The Invulnerability of Vulnerability
For the first time in my forty-eight years I am an “ovol,” a griever. As I mourn the death of my father I am a new person. Things will never be the same for me. Sadly, I have tasted death – the death of my father and my best friend.
I have tried to console many souls in my life. But today I am the one in need of consolation.
Someone e-mailed me asking, challenging: “You have consoled many people over the years. Do you have the power to be consoled…?”
I am not sure I do. It’s much easier to be in control – even delusional control.
Another person wrote to me: “I highly recommend that you read a certain book that helped us tremendously through the death of our father several years ago. The name of the book is Toward A Meaningful Life, the chapter on Death and Grieving”…
I guess it’s easier to write than to read.
Indeed. I have written much about the darkness of the great “tzimtzum” – the awesome force that conceals from our eyes of flesh the spirit and truth in all things. I have counseled many people in ways to cope with loss. But it’s one thing to observe the “black hole” of existence from the perimeter. It’s quite another to stare at it from the tentacles of its core.
I just stood up from sitting “shiva” together with my beautiful family. Seven days we spent surrounded by a whizzing blur of visitors coming to honor my father and console us over our loss. The power of these seven days is that you are thrown into an engulfing womb of humanity, totally consuming your consciousness and overwhelming your neurons, so that you have no time to process anything but the thousands of different individuals trying to say a kind word.
Now as we reemerge into the “regular” world, I no longer see the material universe quite the same way. It was so nice holding on to the illusion of mortal immortality and going about my way as if things are just fine and will always remain so. Now I have experienced from the deepest recesses of my kishkes the impermanence of all things material – something that I have always known, but never like this.
It was comforting to know that my father (and mother, may she be well) was out there, even if I didn’t see him every day. No pressure on me – there’s always my father somewhere in the background. Now, I have to become the father.
My only solace is the soul.
Whenever I think of my father’s soul I smile. When I think of his body, his face, expressions and mannerisms I cry. When I immerse myself to perpetuate his spirit and aspirations I feel filled up. When I dwell on my grief I turn into a zombie.
I intend to take all my grief and tears and channel into a revolution. Anything less will simply not do.
I invite you to join me in this revolution.
It is customary to intensify our charitable acts in merit of a departed soul, especially in the first 30-day period after a passing when the soul is still present with us. There is a powerful tradition to establish an institution in the name of the soul, which serves as a “body” – a living memorial – that channels the spirit of the departed into a concrete force that affects our material world.
My father was a living institution. As a veteran journalist and commentator for some of the most eminent newspapers, and for the last 33 years editor and publisher of the Algemeiner Journal, the largest weekly Yiddish/English newspaper, my father stood at the forefront of public Jewish life for close to sixty years. He was a faithful witness of the destruction, rebirth and renaissance of Jews and Judaism; a living record of the most traumatic and exciting six decades in all of Jewish history; and an indispensable guide to understand the world in which we live.
We are dedicated to perpetuate his work into the 21st century.
As such we have established in the name and spirit of my father the Gershon Jacobson Jewish Continuity Fund to perpetuate the work and legacy of my father to battle for spiritual integrity and moral clarity. We intend to create vehicles that will serve as a powerful voice that will excite, provoke and inform. A voice that will resound with a clear vision; a platform of diverse opinions and ideas – offering some of the best writers and commentary on current events and issues. Its’ overall goal is to provide people from all walks of life tools to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Please join us in this effort by making a donation to the Gershon Jacobson Jewish Continuity Fund, either on line by going to www.algemeiner.com/donate, or by calling 718.774.7610.
I also invite you to check out our new website, www.algemeiner.com, dedicated to the soul of my beloved father, to study the world through the lenses of some of the finest scholars and communicators living today. The website will offer a penetrating and stimulating perspective on the events and issues of our times.
My father was a battler, a warrior. He always knew that he was on a mission. As I think back on his life, that awareness strikes me a like a tidal wave. It even frightens me at times. He never wavered. With the passion of a soldier he was always on call. Undaunted. Fearless. Daring. Audacious. That was my father.
I just was looking at an old photo of my father. His face exuded an innocence that few could see. Like a child: Pure. Seamless. With all his incredible people skills, he had an unexpected shyness, that could startle you. With all his buzz of activity, he bore a deep silence, impenetrable.
Where did his inner peace come from? He always knew that he was on a mission. That unwavering fact overrode all the vicissitudes. His mission was to be a voice. A voice of reason, vision and clarity. He was dedicated to spiritual integrity. He battled for Jewish continuity.
Dr. Norman Lamm tells me, that he saw my father not as a great newspaperman, not as a scholar, but as a personality. A personality – now that’s something to think about.
But where did my father get this inner fortitude?
My father’s passing has given me a little insight into this mystery. My father lost his parents at a young age: His father at age 19 and mother at age 21. I now begin to know how he must have felt all these years. The feeling of loss never goes away, but you have two choices: Either you remain broken because of it; or you become resolute. My father chose the latter. He became fearless. Once you experience death of things you love and are attached to, you can come out of the fire with nothing to ever fear again. My father embraced his mission wholeheartedly and never looked back.
I will attempt to learn from that.
Yes, I am quite vulnerable these days. But perhaps therein lies the secret to invulnerability.
I will miss this man. I truly will. But I will not let him miss me.
On behalf of myself and my entire family, I thank you deeply for your comforting words in these trying days.
All who blessed shall be blessed. May you be blessed with many healthy years together with intact families, and the wisdom to use them to the fullest.