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Rabbi Dr. Bernhard H. Rosenberg, is RABBI EMERITUS of Congregation Beth-El, Edison, New Jersey He received his ordination and Doctorate of Education from Yeshiva University in New York. He also possesses A.A., B.A., M.A., and M.S. degrees in communication and education. He possesses a Doctor of Divinity from The Jewish Theological Seminary, New York. He taught at Rutgers University in New Jersey and Yeshiva University in New York.


by Rabbi Dr. Bernard Rosenberg, Author of six books on the Holocaust (see full bio at bottom of article)Sept 12, 2015



A little girl pleaded with her mother to light Shabbos candles as she had learned in her Hebrew school class. The mother promised but somehow never got around to it. In desperation, one Friday, the little girl went to the grocery store herself, and asked for a Jewish candle. Some hours later—well after dark—the mother came home and saw on her kitchen table a flickering Yahrzeit candle—the candle lit in memory of the dead. “Who,” the mother asked in terror, “is this for?”



The child innocently and enthusiastically replied, “Why it’s for you, mother. I lit it for you, because you didn’t have the time.”


My friends, we live in a time when keeping Jewish traditions is no longer a priority for most Jews. Instead of lighting Shabbos candles, should we light a Yahrtzeit candle for Jewish life? How did this little girl come to light that Yahrtzeit candle? It was because Shabbos wasn’t a priority for her mother even though the idea of Shabbos excited this little girl. If we want to keep Yiddishkeit alive, if we want to make Bubbie and Zeide in heaven shep nachas and be proud, if we want to feel the Presence of Gd in our lives and know Gd has our back, then we must show some enthusiasm about Gd  and Jewish life.   


I would like to read to you a series of email letters that a father from Atlanta, writes to his son in Los Angeles that brilliantly illustrates this. Let me 1st tell you that the letters are a complete figment of my imagination, yet I see much of myself in them. Maybe you too, will see reflections of your own life in these very private and intimate letters.


My Dear Boy,

We received your lovely New Year’s card and I must tell you that your mother and I were just delighted. What we enjoyed most was the cute inscription contributed by our adorable grandson, David. What a pleasure that boy must be to you. At his age every word he says must appear to you as if it is filled with the brilliance of King Solomon himself.


Speaking of that wise king, I wonder if he knew of a remedy for insomnia for it seems as if tonight I simply can’t sleep. To make things clearer to you, I should tell you that right now it is only 2:10am. That’s right—2 o’clock in the morning! After tossing and turning for 3 hours I decided that trying to sleep was useless. So I quietly slipped down the stairs so as to not interrupt your mother’s snoring, put on the light in the den, and picked up that large book of quotations and poetry you sent me for my birthday. And really it’s a marvelous book!


I opened it up and at random my eyes caught these phrases:

    If you have been trying to get at some unpleasant task for weeks, get at it, do it.

    If you have been meaning to write a certain letter, write it, and have it over with.

    If you must ask forgiveness from someone, ask forgiveness, and stop brooding about it.


I thought to myself, what is there that I have been putting off? Is there anything important I have avoided doing? And then I turned to another page in the book and I read a piece that was so moving that I must share it with you. It’s called, “Say It Now.” This is how it reads:

    If you have a friend worth loving, Love him.

    Yes, and let him know—

    That you love him, ere life’s evening tinge his brow with sunset glow.

    Why should good words ne’er be said of a friend till he is dead?

    If you hear a song that thrills you, Sung by any child of song, praise it.     

    Do not let the singer—wait deserved praises long.

    Why should one who thrills your heart lack the

    Joy you may impart?


And I realized I had put many things off, important things—things that I often think about when the High Holy Days come. I can’t help it. I guess I am getting older and I am much closer to the end of life than I am to its beginning. And for me, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur remind me of a year of opportunities, lost opportunities. And so I turned on the computer to write this email to you.


I’ve got to tell you, my boy, that I really haven’t done a very good job of it—a good job at living. My life has really been one long diary in which I planned to write one story and lately I realize that I have written something completely different. I’m sure you’ve heard it a thousand times, but if I could live my life over again, I would have done things so differently.


I know that as you’re reading this you’re probably thinking that I’m an old man who is just rambling on in the middle of the night. But, my boy, it’s not true. My mind has never been clearer than at this moment. And while I still have the courage I want you to know my thoughts. I want you to know about my sins! Yes, I know a lot about sins, in fact, I consider myself an expert.


Here’s an example: Do you know how long Joseph and I have been friends? 34 years! Do you know in all that time I have never told him directly how much I love him, how much joy and comfort he has given me, and how much I treasure our relationship. Yes, I have sinned against him and he’s not the only one. Do you know how much money I’ve given to charity over the years, and how much I could have given?


