IN LOVING MEMORY OF
The Ten Commandments are written on two tablets, with a distinct difference between the two: The first tablet contains mitzvot between people and God – for instance Believe in God, Don’t worship other gods, and Don’t take God’s Name in vain. The second tablet contains mitzvot between people and people – e.g. Don’t steal, Don’t murder, Don’t covet.
One of the Ten Commandments is to “Honor Your Parents,” and we would expect this to appear on the second tablet, along with the other mitzvot between people and people. But it doesn’t. Honoring parents appears on the first tablet. Why?
The reason is because the parent-child relationship is a metaphor for the human relationship to God. From the moment of infancy and beyond, the way a parent acts toward their child forms in the child’s consciousness a paradigm for how God relates to us.
The primary role of a parent, therefore, is to communicate to the child: You are loved and cherished. You are unique and special, creative and talented. You are cared for and protected. You are never alone.
Pearl excelled at fulfilling this role, even honing the parenting craft to a professional level. With active listening and quality attention, she constantly reinforced uniqueness and specialness of each child. She communicated that her greatest joy as a parent was to see the child fulfill his/her own potential.
Walking into the Simmons home confirms Pearl’s devotion. The kids’ projects adorn the walls, alongside exquisite art gallery pieces. In Pearl’s eyes, each was equally worthy of display.
One of the projects on the wall was a picture drawn by Rachel, along with the words that captured Pearl’s essence: “My mommy writes in the newspaper how to be nice to your kids.”
With her parenting talent, Pearl not only succeeded in building a beautiful family. She also became a model for us to appreciate how the Almighty loves each and every one of us.
And that is life’s most important lesson.
We thank you, Pearl.
* * *
One of my teachers in Jerusalem tells a story that occurred about 100 years ago. My teacher’s father was a young boy living in Tiberias, and a plague broke out which caused the death of many children. The mothers were generally helpless to stop it, but one thing they did was to put an amulet around the neck of each child, hoping that would help protect them.
But this little boy’s mother had died when he was an infant. This left him feeling very afraid and alone – for he had no one to give him an amulet, no one to protect him.
One day the boy was walking through the market, and a strange woman approached him. She put an amulet around his neck, and then quickly disappeared.
When the boy got home he told his father what had happened. The father asked: “Please describe the woman.” The boy proceeded to describe in exact detail his mother, whom he had never met, nor seen a picture of.
Noah, Rachel, Joshua – your mother is in a different place now, but she is still very much with you. Still protecting you, still caring for you.
* * *
We’re coming upon Rosh Hashana. The Talmud says that on Rosh Hashana, God makes a Din v’Cheshbon – a judgment and an accounting. We know that Rosh Hashana is the Day of Judgment, where a person is held accountable for all his actions over the previous year. But what is the Cheshbon, the accounting?
The Vilna Gaon explains that while Din deals with a person’s actions over the course of the year, Cheshbon deals with the actions that a person influenced others to do.
Pearl will not have a Din this year, because she is no longer able to perform actions in this world. But Pearl will have a Cheshbon – an accounting of how she influenced the actions of others.
Pearl’s Cheshbon is up to us.
Pearl gave each of us so much, and now it is time for us to give back. We can elevate her soul by continuing the legacy that she showed us – through her example with her children – that God cherishes each and every one of us.
May the soul of Penina bat Reuven v’Batya be bound in the bond of eternal life, and may God grant my dear brother much wisdom and strength to carry on.
August 23, 2002 / 15 Elul 5762