A Letter to My Dad
It’s not easy to tell your parents they need Jesus.
Another Father’s Day is just around the corner. My dad passed away in 2008; and at age 97, my mom still misses him. Perhaps that was why she showed me a Father’s Day letter that I wrote to him on my 40th birthday in 1993. I had forgotten about it, and she couldn’t remember why she kept it all these years but was pleased I was so happy to see it.
First, I skimmed it. Then I asked if I could read it aloud. She agreed. It was not an easy read. It was clear I had tried to share spiritual truth with my father when I wrote to him; and in reading the letter aloud, I would do the same with my mother. The words brought a flood of memories.
I was grateful Mom agreed to listen. With her permission, I share this letter now with you in hopes it will impart spiritual truth one more time that God will use for His honor and glory.
Soon it will be Father’s Day, and I have thought a lot about you in recent days. It’s funny, you know—the older I get, the more intelligent you get. It seems more and more I can identify with the joys and frustrations you had while you were raising me. As I reflect on that, Dad, it has caused me to appreciate all that you did for me. I love you, Dad.
You know all about my surgery and the asthma attack I had. Boy, I’ll tell you, you turn 40 and you fall apart. Anyway, those two experiences have taught me a few things about patience, pain, and even a little about suffering. During my recent recovery, you told me about Ron Mesnick [a cousin] dying. At the same time, I found out about a 45-year-old man dying of a heart attack just before his son was to be Bar Mitzvah. I say all this because it reminds me afresh of the fact that we all live on the edge. That is no news to you, Dad. How well I remember the phone calls you received informing you of our various family deaths. The plans we make for the future are not a sure thing.
Dad, you are almost 73 years old, and you have outlived all your family. The war [World War II] could have gotten you (I remember the stories you told me), but it didn’t; cancer could have gotten you, but it didn’t. With all the miles you drove, you could have easily been a traffic fatality; but it didn’t happen. I never thought about it that way before, have you? By G-d’s grace, you are not only alive but in pretty good shape; and I’m glad.
Dad, I also have thought about all the things I’ve learned from you, especially about parenting and being a husband. You were an excellent model for me. As I read the book of Proverbs, I often think of you. Yes, I know you’re not interested in what the Bible says, even the “Jewish” one; but I want to tell you that when something is true, it is always true; and when something is right, it is always right.
You know, I do the same things with my kids you did with me. I take the boys out and play catch with them and give them the same advice you gave to me. I battle with my teenage daughter the same way you had it out with Michele. It is amazing the things that stick. Ours, Dad, was a good relationship.
Eighteen years ago, that relationship was strained to the limit. I did not decide to believe in Jesus as Messiah to hurt you—but I know it did, terribly. I did not believe to make you angry—but it did, very angry. Nor did I do it to betray my people, though you think I did. I did it, Dad, because you taught me that when I believe something is right, I should do it. That’s the way you have lived, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. You see, Dad, you did right by me. You gave me a strong religious training that taught me all the essentials of the faith: Jewish history, a little Hebrew, knowledge of the holidays, a sense of what sin is, and a belief in the Messiah. I am very thankful for that. You also taught me the value of family, of providing for my children and loving my wife (Alice is thankful for that). Believe it or not, Dad, I could not understand my heavenly Father if it were not for you modeling what an earthly father is. Many men have not had that chance.
You always said if I wanted to talk to you, I could; and I could talk about anything. You said I could always come to you. My greatest sadness is that on the most important issue in this world, you won’t listen. Don’t get me wrong. I understand. But Dad, you were the one who helped give me life, and I have the news that provides eternal life; and you won’t even listen. So be it. You have to do what you think is right.
I wrote this letter because I have become aware of how short life is. I wanted to tell you how I feel. If you are offended, I am sorry. But I will tell you this Dad: If there were a fire and you were in the shower, I would offend and embarrass you and come in to get you out.
The Shema says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Dad, that is Jewish. I just want you to do it and understand just how important you are to Him.
I will not speak about this anymore. It is between you and me. You’re my Dad. I love you. I want the best for you.
Thanks for being there for me through the years. If I can, I would like to return the favor.
I’ll close with a prayer for you, Dad. It is found in the Torah, Numbers 6:24–26: “May the LORD bless thee and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace” [KJV].
Sadly, this letter elicited little response from my dad other than a thank you and some small talk. My mom merely said, “What is beshert is beshert,” Yiddish for “What is meant to be is meant to be.”
The Fifth Commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex. 20:12). For some, that may not be possible. Perhaps you have never met your father or mother. Perhaps they are deceased. Whatever the case, you can take comfort in Psalm 27:10: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take care of me.”
He will never fail. His love endures forever, and great is His faithfulness. Happy Father’s Day!