Do you know I haven’t written your mother a love letter in 40 years? Do you know how many times I neglected to thank her? I’ve learned to take her for granted. She’s been so good to me, and I’ve sinned against her.


The truth is, I’ve sinned against you too. Tonight as I sit here at my desk. I’m sorry that I didn’t give you more time, more attention. I’m so sorry at my moments of anger with you, when the noise of your playing was too loud. What I wouldn’t do now to recapture the sounds of those precious days. I’m sorry I didn’t help you more when you started your business. I know I could have done so much more. I am sorry I didn’t have more money to give you when you needed it the most, especially because you were too proud to come and ask me for it. I am sorry that I pushed you with all my might to become what I wanted you to be. It was a mistake—no question about it! I’m sorry we didn’t play more and I’m sorry that by my example I didn’t show you how to enjoy life. Maybe, most of all, I’m sorry that by my actions I demonstrated to you that Judaism was not really an important part of my life. So, when you married and didn’t join a shule, how could I blame you? How often do I go to shule? No, I didn’t blame you. I blamed myself.


And, when this year you decided not to send our only grandson David to Hebrew School and not to give him a Bar Mitzvah I was not angry with you. If you remember, I didn’t even call you to give you an argument. Of course I was heartbroken, and your mother and I still cry many tears about it. But I did not utter a word of criticism. It was my own breast that I beat. After all, I know in my heart that I was to blame. I didn’t set an example for you. I know it now!


And last month when I bought a double plot at the cemetery your mother quietly asked me, “And who will say Kaddish over us?” I was not indignant; I felt no resentment when we both realized that you would not be the one. I sent money to a Yeshiva in Israel, and I have no fear, I know they will get someone to say the Kaddish for us. And I knew, my dear boy, that you were not the one who was the guilty party. I didn’t blame you then and I’ll never blame you, because you see I sinned against you greatly. All I can hope is that one day that you will find it in your heart to forgive me.


Yes, it’s true, I’m an expert on sinning. I’ve even sinned against myself. I could have been so much more than I turned out to be. Even in small things I disappointed myself. All my plans to take that big trip to Israel and to enroll in the Adult Education Program at the synagogue, all went down the drain—right down the drain. And, frankly, At this point, for me it’s too late. I’m old and my story is about to end. But you, my dear boy, you are young; you don’t have your age against you; you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. And if you would do me one kindness it should be that you should not end up having to write a letter such as this to your own son. For remember, to waste one’s life is to waste the entire world.


Well, it’s now 4:00am and your mother is calling me to come to bed, so I’ll end with my best wishes to you and Suzie for a Good New Year. Please give a special kiss to David.

Love, Dad.


Dear Dad,

I got your letter today and frankly it disturbed me greatly. I didn’t really have time to think about it though because tomorrow is a big day down at the office and so I went to bed early. But, like you, I couldn’t sleep. And so here I was pacing back and forth in the bedroom. Finally I decided I would sit down with my laptop and answer your letter.


By the way, right now it is 3:00 in the morning and I have to go to work in 4 hours. The 1st thing I want to say is that you have no monopoly on sinning. I know that I am much worse than you because I had every opportunity in life and I blew it. Because of my strong desire to be a success, because of my ambition to make a lot of money, I see my child much less than you ever saw me. As a result, I don’t have the opportunity to talk to my son, and the truth is we have become as strangers. I leave before he is awake and return when he is already asleep.


At the business, things have been going from bad to worse and I have had to resort to some pretty sneaky things. Now, though these things are not dishonest, I cannot say that they are completely honest either, and I am really ashamed of myself. My whole life, as you may have guessed by now, is a mess. I have been avoiding the Israel Bond people for weeks, and don’t even ask me whether I am doing my part for the welfare of the community.


I seem to have lost my sense of humor and even my ability to be tender and sensitive. Even Suzie commented that I don’t even know what my dreams are any longer. Though I work hard, I still have more leisure time than you ever had and I have squandered my time on frivolous and useless activities! Though my Jewish identity was never strong, I realized lately that my Christian employees know more about Judaism than I do. Even my ties to the family have grown weak and uncaring. More than anything else a poem I read in a magazine pointed out how little I was putting into my relationships. It is called, “If You’re Ever Going to Love Me.”

    If you’re ever going to love me, love me now, while I can know

    All the sweet and tender feelings which from real affection flow.

    Love me now, while I am living; do not wait till I am gone

    And then chisel it in marble—warm love words on ice-cold stone.

