Import jQuery

Some Thoughts for Father's Day by Aaron Hecht


(Aaron moments after he first became a father)

I became a father for the first time 11 years and a few months ago.

It was one of the most profound changes that had ever come to my life, bigger even than getting married or moving to Israel. I could write a book about all the changes becoming a dad brought to my life (and maybe someday I will) but I have a more modest goal for this blog, and that is simply to help anyone out there who has a less-than-ideal relationship with this phenomenon of fatherhood.

The word "father" appears 1,511 times in the New King James version of the Bible, so I think it's safe to assume that it's a topic of some importance to God. Another way we can be sure it's important to God is by looking around at the tremendous efforts the Enemy is making to attack fatherhood and tear it down.

Fatherhood in particular and masculinity in general have become the targets of tremendous scorn and contempt in many Western countries. I recently saw a video in which a female professor of something called "Gender studies" at a prominent British university was being interviewed about a book she'd recently published on the subject. This individual was very caustic and spiteful in many of her comments during the interview, and her British accent made it that much more epic. But one line really stood out, when she said "The only thing I don't like about the phrase "toxic masculinity" is that it's a bit redundant, not unlike the male human beings it describes."

Gosh, that's harsh.

But harsh as it may be, the attitude it reflects is sadly not unusual.

As the late Billy Graham once said, "A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society."

This trend started before I was born and it's not something that can be fixed or even seriously addressed in a short blog like this one.

Instead, on this Father's Day, I'd like to try and do what I can to repair some of the damage that's out there by sharing a few thoughts with anyone who has a difficult relationship with the phenomenon of "fatherhood". I'll do that by writing an open letter to men who have recently become fathers and they're not sure how to proceed because their own father didn't set a very positive example for them.

Although this letter is meant for that specific target audience, I think other people will benefit from reading it. This might include women who maybe like a man but have a hard time trusting him to become their husband and potentially the father of their children. It might also include women who are married to a man who they wish was a better father, or to children of a father who is absent, neglectful, abusive, pathetic, or otherwise less than ideal.

Last but not least, I think reading this letter might be helpful to parents of sons who are about to or have recently become a father, and you'd like to help them in their new role.

In short brothers and sisters, ANYONE out there who is, or who knows someone who is, a father already or about to become a father, or who might soon become a father, and you'd like to help them be a GOOD father and thus become a point of light in this catastrophically dysfunctional world we live in, then this blog is for you.
-----------------------------
Dear New Dad,

Mazel Tov!

Being a dad is one of the most fun things in life. But it's also very challenging, and aggravating, and expensive, and heart-breaking, and...um...let's move on.

I know you had a less-than-perfect relationship with your own dad and you want to be a better father than he was so your children have a better experience than you did. I know exactly what that's like, so let me give you a few things that I hope will help you with this.

My dad was deeply imperfect, but he was present for most of my childhood and although there are many patterns of behavior he had which I try very hard to avoid emulating, there are also a few things he did right that I DO try to emulate.

So my first nugget of advice to you is to write down some things that your dad did that you wished he hadn't done, and then when you're finished with that, go through the list and forgive him for each of these things, one by one. If he's still alive, or even if he's not, write him a letter telling him you've forgiven him for these things and thanking him for showing you a bunch of things to NOT do.

It might be difficult and it might even be strange to do this, but it'll do you a lot of good, believe it or not.

When you're done with that process, write down a few things that your father did that you think were positive and that you WOULD like to emulate. Write down the things you're grateful for that he did and put that in the letter next.

I know it's possible that your father impregnated your mother and then abandoned her and you and you've never met him or even know his name. But even if that's the situation, just thank him for taking this action which resulted in you having the opportunity to exist.

If you've got more that you can thank him for, then do it.

Thank your father for teaching him things that you SHOULD do in life, no matter how short or long that list might be.

Conclude the letter by telling your dad that you'd really like to restore the relationship with him and invite him to be part of the life of your new child. Make it clear that there will be very strict boundaries to this arrangement, especially if your father was physically, emotionally and/or sexually abusive, or if he was absent. But tell him that the mistakes he made in the past are forgiven, and you want to redeem whatever time you have left to be in a relationship with him, as well as admit your need for his help.

