Family Man

Copyright Rabbi Eli Hecht
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When my wife gave birth to our sixth child, I was genuinely as truly happy as any man could be. As an American Jew, I had always felt that I should have at least six children (one for each of the 1 million of the 6 million Jews who were killed during World War II). Even though I was as pleased as any father could be, I learned that some of our friends felt differently. They claimed that a large family deprived children of love and education. Somehow, I felt they had missed the boat.

Sure, bringing children into the world is a great responsibility, but then responsible people have all the more reason to have children. There are those who base their decision to limit the size of their family on thoughtful research, but questionable judgment. They anticipate having a family with apprehension, as though a child were a liability. But, in fact, each child is an asset.

It is well-documented that Jews educate their children at an early age. Children are introduced to prayer as soon as they can talk. Reading and writing are considered a basic necessity that must be provided to each child. It is for that reason Jews have been called, "the children of the book."

If anything, though, we ought to be concerned with the education of all children and increasing the quality of their family dynamics.

This month I experienced a strange situation. With Father's Day coming soon, I was feeling very grateful to my wife for giving me a loving home and six children. I know how hard she works to provide the family atmosphere we enjoy. Instead of receiving gifts, I wanted to show my affection and appreciation and give her something on this Father's Day. The best gift, I decided, was perfume.

I found myself in a department store overwhelmed by the various perfume displays. A pleasant sales clerk asked me if I needed some help. After explaining that the perfume was a gift for my wife, she asked what I had done to necessitate the gift. I was so taken aback that I laughed. It seems that in the - 90s people only buy perfume when they have done something improper.

"Look," I said, "I love my wife and just want to buy her a gift, no more, no less." The sales clerk related our conversation to her co-workers who told me that I was quite a fellow. Embarrasses, I wondered what was so incredible about this simple act?

Then Vice-President Dan Quayle's remarks about television sitcom character Murphy Brown answered the question. As a messenger, Quayle perhaps has an attitude problem, but his message is clear. True, there was a time when some unmarried men and women wanted a sexual encounter without the consequence of children: love and intimacy with neither marriage nor children. But now, some women want children without love or marriage.

Whether Murphy Brown is married or not makes no difference, as long as the story sells: You don't need a husband to become a mother.

We have lost the value system of the family structure. Observing the media's attack on the vicepresident, it's no wonder I looked like "such a guy" for wanting to buy my wife a gift even though there was no special reason.

So this year on Fathers Day, I will enjoy the blessings of my loving wife and my wonderful children, my assets. I hope that my old friends will experience even a fraction of that joy.