Continuing to focus on my more favorite or IMHO more important It’s Wednesday columns as the retirement looms. The year 2012 – 2013 was full of events, good and bad. There was the welcoming of Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann to our sister shul Anshe Emet on Kol Nidre – that generated a ton of responses. There was the death of Gail’s Mom, and our son Marc’s engagement, the Newton massacre and the eulogy of Noah Pozner’s Mom, Eric Schmidt (Google exec) telling us to turn our phones off an hour/day, the latest research on aging liberals and sex, and much more that would be worthy of reruns. Here is my “winner:”
Last week I teed up the Latke Hamantash Debate – another roaring success with even a jet flyover – with discussion of our new school focus on Jewish values as they apply to our kids’ everyday lives. To remind us that we are all teachers, not just those who lead in the classroom (live and virtual), let me share with you a favorite story. I offer it up as my Chanukah gift to you.
An 11-year-old boy and his father went fishing the day before bass season started. At first the boy caught sunfish and perch, which were fine to keep. When his pole bent and doubled over, he knew something huge was on the other end. His father watched with admiration as the boy skillfully worked the fish in and finally lifted it, exhausted, from the lake. It was the largest fish he had ever seen, a bass. In the moonlight, the boy and his father looked at the handsome fish. Then the father lit a match and looked at his watch. It was 10 PM – two hours before the bass season officially opened. He looked at the fish, then at the boy. “You’ll have to put it back, son, “he said.
“Dad,” the boy cried.
“There will be other fish,” said his father.
“Not as big as this one,” the boy protested.
The boy looked around the lake. He looked again at his father. Even though no one had seen them, nor could anyone ever know what time he caught the fish, the boy could tell by his father’s voice that the decision was not negotiable. He slowly worked the hook out of the lip of the huge bass and lowered it into the water. The fish swished its powerful tail and disappeared. The boy suspected that he would never again see such a great fish.
Today the boy has become a successful architect in New York City. He finds time to take his children fishing on that same lake in New Hampshire where he fished with his father. He has never again caught such a magnificent fish. But he does see that same fish – again and again – every time he comes up against a question of ethics. For, as his father taught him, ethics are simple matters of right and wrong. It is only the practice of ethics that is difficult. Do we do right when no one is looking? Do we refuse to take advantage of someone because we have information he does not? We would – if we were taught to put the fish back when we were young. We would have learned the truth. The decision to do right lives fresh in our memory. It’s a story we would probably tell our friends, our children and our grandchildren. Not about how we had the chance to beat the system and took it, but about how we did the right thing and were forever strengthened.
Think about what kind of teacher of ethics and values you are to those you love, and have a good Wednesday. There won’t be a date like it, 12/12/12, for a very long time. And, lest we forget, Chanukah Sameach. Bill Rudolph
Back to the present. Have a great Wednesday. Tomorrow is Lag B’Omer, you can get married. And mazal tov to our Hazzan and Rabbi Auster on the birth of their son. Bill
P.S. In 90 minutes, all five Parsha Study classes, covering the years 2000-2015, will gather for a siyyum to celebrate the weekly learning and community that was their gift to me and to themselves. If you want to join the next cohort with Rabbi Harris, starting in the fall, contact Ricardo at firstname.lastname@example.org.