    If you’ve dear, sweet thoughts about me, why not whisper them to me?     

    Don’t you know ‘twould make me happy and as glad as glad could be?     

    If you wait till I am sleeping, ne’er to waken here again,

    There’ll be walls of earth between us and I couldn’t hear you then.

    If you knew someone was thirsting for a drop of water sweet

    Would you be so slow to bring it? Would you step with laggard feet?

    There are tender hearts all round us who are thirsting for our love;

    Why withhold from them what nature makes them crave all else above?

    I won't need your kind caresses when the grass grows o’er my face;

    I won’t crave your love or kisses in my last low resting place.

    So, then, if you love me any, if it’s but a little bit,

    Let me know it now while living; I can own and treasure it.

Author Unknown


This poem, dad, showed me how undemonstrative I had been in my relationship with you and mother, and how ungrateful it made me appear. You were talking in your letter about the sins you had committed against me. Well, mine are so much greater against you. You did so much for me, sacrificed so limitlessly and my response was often based on selfishness and self-centeredness.


I think that in your letter you were too hard on yourself because everybody knows you did the best you could for me. You taught me to have pride and self-confidence, and you gave me a sense of the presence of good in the world. But you didn’t teach me despair.


The saying goes there is nothing more sad than the statement, “It could have been.” Why can’t I start anew? Why can’t I try to rebuild my life? What’s stopping me? Why can’t you go on that trip to Israel or join an Adult Education program at the synagogue? What is holding us back? Why can’t we have hope? Doesn’t Yom Kippur also mean to be a Day of Hope? Don’t we get a new chance each year? Isn’t that what the High Holy Days are all about—a chance to start again? Give my love to Mother.

Fondly, your son.


Dear Son ,

Your mother and I have read and reread your letter countless times, and we have decided that we are not going to sit down and wait for the Angel of Death. By the way, we are going to Israel next month so don’t be upset if we don’t answer your letters because we may not be checking our email too frequently.

Love, Dad.


Dear Dad,

I hope you read this email before you leave on your vacation to Jerusalem. I just thought you’d like to know that after a long conversation with Suzie, we decided to try sending David to Hebrew School. Now don’t get me wrong; we’re not promising he’ll have a Bar Mitzvah or anything; we’re just experimenting on a temporary basis to see if he’ll like it.


So far things seem fine. In fact, Suzie claims that he really likes it. It’s unbelievable! Today he learned a song which we attached in a video file so we’ll end the letter here and continue it on the video:



    “Hi Dad, Hi Mother, David learned a new song in Hebrew School. Here’s David to sing it for you. The words mean, “May you be inscribed and sealed in the book of life for a good year.”


Love, your son

Ps. By the way dad, you can ask the Yeshiva in Israel for your money back. I got a neighbor to tutor me, and I’m learning now how to say the Kaddish so that I’ll be ready. Here’s how it goes: Yisgadal v’yiskadash sh’mey raba.



Rabbi Dr. Bernhard H. Rosenberg, is RABBI EMERITUS of Congregation Beth-El, Edison, New Jersey.He received his ordination and Doctorate of Education from Yeshiva University in New York.  He also possesses A.A., B.A., M.A., and M.S. degrees in communication and education.  He possesses a Doctor of Divinity from The Jewish Theological Seminary, New York. He taught at Rutgers University in New Jersey and Yeshiva University in New York.
Rabbi Rosenberg’s book, “Theological and Halachic Reflections on the Holocaust” is now in its second printing.  He is the author of “A Guide for the Jewish Mourner”, “Contemplating the Holocaust”, “What the Holocaust Means to Me: Teenagers Speak Out” and “Thoughts on the Holocaust-Where Was God Where Was Man–Teenagers Reflect on Major Themes of the Holocaust and “The Holocaust as seen Through Film”. His newest book is “Public Speaking – A Guide for Study”. He recently received the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Humanitarian Award.  He also received the Chaplain of the Year Award from The New York Board of Rabbis for his efforts during and following 9-ll. On June 10, 2002 Rabbi Rosenberg was presented with the annual Rabbi Israel Mowshowitz Award by The New York Board of Rabbis. Rabbi Rosenberg appears frequently on radio and TV and has published hundreds of articles regarding the Holocaust. for 6 years he served on the New Jersey State Holocaust Commission as Interfaith Chairman and recently authored the Rosenberg Holocaust siddur and the Rosenberg Holocaust Haggadah as well as the book , The Holocaust as Seen Through Film". He is Township Chaplain for Edison and He and others Received a Group Award for his Efforsts During 9/11 from the New York board of Rabbis



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