Once again, this can be VERY difficult for you and maybe also strange, especially if your father is no longer biologically alive.

But here's the thing, whether he's biologically alive or not, whether you've ever met him or not, your father lives in your head. Your memories of him, good, bad, and in between, form an image you have of him in your mind, and that image will live as long as you do.

It will be impossible for you to ignore, much less get rid of it. This image, whether you're consciously aware of it or not, will affect every relationship you have with other people, especially your own children.

That's why you need to forgive your father for any mistakes he made or wounds he caused you, not for his sake but for your own sake and the sake of your children. You need to rehabilitate the relationship you have with your father so that you can have healthy relationships with other people.

Last but certainly not least, you need to make peace with your biological father if you want to have peace with your heavenly Father.

It's a well-established fact that most people have an image in their mind of God that is very similar to their biological father. If you want your children to have a good relationship with God then you need to make it a very high priority to make sure they have a good relationship with you. Their mother should also make that a high priority. It's not good for mothers to teach their children to have a bad attitude toward their fathers, but as Ephesians 6:4 says; Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

In other words, do what you can, where you can, with what you have. Whatever the situation is, make the best of it. If you're blessed to have a normative relationship with your father, thank God for it and take maximum advantage of it.

If your relationship is not normative, try to do what you can to restore and redeem it as best you can. Remember, you're not (only) doing it for him, you're doing it for yourself and you're doing it for everyone else in your life who depends on you for anything, especially your own children.

To sum up, writing a letter to your dad in which you tell him all the things you've needed to forgive him for, thank him for the things you want to thank him for, and inviting him to be reconciled and take an active part in helping you raise your own children is a great way to start your own journey of fatherhood. This is true even or perhaps especially if your father is no longer alive.

If he is alive, then maybe you can actually send him this letter you've written. If he's not, then maybe you can go to his grave and read it to him, or if that's not convenient just read it in front of a picture you have of him.

Last but certainly not least, I implore you to pray for your biological father and thank your heavenly Father for him. Doing this will soften your heart towards him, if that's necessary, and it will also be a way to obey the Fifth Commandment to "Honor your father and mother, so that your days may be long on the earth."

Getting back to Ephesians 6:4, how do you avoid provoking your children to anger, or as some translations say "exasperating" them?

I can't give you all the answers to that question, but I have a few.

As your children grow up, be intentional about spending time with them, teaching them about the Lord and many other things they'll need to know in life. Remember that NO ONE will have more influence on them then you, and that includes if you neglect them, which will teach them that they're not worthy of being loved and this will cause them all kinds of problems.

So make an effort to make an effort.

Another one of the best things you can do is surround yourself with older men who can offer guidance and direction to you. If your own father isn't in the picture for whatever reason, or if he is but he's not very helpful, seek counsel from older men who you can trust to give you good advice and set a good example. The life of a Believer is meant to be lived in a community, and this is one very important reason for that. None of us can do this alone, we all need each other.

One last bit of advice I'd give you is to be willing to admit it when you make a mistake and ask your children for forgiveness. This will go a long way towards easing any wounded feelings they might have and keeping your relationship with them solid.

Don't believe the old line that "children are resilient." There might be some truth to that, but all too often this gets used as an excuse to treat children badly and/or carelessly. The scars this will leave on their hearts, and the damage it will do to their lives, is beyond any measure of "resilience" they might have.

Just think about how many things you're still angry and hurt about that were done to you when you were one of those "resilient" children.

Finally, be willing to forgive yourself. Don't make excuses for your bad behavior, but don't be too hard on yourself either. You're only human, and you're doing your best. It doesn't help anyone to beat yourself up or dwell on past failures.

There's a lot more you need to do in order to be a good dad, but that's a really good place to start.

Being a dad is hard work, but it's also a lot of fun, so enjoy it!

