Last week I officiated at the wedding of an old classmate from grade school. It was great to participate in his wedding, and I enjoyed being a part of their simcha. During the dinner, his mother and I were talking, and she said something that stuck in my mind. She said, "You know, no matter what you do in your profession, no matter how great your accomplishments, the bottom line is that your greatest legacy is your children."
The conversation was about her, so I didn't tell her what I was thinking, but what crossed my mind is, "And that's why I now live in Israel." Twice recently I've seen people from the States, both of whom asked me whether I miss the rabbinate. (I won't answer the question now - that's an entirely different article.) But it was very hard - gut-wrenchingly hard - to leave our shul and congregational life. It was, without a doubt, the hardest decision we ever made, because while we loved leading the membership of the shul and playing a role in our community, we knew that no matter how good Detroit or the rabbinate was for us, Israel would be better for our children.
And we were right on so many different levels. The schools are an order of magnitude higher than comparable schools in the States (at least for us). Life has much greater meaning. Children are more free, and yet given more responsibility. My children already have a sense of devotion to Am Yisrael that it would have been difficult, if not impossible to convey to them in the States.
I thought of this notion of legacy in light of a rather tragic section in Parshat Pinchas. After God instructs Moshe to climb Mount Avarim and gaze upon the Land of Israel before his death, Moshe asks God to appoint a new leader for the Jewish people. Rashi wonders: why does he wait this long? After all, he knew that he was going to die long before, so why does he only ask God to appoint a new leader at this point.
Rashi's answer always makes me a little sad:
כיון ששמע משה שאמר לו המקום תן נחלת צלפחד לבנותיו אמר הגיע שעה שאתבע צרכי שיירשו בני את גדולתי. אמר לו הקב"ה לא כך עלתה במחשבה לפני, כדאי הוא יהושע
ליטול שכר שמושו שלא מש מתוך האהל
When Moshe heard God's instructions regarding Tzlafchad's inheritance that went to his daughters he said, "The time has arrived for me to make my own request - that my sons should inherit my greatness. Said God, "That did not enter into consideration before Me. Yehoshua is worthy to receive the reward for his service, for he did not stray from within your tent."
He's eighty eight years old now, so his legacy is understandably on his mind. And even though he did famous campaigns: for all sorts of good causes: gun control, nuclear proliferation, Robert Kennedy's senatorial and presidential campaign, my father's not really satisfied with his work.
Advertising is built on puffery, and on deception, and I don't think that anyone can go proudly into the next world with a career built on deception, no matter how well they do.