Monday, August 8, 2011

THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT

*Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.*


Ari in no uncertain terms brought the observation of this commandment in glorious focus after he and his nuclear family (with the exception of his other brother who has not arrived yet) met with one of the high ranking rabbis on the Xelz Synagogue campus.  I waited for the appointment with Noya in a separate chamber for women but I was not allowed to join them as I am not family.  It was a long, air-conditioned-cold night of watching the women wait patiently, some with children in tow, for their turn to visit with a rabbi while their husbands were doing the same in another chamber. After the much vaunted meeting, we reconvened on the parking lot close to the building from whence we came and the family was overwhelmed with unspeakable praise, reverence and gratitude, and with the enormity of the blessing of being in the presence of such a holy man of God.  It was a momentous occasion.  And Ari stood in a praying stance, with tender emotions on his countenance, thanking God and then thanking his parents for making it possible for him to live this moment.  I stood to the side, quietly moved, until they beckoned me closer, experiencing further the generosity of this most holy night.


On many instances, I noted the limitless thoughtfulness of Moshe and Noya as only parents could be towards their children.  They were open-handed with both their material and non-material gifts, of love, and of every good thing that parents all over the world are wont to do for their children.  In return, parents everywhere are thirsty for the love of their children in whatever capacity they could express it.  The spirit of the law was never about duty, but it was all about love between parents and children.

In honor of my parents, Amor and Anita, I am publishing this my first book under the name they have given me at birth which is composed of my first and second name (the second name being the primary name in the Philippines), my maiden name which is my mother's and my last name which is my father's.  I also included my title in honor of them and as well as of my sister and of my two brothers.  My entire family deserves as much credit for all of my accomplishments as I do because in the Philippines, every member of the family actively contributes to the success of any endeavor any member aspires to.  In the Third World, there are no second chances.  There is no room for failure in that one, holy opportunity.  Therefore it literally takes a family to effect an achievement.  We prayed together, we worked together, we encouraged each other, we helped each other robustly, we rejoiced and we wept together, we gritted our teeth together, we laughed together, and we never gave up.  My parents' Faith in a Providential God was as immovable as the proverbial Rock of Gibraltar. No test weakened that Faith.  And so the ministry inherent in each of our chosen professions and way of life is also all of ours.  Whenever I save a life, I owe it to them, to everything we represent and, to our God.  Today, as we live our own independent lives, we still are present to each other, forever upholding our roots of family and community, forever respectful of where we came from and how we came about, with God forever looming supreme in every decision we make.  It is my pride and honor to belong to a family such as this.


A happy home is the beginning of peace in the world.  This I know for certain.

I WAS LOOKING FOR A BALABUSTA

Courtship, Chareidi-style, is serious business that involves a matchmaker and sleuthing.  "You had her investigated?" I asked Shmuel, laughing at the seeming outrageousness of it.  "Yes," he replied solemnly, "I was looking for a balabusta."  Balabusta is a Yiddish term that embodies what Proverbs exalted as "The Ideal Wife".  Translated into real-terms it means the mistress of the household who is also a good homemaker, a nurturer, a nurse, a counselor, an educator, a CEO-CFO-CAO all rolled into one.  Orit is all that but there is more to her than can be boxed into these neat categories which makes her an authentic balabusta.  Orit is 11 years my junior but so much wiser in the ways of the human heart.  She revels in her husband's strengths and all that he is.  Shmuel is the quintessential alpha male in his looks, in the way he moves, in the way he is as a husband and a father, and in the way he addresses one with Old World grace.  Both are very accomplished in their own rights, successful in their careers in the service of their country and of their community.  I also noticed how well they manage to be expansive towards others in spite of a huge and busy household while forging rich friendships like the one they have with Ari and others. It is as if their lives could still contain so much more and they make it look easy and light. And I know for sure that Orit is a happily married woman because her beauty glows with an incandescense that can only come from a sense of security from a husband who loves her. It does not mean that they escape life's perturbations, it just means that there is a solidity made of hard work and commitment that undergirds it all, immovable no matter what.


Ari strongly affirmed that indeed courtship is not to be taken lightly since this leads to a bond of a lifetime.  He found Menuha through a matchmaker and took time to quickly learn of their similarities.  I did not take long to be impressed by her, at first listening to Ari narrate his discovery of her and her ways. Ari sees his world in details and it was quite apparent that he was smitten from the outset by the manner in which he related to us the loving minutiae that captivated his attention.  At this point, we have not met her in person yet, but we already know that she is well-credentialed, unassuming, disciplined and well-organized, and makes a lovely picnic for two with tablecloth and meticulously prepared mezes.   Most importantly, she was a seeker too, and is now as religious as he is.


I remember how my father observed my mother for a year before he made any moves at courting her.  His one important and convincing discovery was that God loomed large and center in her life as in his.  He as did she had one critical requirement of their would-be spouse and that was "fear of God."  Theirs was a loving and a successful marriage despite their many, many differences.  It occurred to me that undeniably, this is the long lost key to success in marriage in the secular world - the lack of discernment and patience to learn about each other and bringing their respective findings across the bar of reason.