| Parshah |

Communication Frustration

Our portion in Olam Haba is contingent on the longing of a heart homeward-bound


“Avraham expired and died in a good old age, old and satisfied, and he was gathered to his people.”

(Bereishis 25:8)


This pasuk relates a fascinating sequence of events. There are three stages to what we call dying. “Avraham expired” means his body ceased functioning. He “died” refers to his body and soul separating. “He was gathered up to his people” means he entered Olam Haba. (Rabbi Label Lam, Torah.org)

Raising bilingual children, it’s often embarrassing when they put their linguistic feet in their mouths.

Because although they think they’re saying exactly what I told them to say, things often get lost in translation, making for mortifying moments.

I still remember the time my five-year-old told my mother that I couldn’t come to the phone because I was “sitting on my sisters’ kids” — her interpretation of babysitting.

I’ve had my kids tell their teachers that their “Mommy is shmenah” (fat, when I was expecting) and “ko’eset kol hazman” (getting angry all the time instead of kotevet — writing, my profession.)

Kinda hard to talk to the teacher at PTA after these.

Chovos HaLevavos asks, “Why the Torah doesn’t tell us more about Olam Haba? Wouldn’t it help us to have more details of what awaits us, to inspire us to get there?”
Among the many answers offered in the Shaar Habitachon is that Olam Haba is not an absolute guarantee based upon the specific performance of a certain number of mitzvos; there’s no business deal. Rather, each person’s connection to Olam Haba is based on the relationship he has with it.
How can we measure a relationship?

For the most part, I find Israelis pretty accommodating when they hear these “fashlot.”

They get this indulgent look on their face — What can you expect from these poor ignorant greeners? — and gently correct the mistake. If only that were enough to prevent it the next time.

A newly married man struggling with shalom bayis approached his rabbi for advice. The rabbi told him to buy his wife flowers every Erev Shabbos.
“That’s it?”
“Then tell her something personal and flattering.”
The poor young man looked bewildered. “I have no idea what to say!”
The Rabbi offered some ideas: “I’m the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” “You’re wonderful,” and the like.
Dutifully, the man presented his wife with a bouquet. Her heart melted with joy, then she waited for him to say something, just as the rabbi had predicted. He looked her squarely in the eye and said, “The rabbi said I should say you’re wonderful!”
Our relationship with Olam Haba isn’t built on doing what we’re “supposed” to do. It’s like davening and thinking, “Hashem, Anshei Knesses Hagedolah told me I should say these words.” Instead, we should be thinking about our own personal connection with the words in front of us. Our portion in Olam Haba is contingent on the longing of a heart homeward-bound.

These experiences have been enlightening to someone like me, an avowed logophile. Words are essential to me — in my thoughts, expressions, certainly in my relationships.

What, then, when my children and I don’t share the same words? Nix fuzzy family time playing Scrabble or bedtime stories of Amelia Bedelia. But what about our communication? Our relationship? How can we connect?

But to my surprise, it’s never been an issue. The heart knows all languages, and love needs no words.

So, when my son climbs onto my lap and takes my face in his hands and looks deeply in my eyes and says dreamily, “Your eyes are the color like the dirt in my playground [k’chol instead of kachol],” I hug him back and say, “I love you too.”


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 765)

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