Daf Yomi Moed Katan 24
Rabbanit and I recently sat at a wedding with a couple from the Former Soviet Union. They had both done well in their careers in Canada, including a computer business that she had started up in the 1990s and sold to a huge American corporation. Today, they are semi-retired and travelling the world. But that didn’t impress us as much as meeting their kids who were both married to Jews, anomalous in a small community even for those with a Jewish upbringing, let alone given their background in the USSR.
“What’s your secret?” asked Rabbanit.
“I always knew,” replied Svetlana, “that I would be prepared to give it all up in favour of my kids. Nothing else in this world is any near as important, satisfying and meaningful. In spite of everything else, they were always the focus.”
The Beraisa asks: At what age do we begin eulogizing deceased children? Rabbi Meir quotes Rabbi Ishmael, “Poor people at three years old; rich people at five.” Rabbi Judah quotes him as saying, “Poor people at five years old; rich people at six.”
Rashi explains the discrepancy between rich and poor: A poor person is more distressed at the loss of a child, because he has no other source of happiness in his life.
Thank G-d, today we live in an age and society of unparalleled affluence. While poverty sadly still exists in the Western world, even those less privileged have luxuries that previous generations could only have dreamed of. In an age of post-industrialism and automation, we now have time to pursue a host of extracurricular activities, from reading to watching TV to videogames to sports activities to travel. Most of us can certainly say that we have multiple sources of happiness in our lives.
Rabbi Ishmael implores us, however, never to lose sight of the happiness of childrearing. All other happiness activities are fleeting – providing temporary joy and distraction from the doldrums of daily life. The joy of children is eternal. The nachas (joy) you get watching your investment of money, time, effort and energy into your kids’ upbringing is unequaled in this world. Any other ‘hobby happiness’ is a distraction from real happiness. And it goes without saying that this is true both of biological and of spiritual children – those to whom one has imparted Torah knowledge – we all have the ability to rear children and experience the joy.
What makes you happy in life? Has affluenza diverted your focus away from true joy? Your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will continue to bring you happiness, long after you’ve grown bored of movies, you’re too tired to travel, and your golf swing just isn’t what it used to be.