Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mishpacha (Family): Tapestry or Quilt

…A Woven Tapestry or a Patch-Work Quilt…

Today, Thursday, September 27, 2012, we lay another of our family to rest.  September 2012 has been hard on my family, we’ve sent Allan and Neal into the hands of Elohim, and we all have struggled to make sense of it all.  Yet, what comes out of all this loss will hopefully be a tighter net of family, woven together by adversity and tragedy. I hope you’ll let me explain…

                What is Mishpacha”  you ask?  “Mishpacha” is the Hebrew word for family.  Here in the west we have almost forgotten what it means to be a family; we are the mobile generations, spread out across the great expanse of America, separated by time, distance and circumstances.  We are all related to those in our family, sons, daughters, in-laws, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers; aunts, uncles, grandparents; cousins, nephews and nieces….  What do we really know of one another?  Those three factors-  time, distance and circumstances- have truly robbed us of the experience of family, the closeness that should have been, till we find ourselves reduced to a facebook® post or two; and that is what we know of each other.  I speak only for myself, not putting anything upon anyone else… But this is what my family relationships have been reduced too, to my shame and sorrow. 

                To the Jew, what is Mishpacha” ? First and foremost it is “kavod”, it is “kavanah”.  The two words mean respectfully “honor” and “intent”.  If we are to look at a family, as a unit, what must first be evident in the relations we see?  Most would subscribe to the notion of “love”, that families must love one another… While this is true, love does not come without “kavod”, without honor. 

                What is honor? In our world today it is as if nothing is sacred anymore; it seems that there is nothing that cannot  be bought, that even what the world holds to as “honor” comes with a price tag attached. Yet at the heart of the word “kavod” the true definition of what honor really is comes through: it is the attaching of weight to a person, place or thing – in other words, substance and meaning. Honor brings forth kvod Shamayim or the glory of Heaven. 
Debbie Greenblatt describes it thus:

“…In a society in which nothing is sacrosanct and honor can be bought for a price, it is no wonder that we have some confusion over the definition of kavod (honor). Even our Torah sources need to be illuminated if we are to grasp the role of kavod in our lives and relationships. We learn that if you chase kavod, it runs away from you. Conversely, if you run away from kavod, it will chase you. Should we be running towards or running away? Do we want to be caught or not? We learn in Pirkei Avos (4:28) that jealousy, physical desire, and honor remove a person from the world. That makes honor seem like something we would want to stay away from. At the same time, the Navi (Yeshayahu 43:7) tells us that everything that the One Above created was created for His kavod. That certainly sounds positive. Let’s try to understand the concept of kvod Shamayim, honor of Heaven, as a key to clarifying the above-mentioned sources. Our Creator created a world in which His presence is hidden. Through our actions, we attempt to demonstrate that He is always here, that what is hidden not only exists, but also constitutes the true reality. Kavod, then, reveals what is hidden beneath the surface, and allows us to respond to the inner, truer dimension of existence. Finding that inner dimension in each aspect of Creation, and in every interaction with another person, is the way we indicate kvod Shamayim…” [1]

                It takes too long to explain it here, but the much maligned “10 Commandments” explain kavod in a way I never could, for truly they are what should be called the “10 Realities” for in them are laid out the way to honor, the way to solve all the problems we face in the world today; in them is kvod Shamayim revealed. Why is this important to us today?

               Honor is seldom taught or understood in our culture today. Ironically, it is the very solution to some of our greatest hurts and needs.  God has said that if children learn to give honor to their parents, their life will be good (the same root word is used when God created and it was "good").  In Hebrew this is a powerful concept.  The Hebrew word for honor "Kavod", literally means heavy. To the modern reader this might not make sense, until we realize that in the ancient times, the Jews bought and sold by weight. Even their money, the shekel, was based on weight. We live in a world where relationships are often based on feelings. When we say that we love someone, we are usually talking about a feeling. But the Biblical concept of love is based on the value of the object of our love.  The feeling may follow the value but honor is much more than a feeling.  Value changes your actions.

