BLESSING THE SEA – ISSUE 8, June 2021 “Fatherhood Journeys”

“He who learns as a child, what is he like? He is like ink written on new paper. And he who learns as an old man? He is like ink written on blotting paper. . . Do not look at the flask but at what’s in it; there may be a new flask that is full of well-aged wine, and an old flask that has none.”

— Pirkei Avot, 4:25-27*

I am generally uncomfortable with Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. Not so much because of these holidays’ historical “association with retailers, who saw great potential for profit in the holiday” (The History Channel), but because the separation between the traditional maternal and paternal roles today is so much less pronounced, and simply irrelevant in an LGBT family like mine.

I say, let’s have a Parent’s Day! OK, make it two holidays – to make the department stores happy.

In this issue of Blessing the Sea, I’d like to highlight several different perspectives on fatherhood.

One is from my mindfulness teacher, Roshi Ryodo Hawley of Zen Center Los Angeles, who explains Zen parenting as one rooted in “wholehearted giving with no thought of return.”

Another is a provocative essay on what it means to be a Jewish father, or, as the writer puts it, “a bit player next to the incandescent and awe-inspiring figure of the Jewish Mother… Patience, wisdom, upright behavior: Is there any room for fun, for irresponsibility, even recklessness?”

I also reflect on my own parenting experience in “Raising Them to Be Strong,” a blog post featured on Father’s Day on Family, recounting the joys and challenges of fathers raising daughters. Take a look.

As a father, I never get angry – oh, sure, never ever… Can anger be manageable, beautiful, transformative even? My latest blog post for Applied Jewish Spirituality presents several mindful anger management practices, including a useful visualization technique I learned in a recent Mussar class.

Lastly, a summer book recommendation: Pirke(i) Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers): Timeless Teachings for Modern Life by William Berkson. This text is alive and anything but ancient! Berkson interprets the sages’ aphoristic sayings through the multiple lenses of contemporary psychology, Greek and Confucian philosophy, American culture, and so on. Like a pocket oracle, it can be opened on any page, and it never loses its depth or freshness.

Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, or any other day, let it be a day of peace and growth for you. Enjoy your summer and stay safe!


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* My adaptation of Pirkei Avot 4:25 and 4:27.

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