Rabbi Soloveitchik used to deliver a monumental lecture on the occasion of his father’s yahrtzeit, an event that was widely attended and has even been written up into a book. Rabbi Binyamin Tabory, in The Weekly Mitzvah, records an interesting note from The Rav about honoring one’s parents, the mitzvah focused on for Parshat Yitro. He mentions that what one does for their father, they must also do for their mother. The Rav explains that ideally, he should be giving two of his famed yahrtzeit drashot, one for his father and one for his mother. He explained that the only reason he did not deliver two of these speeches was because he didn’t have the strength to prepare and deliver two such lectures.
I wrote an entire message for Mother’s Day, so it would only be fair to share the same sentiments regarding Father’s Day, but I didn’t do it. Sorry. So now, I would like to publicly thank and recognize those individuals in my life. Better late than never, right?
That starts with recognizing those who are no longer with us.
First, my Grandfather Willie Radman, who I am named for, is someone that I never met but remember hearing from my mother how similar we are and how proud he’d be of me.
My great-grandfather Harry Chanen, who I am also named for, is someone who passed away a while before my birth, yet he and my great-aunt Audrey had the foresight to record his life story. I’ve read his autobiography cover to cover, and am enthralled each time, wanting so much to have had the opportunity to have met him.
My great-grandfather Jack Balk was someone who I was lucky enough to meet and remember, even though he passed away when I was still young. The moment that is emblazoned in my mind forever is when I brought along my little tallit and siddur from school to St. Louis and showed him how I davened. I don’t recall what he said afterward, but the smile on his face meant the world to 6 year-old me, and I still look back on that memory fondly.
I don’t know how I lucked out in finding my wife, Estee, but I am doubly blessed by her amazing family. I am zocheh to have a father-in-law who treats me like a prince, a person who shares my love of a good potato kugel. He creates opportunities for learning in his shul in Teaneck that enhance the religious fiber of the kehillah. He’s done so much for me in the time that Estee and I have been married, and for that, I am truly grateful.
Saba is the head of the Balk family. One need not delve that deeply into the fabric of Jewish life in St. Louis without encountering the name Ed Balk. What makes me proud to be his grandson, more than the beautiful family he’s raised and the successful business he’s a part of is his connection to synagogue life. Anyone can be the synagogue president (which he was), but his greater accomplishment, to me at least, is being a seasoned, exceptional baal korei. That takes more time and dedication than attending meetings and sitting on committees. That is a true legacy. May he and my Savta have many more healthy years together.
Finally, I thank my father for literally being the biggest driving force in my life. He is the smartest person I’ve ever been around. True, I’ve met individuals who are more book smart, as well as those who are more street smart. Yet, I have not come in contact with anyone who so flawlessly has a command of the two like my father. He’s a bigshot, but unlike any of the others you’ll ever meet. He does not care for the spotlight, shuns any and all awards. I cannot begin to tell you about the ways that he and the Mt. Sinai Healthcare Foundation have improved life for Jews, senior citizens, and inner-city students, as well as the health policy initiatives that he works toward in Cleveland, Columbus, Washington DC, and beyond. The work of the foundation has garnered much recognition and a few awards, but my sister and I barely hear about it. When we do, it’s from others who marvel from the outside. I am far prouder of his accomplishments as a congregant from the bimah (reading Torah, haftorah, and davening) than I am of the amazing work he did as president of the shul, helping ensure that a new campus was funded (but we’re proud of that, too). I watched him diligently care for my mother for the 13 years that various illnesses ravaged her health. My mother used to say that she hoped that if , Heaven forbid, the shoe were on the other foot, so to speak, that she would care for my father as lovingly and dutifully as he cared for her. I saw this care firsthand after having surgery, and it was truly incredible. I could go on for days of other accomplishments and things that my dad does, both directly and indirectly, that make me proud, but I’ll spare you all. Thank you Dad, we love you so much!