Fathers Day Message from Rabbi Hecht


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What If A Child Doesn't Know Who His Father Is? - Fathers' Day 

In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the third Sunday in June as Fathers' Day.  Roses are the Fathers' Day flowers; red is to be worn for a living father and white if the father is dead.  I ask what does a son do if he doesn't have a living or dead father?  How can that be, you wonder. 

Bio-ethical dilemmas are on the increase. With the awesome strides and discoveries made in the medical field we are now facing fascinating and perplexing problems.

If a child is born from an assisted procreation, meaning, that an artificial form of creation conceived the child the child may never know who the father is.  This may be done in the following methods:

A.I.H. - artificial insemination with the husband's sperm.  When they take the husband's sperm and place it within the woman and assist in the impregnation this is called intrauterine insemination, or they do an I.V.F.  Invitro Fertilization.  This involves the joining together of a sperm and egg in a laboratory dish called "in vitro", meaning in the glass.  The fertilized egg or embryo is then transferred back to the woman's uterus and implantation is made and hopefully the procedure will produce a healthy, viable child.  Other complicated procedures are called GIFT - Gamete Intra Fallopian Transfer, or ZIFT - a combination of IVF and GIFT.  All methods have been working for the past few years, resulting in thousands of children being born.

With the good and exciting news comes a host of problems.  Now, if a woman wanted a child she may go to the sperm bank and use the sperm for procreating.  She may do it in the following fashion.  She may use her own eggs or someone else's.  It is possible that she uses a donor egg and a donor sperm, have an IVF procedure and become a surrogate mother.  Now, does that child have a father?  Will he ever celebrate Fathers' Day?  With unwed mothers and small children running around, Fathers' Day may become more of a nuisance with trying to track down which man fathered which child.  What will happen to the good old Fathers' Day when mom would make a dinner including apple pie and the children would bring their Fathers' Day cards and handmade gifts?

I am very sensitive to the couples that want children and need to resort to the above methods to achieve their goals.  "G‑d bless them," I say.  My concern is about those who are using these methods because they do not want to marry or have children in the conventional manner. 

I wonder what does Jewish tradition have to offer in the way of enlightenment?  I look towards the Ten Commandments and I realize that there are two tablets.  On one side it speaks about man and G‑d whilst the other side speaks about man and man.  The first part of the tablets speak about G‑d, the greatness of G‑d - man/G‑d relationship. The second tablet speaks about inter-human relationships, not to kill, covet, etc. One would expect the commandment of honoring your parents to be on the second tablet. 

I have wondered for many years why it was included in the first group where it speaks about the commandments of G‑d?  The answer may be that the child/parent relationship is like G‑d and man's relationship.  There are three partners to every birth, G‑d, father and mother.  The material substance is derived from the parents while G‑d grants spirit and soul, the vital form of man. 

The reason the fifth commandment is on the first tablet is to show that there is a connection between G‑d and man.  Awareness of the parents' role as creative agents leads to contemplation and recognition of the third partner, the Almighty G‑d, provider of all.  For this reason, G‑d Himself gives honor to parents by including the commandment of honoring your parents on the first tablet.

The fifth commandment is a religious principle as well as a social one. 

Proper behavior towards parents is seen as a logical rung in the ladder leading to the proper behavior towards G‑d.  As the saying goes, "He who heeds the parent will learn to heed other religious obligations too."

If honor due to parents is on the same tablet that speaks of honoring G‑d then we need parents that honor G‑d.

What a wonderful world it would be if we would all learn to honor and respect one another.

There is a Fathers' Day prayer created by the great Hassidic master, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810)  " Dear G‑d, teach me to embody those ideals I would want my children to learn from me.  Let me communicate with my children wisely - in ways that will draw their hearts to kindness, to decency and to true wisdom.  Dear G‑d, let me pass on to my children only the good; let them find in me the values and the behavior I hope to see in them."

Children with good behavior bring honor to their fathers.  A happy Fathers' Day to you all.

Rabbi Eli Hecht 
Regional Director
Feather and Quill