Toward a Meaningful
Life with Simon Jacobson
Radio Show Transcript - June 18, 2000
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: Hello. Welcome to
Toward a Meaningful Life with yours truly, Simon Jacobson.
Were here every Sunday from 6-7pm. Today is Fathers
Day, and I dont even know if its condoned in Judaism,
but some would say every day is Fathers Day, every day
is Mothers Day, every day is sons day, every day
is daughters day, every day is secretarys day
We have to be kind and mentschlich all year round.
However, since it is considered to be Fathers
Day, we are dedicating this show to fathers, to men, in general.
The title is Why Do Men Get Such a Bad Rap? And
do they deserve it?
Someone sent me an email that said, Men
get a bad rap because they deserve a bad rap. So well
discuss that. Theres an interesting convergence of events
in my own personal life which is that today happens to by my
fathers birthday as well. And in addition, for those of
you out there who are interested in my life, my youngest brother,
Yosef Yitzchok, became a father Friday night at 9pm; his wife
gave birth to a son, their first child. So hes a father
for the first time.
So we have a lot of fathers around and I myself
am a father as well, and a son.
So I was asked my brother earlier today, What
was your first immediate reaction to becoming a father? What
was the initial emotion?
And he answered, Gratitude. Its
an interesting reaction. Gratitude to G-d I assume, and for
the awesome ability to bring a new life into this world. I thought
that would be a good way to segue into this show because my
follow-up question to him was, So are you prepared to
be a father?
And of course the answer to thatI didnt
even have to wait for an answeris that no one is prepared
to be a father because there are no training courses to become
fathers. There are Lamaze courses in how to give birth and the
technical ways to support your wife when shes in labor
and giving birth, but to be a father, none of us are prepared,
because until you dont do it, you just arent one.
Its one of those things that you only achieve
by experience, and even experience doesnt help you, because
once youve experienced being a father, in a way, its
too late for your kid. I think thats an important message
and an important way to begin so I would like to open up the
phones to fathers and sons out there. I would really like to
hear from anyone who has an interesting experience as a son
or as a father. Do fathers get a bad rap? Do men get a bad rap?
Theres no one in this world who is not influenced
and affected by his or her father and mother. Even though the
following story is a mother story, I guess its equally
appropriate to a father.
Three mothers are on a beach. Theyre already
retired, in their mid to late 80s, and theyre sharing
about the wonderful sons that each of them has.
One of them says, My son, on my 80th
birthday, came down to Miami with his entire family. They spent
a week. They really catered to me; they wined and dined me;
it was really beautiful.
The second one looks at her and says, Ach,
my son took us all for a safari for a month in Africa at his
expense and we had the time of our lives.
And the third one looked at both of them with
compassion and said, You dont know what a son is
until youve met my son. My son goes to therapy four times
a week. Hes a high-powered attorney in New York so he
pays top dollar for this therapy, and all he talks about is
one thing. Me. Thats a son.
The interesting thing, being a son and a father
myself, is that it seems easier to be a son than a father, because
you dont have to do anything as a son, franklyeven
though we have the mitzvah, the commandment, to honor our parents,
which is of course one of the hardest ones to do, but in a way
our parents unconditionally love us.
The interesting thing is, our children also unconditionally
love us. But being a parent youre already an adult, and
therefore youre accountable and youre responsible.
So when we talk about a father and a son, its
a deep type of relationship. I was reading some articles about
some peoples experience with their fathers. Obviously
some of us have had very terrible experiences, and therefore,
Fathers Day is not necessarily a day for those people
to celebrate because they had miserable or abusive fathers,
and I definitely want to acknowledge that. Its not all
hunky-dory and party time.
But yet, our fathers have had an important impact
on each of us, like a foundation. Especially in the hectic times
that we live in, you find that many more women are career women,
so fathers are, so to speak, reclaiming their position at home,
their parenting. Is it true that women are more nurturing and
more appropriate parents and the fathers are more detached,
like we usually hear?
On a personal note, I love my father, theres
no question about it. My fathers a journalist so my most
prominent memory of him is the newspapers all over our home,
with him sitting late at night at a typewriter. The things your
father does are so magnified in your own life because as a child,
your father is almost G-dlike.