             How does value change our actions? Great value changes everything.  This is a basic precept of God's Kingdom. The Bible says in Matthew 13:44 - 46 that... “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (NKJV)

There exists a way to see the concepts written of in the Hebrew language, by looking at the ancient Paleo-Hebraic script used by Moses when He wrote down the words Elohim had given him…

If you have experienced honor from someone who sees and treats you as heavy with value, even for a moment, you will know what I mean. The Hebrew word picture for Honor agrees with the Bible about the impact of honor in our life. When we are valued we open our heart and soul. It is then we begin to see the picture of our lives as a family being woven as a tapestry is woven. Yet, picture a tapestry if you will… At it’s simplest, a tapestry is a work of art, portraying a scene, something for decoration or adoration.  While beautiful to look at, it reveals no depth, no true warmth.
  A family is more than a woven image. We love images in America, we adore our politicians, the actors, the “gangsta”, the biker, the Norman Rockwell’s, but underneath all the facades is there any weight, any depth, any honor? How does one learn of honor anyway?

The best way for a child to learn to honor is from parents that have chosen to honor each other.  The father for good or bad, teaches every child how to value their mother. The mother for good or bad, teaches them how to value their father. What happens when a child learns how to honor at home? The boy or girl will view people differently because of honor. If honor was not the foundation of the home he or she grew up in-  if the father and mother did not honor, but instead discounted the value of each other and of their children,  the result will be a person who does not know the power or reality of honor in life.

Those “10 Realities” speak of this honor. When we learn the first four realities, we learn the value of honor, of the weight of the love for Yahoveh, and His love of us. Honor opens the door of our hearts to all relationships, family, friends, but especially the Father and Son. 
 If we have not honor, we lose the foundation of our very lives.
Our Western culture lives in opposition to Yahvey’s ways, as it focuses on the individual. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of relationship and value. The concept of the Fifth Mitzvot gives us the understanding of value, of honor. The concept of honoring fathers and mothers is a Kingdom concept. Regardless of our situation, good home, or broken home, if we leave behind the wreckage and embrace the Kingdom concept, the promise of the blessings of God begin here…“…that you may live long in the land…”

So we must begin here, not as a woven beautiful tapestry, but of a patch work quilt. Our family, your family, may be separated by time, distance and circumstance, but what will hold us together is the quilt… 

The quilt doesn’t start out as small threads woven together, it starts out as small pieces, some worn, some new. Yet these pieces already are threaded together as one little whole, for isn’t that what we truly are, the sum of all our experiences?  Our mothers and fathers came together and knit their stories into one, and one by one, we were added to the quilt. As we joined with another, we added more pieces together and the quilt grew. What holds the quilt together is the threads of honor, the threads that we tell one another, the memories we have, the stories we will share, the faded pictures, the treasured mementoes, the patch here and there for yes, sometimes the quilt gets torn, but honor patches it together again. The quilt has weight; the quilt has value; the quilt has depth; the quilt has warmth.  Maybe it isn’t as artful as the woven tapestry, but it is infinitely more beautiful, for in the honor it is sewn in, love forms the three-fold cord that can never be broken. The quilt is a kingdom concept: the quilt is family, is mishpacha.  

Allan and Neal are permanent parts to our quilt. Our memories will add to its fabric, and its weight and value. We honor them as they honored each of us, no matter how removed we may have been or seemed, their lives and stories belong to us and to kvod Shamayim, the glory of Heaven. Our quilt will never be finished; there are more stories to tell, more tears to be shed, more patches to add, yet if we remember Kavod, all these will only strengthen our bonds and a stronger family will emerge. If we hold to those 10 realities, especially the first four, then there is nothing that can separate us as mishpacha. Honor begins here, in the understanding that Elohim is the Reality, and if I understand that, I can turn away from that which is false, I can understand and place value upon His Name; I can rest in His peace and Sabbath which allows me to honor…
And From there everything changes.

Wherever you are, whoever you are, sew your quilt. Sew it with tears if you must, but sew it with honor.

May Yahvey Elohim richly bless all today, and hold all who mourn in His loving hands

[1] From the article “Honor Sets the Stage” by Debbie Greenblatt, Sept 14, 2011, in Mishpacha- Jewish Family Weekly,

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