What do you say when someone asks you for information that is readily available on the Internet?
Google it! That’s code for “Look it up. Figure it out. You can do it….”
My siblings and I reminisce that my father would encourage our independence in learning new things, by telling us to “look it up.”
In honor of the yahrtzeit or anniversary of my father’s passing two years ago, I write this blog post. This one’s for you, Daddy.
Shalom Stern, or Shalom ben Shlomo (the son of Solomon) Halevi (a descendant of the Levites) passed away after a diagnosis 14 years earlier of Parkinson’s Disease. My father passed on September 28, 2014 but the Hebrew date falls on today’s Hebrew date which is the day after Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year). Today we lit a candle that lasts for 24 hours and my brothers recited kaddish in my father’s memory.
My father was a paradigm of punctuality. Descending from German ancestors, his motto was “a place for everything…everything in its place.” This time of year which precedes the holiday of Sukkos has a theme from the book of Ecclesiastes which reads, “A time to mourn, a time to rejoice…..a time for everything.” Similarly, my father believed that there is a time for everything and he stuck to a sensible daily schedule in his life.
My father was born in Antwerp, Belgium May 27, 1926. He attended Cheder (traditional Jewish elementary school) there along with his sister. He had a relatively uneventful childhood with his parents, many cousins and friends in the little town where they lived. In the early 1940’s, the political situation changed and they left their home and moved from country to country, town to town, living over the next few years in France, Portugal, Cuba, followed by the U.S.
This is my paternal grandmother
According to stories we heard from my father and my aunt, “everything was an adventure” during these unstable times. Yes, they were afraid but it didn’t cripple them. They trusted their parents, prayed and continued on with their daily activities and schooling in each place that they lived. Time to be afraid and time to move on. My aunt recalls saying the prayer “Shema Yisrael” in her bed as the war planes were flying in earshot. My father spoke about his countless stories of escape and survival into a recording and one of my nephews created a CD for all the family which I cherish.
When my dad came to the U.S. at age 16 (1942), he attended high school in Brooklyn and learned the English language rapidly. After high school he continued in with his Jewish studies in a local yeshiva while attending Brooklyn College to earn a degree in Economics. In 1949, my father met my mother and they married that year in June. He went into business while my mother stayed home with the children and together they raised a family of six children. They were the matriarch and patriarch of many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
My father had a very disciplined and hard working nature. I was proud to have such a “perfect” father who was so smart, wise, kind, learned and accomplished. On the other hand, there was this pressure to keep up, to do things correctly. My husband spoke at a small memorial meal that we sponsored in my father’s memory last Shabbos (Saturday). One of my husband’s key comments was that he felt that our father was someone to look up to, to emulate and to aspire to be like.
He had a meticulous schedule in which he rose early, prayed, studied Talmud, ate breakfast, went to work and then came home at the same time each night. Looking back, it seems kind of idyllic in some ways. The predictability, the security and all that. At the same time as I said there was this pressure to do good work. It was sort of an unspoken expectation of “You can do it. You will do it.” Each one of us siblings has differing interests. But, we each try to do our best in whatever we do.
This is my father speaking at a family event in the final year of his life.
My father learned and studied Torah deeply and often could be found in his study poring over books either alone or with one or several grandchildren. Even in the last days when his PD had progressed to its worst symptoms of not being able to talk above a whisper, my father enjoyed listening to stories about Torah. This energized him. I believe this means my father was a very spiritual person.
Additionally, in his life, my father was active in founding a girls’ high school in our community and he gave charity to many institutions around. My father had a witty sense of humor, enjoyed being around people and socializing in the free time that he had. He liked traveling, people and words.
My Mom and Dad
Just this morning, I asked my brother a question and my brother’s return text to me was “as Daddy would say, ‘look it up!'”
I recall my father’s study with his unabridged dictionary and huge atlas along with many encyclopedias and books surrounding him, we always had to resources to “look it up.”
As we come out of the two intense days of the New Year and move forward into the 10 days bridge until Yom Kippur, I make that my new mantra. Whenever I struggle with something, I will think of my father and how he used all his abilities to look things up, to figure things out and to grow. I will remember his motto of a time for everything, a place for everything.
Whether I’m studying, reading, learning, blogging, working or socializing, I will be mindful of doing things carefully and properly to the best of my ability at the appropriate time.
My father was a tough act to follow – but definitely someone to aspire to. All in the right time.