In psychology some people even see the father
as the Divine archetype. Thats why we say, Our Father
in heaven as a metaphor to the concept of a father. Well
discuss a little later what exactly is the quintessential or
perfect father. But my own memories of my father are magnified
memories of an individual, of a looming presence in many waysinaccessible
because his own life is in his own orbit. A mother is usually
more nurturing and more available on a day to day basis, at
least in my situation it was such.
But as it is with all foundations, foundations
in life are usually invisible. Theyre under the ground.
And lately, and this is very encouraging, when we hear people
talking about their lives, were recognizing more and more
how parents have an impact on our lives, and our course,
the father element as well as the mother element have a very
deep impact on who we are and whom we are expected to be.
When you read the story about Mozart, Ill
never forget how his fathers image was always haunting
him, that hed never do enough, never live up to his fathers
So we all have elements of that and it really
defines for us our own masculinity and being who we are.
Another thing I often ask people is, Are
men truly more insensitive than women?
Thats another stereotype but the question
is, is it really a stereotype? Are men truly more insensitive
than women? Women are given that role of sensitivity, motherly,
nurturing, warmer. Men are more the aggressors, warriors, the
hunters. And more importantly, are the roles that weve
traditionally identified as male or female actually inherent
or are they genetic or socially oriented and really acquired?
Thats another good question. In other words, who are we
on our own and who are we as opposed to what society and our
communities have imposed upon us.
And finally, one person wrote to me a good line,
Are there any virtues in being male? With all this
talk about men being insensitive and the rap theyre getting,
are there any virtues in being male?
Id like to believe there are, simply for
narcissistic reasons, however, its definitely a question
that I also want to address.
I have a friend who lost his father when he was
a teenager, sadly, and I speak to him a lot about it. Sometimes
you need the eclipse of the sun to really appreciate sunlight.
This loss had a major impact on his life. I could even say that
a certain insecurity settles in, because in losing his father,
he lost that undaunting pillar in his life, the person whom
you know you can always turn to and just know that hes
So if a person loses his father, often thats
when you begin to appreciate this pillar.
Now many sometimes cover up with bravado, but
theres no question that theres an impact. And of
course the worse scenario is a living dead father, meaning,
someone who is not deceased on a biological level, but on a
psychological and emotional level hes worse than deceased
because hes there and hes not there. And thats
basically an absentee father or someone whos been abusive,
whose son cant even reach to him and is longing to reach
because its such an important thing in our lives to have
someone who you can talk to in that way.
Even as I speak, Im thinking about my own
fathering of my children. Someone wrote me an email this week
knowing that I was going to be talking about this show, and
cited something from pop culture, a pop song from
Harry Chapin, The Cat and the Cradle and the Silver Spoon.
And he explained the lyrics of the song, that the child waits
every day for his father to come home to play ball with him,
spend time with him but his father never has time. But he says,
Well soon get together again, son.
And then when the son gets older, the son is always
aspiring to be just like his father. At the end of the story
he becomes exactly like his father, so when his father calls
on him, as an older gentleman, hes unavailable as well.
And the person who wrote me this email asked,
unfortunately, is there a father today who is not that way?
Is there someone out there who has really utilized the time
and given his child quality time, and realized that fathering
children, being a father, is a full-time job and as important
if not more important than a career, because it shapes the future
forever and ever. It may be the most significant thing a father
can doand I say this to my brother, because hes
beginning to be a father. Dont learn from me and from
our father. Be a better father!
In retrospect, when we think about it nostalgically,
everyone would agree that theoretically we should spend much
more time with our children. But in reality, you dont
really find fathers doing so, and the question is, can that
I just realized something. Maybe the reason Im
not getting some calls is probably that all the great fathers
and sons are spending time with each other instead of listening
to this show. You know, they say that the only one theres
no hope for is an orator and a writer. Everyone has hope. But
when it comes to a writer or a speaker, and I guess that radio
show host goes into the same category, theres no hope.
