waited on several decades earlier.  Marc has not sent his father off to idle retirement, which he wisely conjectured would not have suited his father at all.  Instead, he involves him as best he can, even in some small way, in the business.  Asking his advice, letting him rule from his roost over the events of the day, feeling useful, relevant. 
The 10 commandments are one of the most well known parts of the Judeo-Christian Bible.  If you look closely at them, you will notice that only one commandment includes an incentive- an extra bonus from God for practicing this command.  It is the command to honor one’s mother and father, the fifth commandment.  “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord gives you.”   
I always wondered why of all the commandments this one is the one where we are rewarded for compliance.  Perhaps it is because as much as we love our parents, they can be challenging.  Aging parents can be time consuming; they try our patience and also expertly push our buttons.  Yet, we owe them our life, literally, so we must be reverential and respectful (note nothing here about love interestingly.  The Bible does not command us to love our parents- just to honor them.)
So, how do we honor our parents?  The Bible tells us  what to do but does not instruct us how.  I think my friend from the Walls bakery has the right answer.  Marc the baker honors his father Stanley by showing him he is still useful and relevant.  He seats him in a place of honor in the front of his beloved bakery, where he can receive the wishes of his happy customers and enjoy viewing the fruits of years of hard work.  I am sure there are days he is a burden to his son.  Days when Stanley takes up time that could better be spent on bakery-related tasks.  Yet, Marc keeps his father there as he stanchly adheres to the 5th commandment.  Stanley feels fulfilled, and Marc, as the text says, may your days be long.


Popular posts from this blog

Make even these days count

One of the most popular features on a local newscast of a small TV station is something rather surprising. It is a feature called- “The Day of the Week”.  Today is…….. Monday!  The station put forth this as a kind of joke at first, but it was so popular that it became a regular daily addition to the morning newscast.  Apparently, so many of us have lost track of what day it is that we need a reminder. During this stay-at-home time, every day seems to blend into the next.  It is truly difficult to remember how many days we have all been quarantined at home, what the date is and what day of the week it is.  Many of us have a few markers that help- jobs that pause for the weekend, celebrations of Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays- special days of worship.  But even with these, the days seem to bleed into each other like a striped shirt washed in hot water. The period that we are in right now in the Jewish calendar is ironically, a time of counting. A time when we purposely try to keep

Our Diversity is Our Strength

I was riding the subway with my husband.   We were headed towards Penn Station, returning home after seeing a Broadway show in Manhattan.   It was rush hour, the subway was crowded and I was lucky to get one of the last seats.   It was amazingly quiet for such a crowded car.   Most people were looking at their phones or listening to a device.   There were quite a few pairs of wireless earphones on people.   Their heads nodded slightly to the beat of noiseless music, or their eyes glazed over as a mystery book played in their ears.   There was a rich variety of humanity on that single car- multiple ages, ethnicities, races, ages and income levels.   I marveled at the diversity and the peaceful coexistence in this tiny piece of New York City. My eyes glanced over to the man sitting next to me.   He was holding a book and reading it very intently.   Reading an actual book is a relatively rare occurrence these days, but what truly caught my attention was the unusual prin
Compassion On the radio a few days ago there was a piece about refugees arriving by boat to the shores of a country that in the past had been welcoming, but this time people were yelling angrily and running into the water to block the boats from landing.   The boats were full and there were children on board. The turmoil and anger in the crowd was audible. I don’t speak their language, but the reporter said that people blocking the boats were shouting “Go back home. We don’t care about the babies.” I was repulsed. I could not stop thinking about it. “We don’t care about the babies.” What would it take for me to say that? For my friends to say that? My neighbors? Horrible thought, that people I know might be moved to yell at desperate people “We don’t care about the babies.” I started to ask myself how that could happen, what it would feel like to push away needy people and shout “I don’t care about the babies.” Please don’t stop reading when I tell you that suddenly my hea