Inspirational StoriesParenting

A Powerful Story of A Father’s Love

וזרקתי עליכם מים טהורים וטהרתםI will shower pure water upon you and you will become cleansed …” (Yechezkel 36:25)
Rav Schwadron explains the concept of this verse with the following illustration. A father wants to present his son with a special gift, but the son runs away.  Disappointed, the father tosses the gift after him. 
Like a wayward child who does not appreciate the kindness his father is offering him, says Rav Schwadron, we all — at one time or another — turn away from our Father in Heaven and do not welcome Hashem’s intention to purify us.  What does Hashem do?  He showers us with the purifying water.  The establishment of that connection with Hashem results in וטהרתם – we ourselves set in motion the purification process and seek to return to Hashem.  
A fellow Jew once called me to consult on a pressing parenting issue. The man begged me to make time for him at my earliest opportunity, because the matter was very urgent and needed immediate attention.  I agreed to meet with him first thing in the morning.
The man who came into my office the next morning was deeply crushed and heartbroken.  He sighed and tearfully began to tell his story.
“I was always very dedicated to my children’s upbringing,” he said. “I learned with them, paid for the best tutors, did everything possible to ensure that they would grow up to be G-d Fearing Jews. But my 17 year old son … ” he groaned, and put his face into his hands.
“You know,with children, you need a lot of mazel. My son is completely off the path of the Torah. Shabbos means nothing to him. Yom Tov means nothing to him. I don’t even know where or with whom he spends his day.”
The man went on.
“He comes home late at night, and sleeps till noon. He doesn’t talk to us or to his sisters and brothers. I don’t think he does anything Jewish at all. My wife and I have no more joy in life,” he said. “Even our family occasions are marred – how can we rejoice when our son has nothing to do with Judaism or with us?”
“You know,” he continued, “I always wondered why Yaakov Avinu mourned Yosef for 22 years. Why couldn’t he accept the situation, and go on with life? Now I don’t wonder anymore. I can’t make peace with the situation. My own son — my own flesh and blood, whom I raised with such love — is going against everything I live for.”
Tears streaming down his face, the man told me that his Rabbi had advised him to speak to me.
“Rav Goldwasser,” he cried. “What should I do? What can I tell him? What can I tell my wife and other children?”
I spent a long time with him, offering encouragement and guidance, and mapping out a plan he could follow. I suggested positive steps he could take, things he could say, things he could do. I also told him what not to say and do. He asked me halachic questions, and listened carefully to everything I said.
Finally, the man arose, thanked me, and turned to go. He was at the door when he turned back.
“Can I ask the Rav one more question?” he asked.
“Of course,” I said.
“I’ve been preparing the negel vasser (hand-washing) in my house for years,” he said. “Every night, I fill the basins and put them at the foot of every bed, and every morning, I spill out the used water. It’s my special mitzvah, my special zechus. But lately, when I collect my son’s negel vasser, I see that the water isn’t used. He isn’t washing negel vasser anymore. I feel like a fool preparing it every night — it’s just a waste of time. Should I continue preparing the water, or can I just skip it?”
The question hit me for a moment, and then I said, “If you’re asking me, I would continue to fill the negel vasser every evening.”
I could see that my answer surprised him.  He seemed taken aback as he had not expected that answer.  
Three weeks later, the man called to let me know what was going on. Things were pretty much the same, he said, and he was getting discouraged. I gave him encouragement, and some new suggestions.
Just before he hung up, he asked, “About the negel vasser — do you think that I still need to bring it to his bed? I feel like such a fool every day.” Again, I urged him to continue.
Three weeks later, he called me again. This time, he could barely speak. He seemed to be crying; he was literally choking over his words.
“I listened to you, Rav Goldwasser,” he said. “I listened to you!  I filled my son’s negel vasser every day, and emptied it, even though he wasn’t using it.” The man paused.
“This morning, I went to his room to collect the basin, and he was wearing his tefillin and praying!”
Overcome with emotion, he paused to catch his breath.  Then he said, “I ran to him, and hugged and kissed him. It was the first time in months!  I couldn’t bring myself to hug him while he was ‘gone.’ And then I asked him, ‘Tell me, my dear child, what made you put on tefillin today?’
“And my son said, ‘I’ll tell you, Dad. It was the negel vasser. You knew I wasn’t using it and, still, you refilled it every day. I saw that you never lost your faith in me. You made me feel that I shouldn’t lose my faith in Hashem, either.’”
During these holy days of the year, Hashem showers each and every one of us with purifying waters, even those who have become alienated or estranged.  It is up to us to take advantage of this exceptional kindness during these auspicious days and to come forward to purify ourselves.  V’tihartem!

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