No hope for teshuvah, no hope for regret. You know why? Because
every time they hear something inspiring, they think to themselves,
Ah, great material for my next speech, my next show, my
next book. Instead of applying it to yourself personally.
Now, Adam and Eve had no father and no mother.
Yet on a somewhat humorous note, I once asked the question at
one of my classes, do you think that Adam had a navel, a belly
button? We know that a navel comes from, of course, the umbilical
cord thats attached from the mother to the fetus, feeding
it through its embryonic stage and pregnancy.
So since Adam was never in any normal pregnancyhe
was created by G-ddid he have a navel?
The interesting thing is, the Kabbalah, Jewish
mysticism, says that theres a concept called tabur
of Adam Kadmon. For the listeners who may not know
what that means, it means the navel of the primordial man. On
a Kabbalistic, mystical level, its a metaphor, a dimension
called the navel, which would imply that Adam also had
So the interesting thing is, whom was he attached
to? He did not have biological parents. Yet, when you think
about it, he did have a source. He too was created. And perhaps
thats where we begin to identify with G-d as father or
mother, because you do find both references to G-dsometimes
father sometimes mothereven though it is predominantly
father. (You do find G-d as shepherd, you find G-d as provider;
there are many different metaphors or ways G-d is described.)
But clearly we see that Adam, too, needed to have
a sense that he came from something before him, and perhaps
thats the essence of what a parent is about, that were
not just self-made creatures.
Even realizing the contribution of our parents,
most of us think were self-made. Its not that our
parents created usIve talked about this on the show
many timesits G-d that gives us life. Yet there
is an element of knowing that life came to you and didnt
just fall out of heaven but that there are parents who provide,
who are given the gift of being able to nurture and cultivate
and educate us. Its really a message and a lesson of perpetuity.
Its a feeling of being connected to the past, and as someone
once put it (I dont know what the source is) a good parent
provides deep roots and broad wide wings.
Ill take it a step further, that trees which
have deep roots grow taller and bear greater fruit. So the interesting
paradox is that it is through our roots, through our connection
to the past, that gives us the ability to forge ahead into the
Of course, any time a child is dependent upon
a parent, theres always the risk of that parent being
abusive or in some way hurting the child. If anything identifies
or captures what a child is all about, its vulnerability,
the epitome of innocence, the epitome of purity. My brother
was telling me that when he saw his child, he saw the innocence,
that moment of truth that somethings greater than you
and I and all the vanity and pettiness of life. A child is completely
In a way, when we look a child, were really
looking at ourselves in the purest form. So parents are given
this gift, and what do we do with it is the big question.
Well, most of us forget after a while, because
we go back to our work, so while that miracle of birth was great
for the momentand its great to write about and its
great to remember perhaps on our birthdaysbut on an ongoing
basis, that foundation, the roots, become imbedded, they become
I remember recently Robert Bly came out very strongly
with this Iron Johnmen bonding with their
own masculinity, reconnecting to their own raw warrior that
a man is. So he wrote, I believe, a book called Iron John.
Anyway, I read an interesting article by someone who had taken
one of these Iron John retreats. You pay $1500 to grunt, perspire,
wear leopard skins, animals skins, and just bond with other
men. And they went to this $1500 seminar, and when one of the
executives came back to work on Monday he said, I had
this great weekend. We were grunting, we were perspiring, we
were getting in touch with the man inside each of us.
And there was a construction worker there, one of the employees,
a real blue collar type of guy, who in broken English said to
him, If you want to perspire, come with me and work with
us one day. Why do you have to go to this weekend and pay $1500?
So the executive said, No, I dont
have time to do that every day. On weekends, I can designate
a specific time, I can choose when I want to perspire.
And this construction worker said to this chief
executive, perspiring when you wanna perspire, aint
perspiring at all. In other words, if you do it when you
want to do it, thats not perspiring. Thats called
planned, premeditated exertion, which is not really exertion.
What struck me about that was his natural reaction
that sometimes we dont need to contrive or create a whole
stage of how to become masculine, it just means being secure
with your own position and working hard at it.
And that brings me to the roles of men and women.
