I was 11 years old when I saw my father show his disappointment in me for the first time. My Dad and I would daven the morning prayers together every day. He was going out of town on a business trip with my mother and I assured him that I would daven every morning even though he would not be there.
The next morning, I woke up but I had this new game with which I could just not wait to play. I decided not to daven that morning but I would daven the next morning so when my father returned home and asked me if I davened while he was away, I could say “yes” and not be lying. However, that night my Uncle Yankel from Savannah, who was in Charleston unexpectedly, came to spend the night.
“Nathan, did you daven this morning?”
“Of course, I did, Uncle Yankel”, figuring lying to an Uncle and not my father would not sentence me to Gehenom.
“How do I know you davened this morning?”, my beloved Uncle persisted.
“Why, Uncle Yankel”, I said feebly, “you have my word”.
The next morning, I got up and already tired of playing with the new game, I went straight to the den to daven. I said “Modeh Ani”, got the tallis bag out of the drawer, put on my tallis, and lo and behold, a dollar fell to the floor! My father, before he left, put the dollar bill in my tallis bag to see if I would daven!
The 24 hour period between the time I discovered the dollar bill and the time my father would return from his trip was the longest 24 hours in my life. What would I say to him after lying to Uncle Yankel? How could I look him in the eye?
Many years have passed since “Nathan’s Lie”. I’d like to think that during that time, I have made my father proud of me on occasions. I once hit in a home run in a Little League baseball game that was the game winning hit. I graduated with honors from the University of Virginia. But I would like to think that my father is most proud of the fact that today I daven every morning with my tallis and tefillin.