How far would we go for a parent?
A recent headline in The Jerusalem Post read: “With Flights Cancelled, Man Sails the Atlantic to See 90-year Old Father.” It told the remarkable tale of Juan Manuel Ballestro, who resides in Spain.
Upon learning that flights to Argentina, where his parents live, had been cancelled due to lockdown measures instituted in order to curb the spread of coronavirus, he made a major decision. He grabbed the 200 euros he had saved, loaded his sailboat with food, and embarked on a three-month odyssey crossing the Atlantic.
Although he did not make it to Argentina in time to celebrate his father’s 90th birthday with him, his objective was to accomplish more than that. He wanted to be together with his parents during this challenging time. There were fearsome storms along the way and he almost lost his life when his fiberglass boat was knocked over by towering waves. Despite the fearful obstacles, he made it safely to Argentina. Upon his arrival he said. “Now I am calm.” He came home.
At this point in history, as we are travelling in unchartered waters, where would we like to be? Many yearn for the days before the pandemic struck. Many had hoped that soon things would be back to ‘normal.’ Especially at this time of year, is that our objective? What is the home that we seek to return to?
We have just entered the month of Av. It is the most solemn month of the year as we mark it by mourning for the Beit Hamikdash. Even if we have been distant until this point, by returning to Hashem, recognizing that he is our Father, we will be met with open arms, as Hashem yearns calling to His children, “Will you not from this time call to Me, ‘My Father!'”1
Father is a role that Hashem continually demonstrates towards us. The beginning of Parshat Masei, which we read this past Shabbos, records the places where B’nei Yisrael were stationed during the forty years in the desert.
The Midrash compares this to a king whose son became seriously ill. The king took the prince on a distant journey to find a remedy. After they found a cure and were returning home, the king recalled all the stops that they had on the initial stage of their travels. “This is where we had rested. Here we were cold. At this location your head hurt.”2 Similarly, as B’nei Yisrael completed its journey, all of the stops along the way were accounted. Why? Because Hashem treats us as His beloved children.
At the completion of Shemoneh Esrei, we ask Hashem to rebuild the Beit Hamikdash, His House of Holiness, in order that we would be privileged to serve Him there, as in days of old.
Indeed, the final words of Megillat Eichah, Lamentations, which are read on Tisha B’Av, are, “Chadesh Yameinu Kakedem, renew our days as of old.” What is our aim? We strive to be back in the Home of our Father. When we call out to Him with that plea, His response is manifest in the reference to this month as Menachem Av. When we turn to Hashem as our Father, He responds, as a loving father, with comfort and consolation.
Does Hashem see us braving the seas of doubt and confusion, and charting a course Home?
1 Yirmiyahu 3:4, Haftoras Masei
2 Bamidbar Rabah 23:3; Masei 33:1
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.