Is it true that a mother is just a more natural parent and a
better parent? Or can a father be just as good a parent? Id
love to hear from the listeners your thoughts on this.
Okay. We have Victoria on the air.
Caller: I think men are trying really hard.
Jacobson: I thought you were about to say,
Men are jerks.
Caller: No, no, quite the contrary. Im
not a parent but I have a good examplea friend of mine
whos in his 40s. He became a father for the first
time a few years ago and is a very active parent. His wife works
in New Jersey, and since they live in Manhattan and he works
in Manhattan, hes the one who winds up taking the baby
to the doctor a lot of the time. If the babysitter has to leave
early, he brings the baby to the office.
He is a very active parent. Theres a new
magazine actually thats coming out called Dads,
which I think is reflective of men wanting to know more about
how to be good parents. I think its still a very white-collar
phenomenon. I think men who work in offices can bring their
work home, they can work from laptops and they can balance it
a lot easier.
You were talking about construction workers. My
father was a construction worker for many years, so it was very
difficult for him to be an active parent with us. Hed
come home and quite frankly he was exhausted and we had to leave
Our mothers instructions to us were, Let
Daddy take a shower and relax for a while, because he
had labored all day and couldnt be as active. On the weekends
though he was.
Jacobson: Victoria, do you think that women
sometimes feed into that and allow men to be that way, or almost
babysit for them? Do you think they turn them into almost this
immobile parent type of person?
Caller: Sometimes. Ill take it even
a step further. I think mothers do it to their sons. You know,
in some households
Jacobson: Emasculating they call it.
Caller: No, actually the opposite. I think
they put them on pedestals. So you have the boys who dont
clean up after themselves. Mom cant stand the mess so
she cleans the room. And they continue this probably in a dorm.
And then when they get married, some lucky woman is picking
up after them and theyve never really learned how to take
care of themselves in cohabiting with people. So a little bit
of that happens.
Its far more subliminal than it was years
ago, but I think theres a little bit of that that still
Jacobson: Well, Victoria, thank you for
your call. I appreciate it and lets go to Neal on the
Caller: Hi. Well I was listening to your
show and I called in to participate. One concern I have about
fathers todayand Im the father of a son, 21, and
a daughter, 18there seems to be, and I dont think
Im saying anything thats a revelation to a lot of
people, and thats a marginalization of men in society
generally, and certainly in the lives of their children and
Jacobson: And you feel that way?
Caller: Yes I do.
Jacobson: Marginalization in the sense
of not being treated like an equal parent, is that what you
Caller: Not exactly. More of a lesser importance
of their role in the family. Im troubled a little by the
phrase, single mother. Its almost become a
heroic title, and I wonder if weve turned it completely
around from being, I use the word shameful, which
may be too strong for some people, but were going in the
right direction, to being heroic. And I think thats a
little bit of a description of what Im talking about.
Jacobson: If someone asked you to describe
the difference between a mother and a father in the perfect
scenario possible, what a mother provides, what a father provides
for a child, how would you
Caller: Well thats a hard question.
Its multi-faceted. Certainly mothers are either stereotypically
or truthfully nurturing figures in their childrens lives.
They bring their own strengths to the growth and development
of their children. I think fathers bring not necessarily opposed
strength, maybe complementary in some cases.
In many cases I think its just a practical
case of having two parents who can share thoughts and strengths
and feelings. Perhaps back each other up if you will. I do think
that fathers bring all of the things that are attributes of
a male personality and character into the fathering.
Lets say a child of either sex or gender
is going to grow up into a world with men and women in it, why
not experience that first in the home and see that men and women
are different, both from a strength and weakness point of view?
And why not let them experience that in the safe harbor of the
home, because when they do go out into the world, theyre
going to go out into the world of men and of women.
Jacobson: I was reading in an article this
past week that because of the increased rate of women working
and in careers that there are many men who have begun to really
bond with their children at an early age. Its not just
the stereotypical or traditional role as you put it that the
mother is the one who cradles the child in the first few years,
but that fathers have begun to really take a position, even
on a physical levelfeeding the child or holding or cradling
the child, and in a sense creating a bonding at an early age.
