As the son of a Rabbi, I recall a rather interesting childhood. Each one of us is certainly a product of our parents’ best efforts to raise us, teach us, and protect us... all the while allowing us to make mistakes in order to learn and to grow. I must say that my parents did a pretty good job, and I credit them with helping me through all the challenges that came with simply growing up, and all those unique challenges that came with growing up as a Rabbi’s son.
As a Rabbi, I realize that my own children are part of a very exclusive group, known in the biz as “RKs” – Rabbi’s Kids. And while there are no fees to belong, each of us who is a proud member of the club has certainly paid our dues.
Years ago, I remember a “Top Ten” list circulating on the internet – written by an RK – that presented some of the challenges of being a part of this group. Some entries on the list included:
- People saying, “You should know better about...” well, everything!
- Seeing your father being close with other kids, but not always having time for you.
- Others expectations that you can read Hebrew fluently and know the tune to every song.
And the NUMBER ONE reason was... (drum roll please): You're the last ones to leave the Oneg!
Certainly, there are challenges to being an RK. But also such great rewards. In just a few weeks, Shelley and I will have the great joy of sitting together (a rarity) to celebrate the B’nei Mitzvah of our children, Abby and Steven. From the start of their preparation, Shelley and I wanted them to know exactly what we – as their proud parents – NOT as “Rabbi” and “Rebbitzin” – expected of them. We told them to:
Study the material.
Keep up with your schoolwork.
And above all else, “Be true to yourselves and to your abilities. Be YOU.”
As it turns out, this is the same advice my parents gave to me.
Needless to say, we are expecting a full house. And yet, it is our hope that when our children stand at the Torah, they each feel that same intimate connection with God and with our tradition as every other Bar- and Bat- Mitzvah student. They will be aware of the awesome nature of the task before them, yet I want them to remember the words written on the Ark wall behind them, “da lifnei mi atah omed,” “Know before whom you stand.”
I believe that every student who stands at the Torah is capable of great things. They are individuals – each with good character and a warm heart;
I believe that every student who stands at the Torah is a product of their parents’ DNA as well as a product of their parents’ beliefs, values, and actions.
Shelley and I are so proud of our children for all they have accomplished, and all we feel they have accepted and embraced as a part of what their family-life happens to be. Some would say, “I can’t imagine what it must be like to be the child of a rabbi.” Fortunately, I can say that I have, in fact, lived through it – and, I survived to tell the tale! But I knew I had come into my own when one day, at a rabbinic conference, someone approached my dad and asked him if he was Rabbi Astrachan’s father.
Shelley and I often count our many blessings. As we celebrate this important milestone in the lives of our children, we pray that they remain true to themselves and that they continue on their lifelong journeys blessed with the ability and the opportunity to perform God's commandments each and every day.
May they do well, but more importantly, may they do GOOD. May they always have self-esteem and confidence, but let that be coupled with an equal measure of self-control and selflessness. May God bless them in all of their worthy endeavors, and may they GO and GROW from strength to strength!
Rabbi Jeffrey R. Astrachan