Caller: I think theres a couple of
problems and a couple of fallacies with that. First of all,
one of my thoughts about feminism is that weve bought
into the belief that men and women are interchangeable. That
one is equal to the other. Certainly in the work force and therefore
in the home. I dont believe that. I think that they bring
different strengths and weaknesses to the family and to each
other in various relationships.
So I dont think you just plug in the father
with the mother and say, Its the same thing.
That may be why you dont see as many men at the playground
with their children as you do see women. They may take the children
and do other things; they may just not be as involved in that
way. And yes, its great that fathers are bonding with
their children, but lets not talk about it as some peculiarity:
they should be bonding with their children and they ought to
be part of their childrens lives. Lets not put it
under glass in a museum.
Jacobson: No, I completely agree. Well
said. Its very good that youre putting it that way.
So, do you think men get a bad rap?
Caller: Well, men are getting a bad rap
as a spin-off to the feminization and the feminist movement.
Absolutely. Weve become the target of jokes these days.
When you look at satires and parodies of our culture, television
commercials, you would never see some of the commercials where
they poke fun at men turn around and have them poke fun at women.
Weve done an about face. Unfortunately,
weve swung to the opposite extreme. Were now marginalizing
and spoofing men, and unfortunately we used to do that to women.
So weve come no further. Were just doing it in a
Jacobson: But dont you find it as
a paradox that women at the same time feel that theyre
second class citizens, both at the workplace and school, equal
Caller: Yes, certainly that may still exist,
but thats the central rationale to feminism, that women
were treated as second-class citizens and now its their
turn to be first-class, but oops! Were going to do that
by making men second-class citizens and I think thats
foolish. I think you cannot in logical and rational terms take
a bad situation and just turn the players around and make it
a good situation. If it was bad to treat women as second-class
citizens, if it was bad to put them in a position below what
their worthy status was, why turn it around and now do it to
men and then say that that is the way to correct it. It makes
no sense to do that.
Jacobson: Okay. Thanks for your call and
for your good thoughts, Neal.
I want to add a thought to what Neal said, what
provoked me was, I think we live in an age of insecurity. And
that insecurity is nondiscriminatory, both in men and women.
In a way, men get a bad rap from various reasons and then women
get a bad rap that theyre not as mentally competent or
as stable or that women are too emotional
happening is that everybodys being attacked one way or
another, and I dont even know whos doing the attacking.
I dont even think its just women against men and
men against women. I think theres something more going
on. Theres this type of erosion of inner security, inner
sense of confidence of who you are. Theres no questionand
weve talked about this on this show many timesthat
people have a both a masculine and feminine personality; and
men and women need both elements.
Theres nothing wrong with that and each
of them contributes something. As soon as it becomes an issue
of which side is going to win, as soon as it becomes a race,
a marathon, then were already in a losing situation because
were in it together. Children cannot be born without a
man and a woman, who are partners. In the Kabbalah theres
much discussed on this topic: how Adam and Eve were not even
created as two entities, they were one entity, male and female.
The Bible puts it very clearly, theres even a myth about
that. People think that first Adam was created and then G-d
separated Eve from him. Thats the second part of the narrative.
If you look at the Bible, the first time its stated, it
says, G-d created the human being in G-ds image.
What does this first human being entail? It says, Male
and female. Androgynous.
And its only in the second stage that G-d
split them into two, meaning that the masculine and the feminine,
especially on a cosmic level, are really two forces at work.
Thats why theres a masculine dimension to the Divine
and theres a feminine dimension.
I find that theres a lot of insecurity about
who we are. Its almost that if you want to establish your
turf, you need to knock and undermine someone elses turf.
So why do men get such a bad rap? My answer is
that sometimes men deserve to get a bad rap. However, that needs
to be qualified. I dont know if theres a man whom
I can point to whos really at fault. Its become
almost a vicious cycle where we are training ourselves and our
children by repeating old habits. Both men and women are suffering
from this greatly and Id like to address some of that,
how to reverse this process. But first we need to identify
the issue at hand.
Many single people who are looking to get married
come to talk to me, especially in New York. As people get older
it gets a little more difficult because people are locked into
their approach to things. We live in a highly career-driven
society where income and status and many other superficial things
are really much more dominant than personality, and it gets
increasingly difficult to create a good, healthy match.
But I do have to sayand I say this as a
manthat men are in some ways a little less flexible than
women, especially as they get older. They have a certain type
of babyish attitude. I think there is a certain emasculation
that has happened, and I dont mean now the brute aggressive,
macho type of individual who just has the veneer of toughness,
I mean that type of inner strength and certain masculine inner
You now, women have their own strengths. Some
even say that women are stronger than men. You find in real
times of hardship its women who have the type of perseverance
to endure. You hear the story about the women who were able
to tolerate great famine and other situations, and you see great
people in history, whether man or woman, who had that inner
type of majesty that allowed them to be who they were.
But I think that our career-driven, highly materialistic
society, has completely masked and shrouded who we truly are,
both as men and as women. So we say that men get a bad rap
not because a man is in some way an inherently problematic state
of being, but rather because society, in its own vicious way,
has created these molds, these roles, that everyone has to fit
into and theyre not necessarily who we truly are.
I mean, to say for instance that a man never cries,
which you do hear. Parents tell that to children. Men
dont cry. Or even situations where a man may cry
and then hell be looked at as, Oh this person must
Tears are one of the strongest things in our lives.
Obviously there are times where its appropriate to cry
and its appropriate not to cry. But its feeding
into a stereotype that women cry. Something happens and
its the women that begin to cry. Or other stereotypes
of that nature.
And theyre not necessarily false stereotypes.
They happen to have some truth to them, because you see that
thats how were living our lives. But is that truly
what makes a man a man? That he never cries?
So to really define what it means to be a man,
what it means to be a father, requires real introspection. Thats
what I found about being a father. Its not a state that
you can prepare for. You can prepare for a business presentation.
You can prepare yourself to run a computer. You can prepare
yourself even as an athlete. But there are some things that
come with experience that you can only learn with experience.
You know, with an athlete, theres no question
that when an athlete gets into the game or gets into the
zone, it only happens when it happens. But there are months
and years of training like a soldier trains many years
for one battle he may fight.
But when it comes to being a parent, theres
no such thing as a parent in training, meaning theres
no camp or course that teaches you how to be a parent.
Do you know when we are parents in training? When
were children. Were inevitably all parents in training,
just by being. Being around our parents. Being around our environment.
So youre thrown into the situation. One
of the things that Ive learned is that the key is introspection,
to look at who you are. Its not an issue of what is expected
of men in society. I hate that type of expression: what
is expected of men. Whos expecting? Whos
determined the standard?
The way to often describe an individual is not
by looking at who we are in the social setting, but rather to
look at the quintessential man and the quintessential woman.
I mentioned a newborn child before. You look at
a newborn child and do you know why were drawn to the
face of a beautiful newborn? Because were drawn to innocence.
Were drawn to our own innocence.
I know its summertime so its not really
appropriate now, but do you ever remember waking up in the morning
when theres been a real snowstorm at night? You may remember
this as a child or even as an adult. I know Im still enchanted
by it even today. Snow falls. And you wake up in the morning
and theres this clean, white blanket of snow that just
covers everything. The garbage bags and the flowers. The streets
and grime. This white blanket that covers the entire street.
Theres a beauty to it.
And as a kid I remember watching and saying, Okay,
whos going to make the first footsteps on this block?
And then you see the first footsteps and then the second footsteps.
Its still nice because the imprints are there and then
you may walk out into the snow and make your first footprints.
But then an hour or two passes and rush hour begins.
And what happens? A path is tread and it starts to get a little
gray, and then grayer, and then finally black. And then the
grime begins. Its so painful to see in a way. Painful,
of course, not as in a tragic way, but as a metaphor, because
this clean, white snow is suddenly trampled upon and slowly
defiled as the rest of our lives.
Children are like freshly fallen snow. And thats
the beauty to it. The reason were drawn to them is that
in a way we know that thats our quintessential self. Each
of us has a little boy and a little girl inside us, a little
father and a little mother. Because remember, its not
just being a biological father to a child, you father yourself,
you father other people as well in the way you behave as a man.
And you mother people in the way your feminine energy expresses
So we want to know, what does the snow look like
before it was stepped upon? You know, when I became a father,
I already had a father who had a father who had a father. Weve
been walking already in the snow for a long time. Is there some
father, some archetypal father that we can find about whom we
can say, Ah, this is our father.
Perhaps thats the reason G-d is called a
father. Many people have a problem with that todayyou
know, identifying G-d with the masculine identity with being
a father. But father in heaven, Avinu shebashamayim,
Avinu malkeinu, has a certain beauty to it.
You see, the reason so many of us have a problem
with it is that fathers have given G-d a bad name when you call
Him Father. But if fathers were great, wed say, How
great G-d is; Hes a great father. Or for that matter,
So I think both fathers and mothers have gotten
a bad rap, and therefore calling G-d a father has, so to speak,
projected itself on it. But the truth is, when you look into
the Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism, the word father
as used is used very interestingly. (Im speaking about
fathers tonight, so Im going to emphasize them. Well
deal with mothers another time.)
When we talk about the building blocks of existence
called the ten spheres, the esser Sephirot, these are
ten emanations, or ten energies, that begin with chochmah,
binah and daas (wisdom, understanding and knowledge)
and then goes into love (chessed), discipline (gevurah),
compassion (tiferes) endurance (netzach), humility
(hod), bonding (yesod) and finally sovereignty
But interestingly, chochmah and binah
are called father and mother. Abba and ema in
Its interesting that of all things, we identify
two basic steps in the conceptual process as a father and as
a mother. But one of the reasons that we do so is that when
you look at it that way, we can in a way study, almost like
in a laboratory, in a dispassionate and detached way, what is
a father. So we call chochmah father and binah
What is the difference between chochmah
and binah? These are the first two steps in any conceptual
process. In any creative process, three steps are necessary.
One is the concept itself. Conceptualizing. The spark of an
idea. Thats chochmah. Like the spark that just
falls into your mind; like a kernel or a seed.
The second step is developing or fleshing out
the idea. Embellishment. Comprehension of it. Developing it
into a larger concept.
And finally daas is that final conclusion
where you bond with the idea. Its almost like you snap
your fingers and say, Aha! You connect with it.
Its a bridge between intellect and emotions.
But Im just going to dwell for a moment
on the two called father and mother. So you see here, father
is identified with a conceptualization that is concentrated
in one spark, which of course encompasses everything that will
be developed from this innovative idea, from this flash, however
its not developed yet.
So when you look at it in the context of father
and mother on a biological level, the father provides the seed
that fertilizes the egg and its the mother who carries
the child. In other words, the childs development, the
development of the concept, happens within the mothers
womb where the child develops physiologically, emotionally,
and so on. It is the mother who gives birth to the child.
However, she cannot give birth without the union
and without the fusion of the spark or you can say the male
seed that united with the mother.
So father and mother are both necessary to give
birth. And do you know who the children are? The children in
the conceptual level are emotions, feelings. A healthy
intellect yields fruit. The cognitive process is a form of gestation
of pregnancy where concepts develop into implementation, and
implementation is always connected to an emotional experience.
So the emotions are the children of our intellect.
But within the intellect you have the father and
the mother. Why am I discussing it on an esoteric level? Because
I want to carry it over to ourselves as fathers and mothers.
What you find there is that both father and mother are absolutely
necessary. But what they contribute, and of course qualifying
that each of them overlaps and theres the father within
the mother and the mother within the father, but essentially,
what the father contributes is, in a sense, the concept itself.
And what the mother contributes is the development
of thatnot to say that one is necessarily more creative
than the other, its just that these are two forces at
work. What does it mean in our personal lives? Simply this.
One of the things that you always hear from children, especially
those who have been deprived of a father, is that they are lacking
that type of steady firm oak tree that they can rely upon, a
type of security.
That in essence is not the same as when you hear,
for instance, of a mother who may spend more time than the father
with the child in developing the childs personality. What
is the father contributing? The father is contributing something
which is like a steadfast kernel that is the foundation of the
So even if the father isnt there every moment,
the child knows, I have a father there. My father will
come and get me. My fathers there as a steadfast foundation.
A mothers relationship with the child is
much more visible and much more powerful on an ongoing basis.
Its more dynamic in that way. But I must qualify by saying
that both are necessary. Fathers can learn much from mothers
how to father and mothers can learn much from fathers.
But the point is not to discuss whos going
to be a better parent. Were dealing with a situation of
two partners, with each of them giving something that the other
just doesnt have in quite the same measure. And both complement
You can almost say that, as the Talmud puts it,
The father may be more aggressively stronger, and therefore
brings the wheat into the home, and its the mother who
threshes the wheat and bakes bread out of it.
So theres a sense of someone taming the
elements of the aggressive world and the other refining it into
something thats usable.
The Talmud even says that the difference between
the charity of a man and the charity of a woman is that a man
may give money but a woman would give food that is readily available
So you find that there are two different ways
of nurturing. Are men truly more insensitive than women? Not
necessarily. You can say sensitivity may be a feminine energy,
but men have within themselves feminine energy, and there are
men who are very much in touch with their sensitivity.
And we live in a world where we do need and require
two forces at work: one sublimating the elements and taming
a harsh world out there, and another creating that refined,
gentle sense of things.
Its the men who can learn tenderness from
a woman and its the women who can learn the kernel, the
strong foundation, from the man.
Sometimes the relationship with a father is an
invisible relationship. When I think about it on this show I
definitely appreciate my father. Im sure when I speak
to him next, Ill probably get into an engaging discussion,
in a good way of course, which continues to enhance the relationship.
Those of us unfortunately who have suffered a
loss and have no father, or who in a way have a father but dont
have a father at the same timean absentee father or someone
whos even worse than thatI want to share a blessing
that G-d does not deprive us of our fundamental needs. If we
cant find it one way, theres always bypass
surgery: you can always find it another way.
And perhaps there are times when we may need to
look for another man in our lives, a mentor or a teacher, or
G-d Himself, to provide that type of fatherly foundation, fatherly
security that we need. I want to wish that upon us all. As I
said, each of us can definitely use that.
Id like to invite you all to our annual
camping Shabbaton, which has come to be known as the Woodstock
camping Shabbaton, so we will be doing one this year as well
for fathers and mother and potential fathers and mothers, and
for anyoneits not just a family-oriented event,
its open to everybody. It will be taking place on the
Delaware River this year the weekend of August 11-13. Due to
the great demand, we suggest that you call us now at 1-800-363-2646
I also would like to thank those who have sponsored
this show, which includes James and Georgeanne Garfinkel, James
and Anne Altucher, and Robert Klein, and some of the
other fathers who are our sponsors. Since we have another minute
here, let me go to Helen on the line.
Caller: Im reaching my 80th
birthday, and I lost my father in 1989 at age 89. There hasnt
been a day that has gone by that I dont think about my
father. One of the things that I wanted to tell you is that
as much as my father always told me how much he loved me, he
called me his million dollar daughter, I dont remember
ever saying to him, Papa, I love you. And that really
hurts even though as I say Im an old lady right now.
I know your father. I know of the wonderful things
that he does, and I suggest, Rabbi, that you please call him
up, and tell him, Dad, I love you, or Papa
I love you, because it is so important. I dont want
you to reach my age and not have done that.
Jacobson: Helen, thats a great suggestion.
Thank you. I do appreciate it. And Ill tell my father
right now on the air, I love you. Ill also
call him afterwards. And I hope all of us as sons and daughters
can tell our parents that we love them and for the parents out
there, I hope you can earn the right to be loved besides being
honored, and that requires sometimes that type of extra effort.
Fathers Day is not just for children to buy ties for their
parents, but its also an opportunity for parents to think
about their role and what a father is and what a mother is,
for that matter. Its always a pleasure talking about a
topic like this even though it has many issues. May we always
truly be fathers to our children and mothers to our children.
This has been Simon
Jacobson with Toward a Meaningful Life. I welcome you
back next Sunday from 6-7 pm. Thank you.