Your pal,
Aaron



Some Thoughts on Loving Your Neighbor by Aaron Hecht


Matthew 22:37–39Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

I've heard many messages on this passage over the years, and you probably have too. I have some of my own thoughts on this subject and I'd like to share them. But first, I am reminded of something Bible teacher Derek Prince once said, "There is no shortage of people who need us. They are all around us—people who need to be loved are everywhere. They are lonely; no one cares for them; they lack answers and are desperate. You don’t have to go far from home to find people like that."

This quote, I believe, gives an answer to the question someone always asks whenever this topic is brought up, to wit "who is my neighbor."

I think Jesus' meaning in this verse is obviously that our "neighbor" is everyone who lives on this planet, all 8 billion or so human beings. But loving 8 billion people, and even showing love for them in a practical way, is a lot for anyone to contemplate. So it's better to start with something more manageable.

Therefore, the people who live in your immediate vicinity, including your family or your roommates, other people who live in the same apartment building you do, or in the house next to your house, etc. are an obvious place to start. These people are our "neighbors" by any definition and if we don't treat them with love we probably won't treat other people who meet less obvious definitions of "neighbor".

As Derek Prince said, you don't have to go far to find people who need compassion and hope (in other words, the Gospel). There's probably someone who needs the Gospel within easy walking distance of where you're sitting and reading this blog right now. If you want to share the Gospel with them, you must first establish a relationship with them, because as the old saying goes "people won't care what you know unless they know that you care."

Getting to know your neighbors is the first step to loving them

From the time I was a small child, I can remember hearing people lament that most Americans (and it's true in many other countries as well) don't even know the names of the people who live in houses and apartments in close proximity to them. If they do, it's usually because there's been arguments or fights with them.

I grew up in a house several miles outside of the nearest small town, with our closest "neighbors" living in another isolated house almost two miles away down a dead-end, unpaved road. I think that's a fairly good excuse for not knowing my neighbors back then. 

But these days, I live on the ground floor of a small, three-story apartment building and the stairway that leads to the second and third floors is right above my front door. So I see these upstairs neighbors all the time as they're going up and down the stairs. They're not always in a good mood (and neither am I always in a good mood) so these interactions aren't always pleasant, although I do my best to make them so.

Sometimes they have loud music playing late at night, or sometimes there are arguments between teenagers and their parents, or between parents, or between siblings (especially teenagers) and so on. Sometimes the neighbors shout at each other about different things, and that's the worst.

Sometimes I'll find garbage on my porch or in the garden that must have been thrown out of one of the windows on the second or third floor. Once there was even a kid who was a guest of someone who lived upstairs who stayed there with them for a few days and while he was there, he thought it was funny to urinate on my porch from the stairs.

In short, it's not always easy to love these neighbors of mine but I try, and I've had some success. 

So if you've got neighbors who live next door, or on a floor above you, or around the corner, or two miles away, or whatever, and you'd like to get to know them so you can love them, help them, share the Gospel with them, etc. then here's a few things I've found that can be helpful in this regard, even or perhaps especially if they're not easy to get along with.

For starters, especially if you live in an older building, there's always stuff breaking. So one way to get to know your neighbors and develop a relationship with them is to acquire basic plumbing, carpentry, and maintenance tools and learn how to use them. This will make you really popular with your neighbors and it'll form the foundation for a good relationship with them which can generate benefits in many other areas.

Even if you don't have time to learn handyman-type skills, just look for things in the area that need fixing and/or cleaning and take the initiative. It doesn't have to be complicated.

When I first moved into this building, the garden and parking spaces were full of trash, dead leaves, etc. I grabbed the broom and a few other tools and cleaned it all up in less than two hours. Since then, I've spent just a couple of hours a month keeping the area around the building tidy and it has really endeared me to everyone, including people who live in other buildings up and down our little street.

The crazy thing is, I did it for myself, because doing yard work is good exercise and also a way to unwind from all the hassles and distractions from working at the office. I also did it because I didn't want to come back from work every day and see my home looking like a trash heap.

But in the process of taking care of this simple task, I built good relationships with everyone who lives here. These neighbors of mine have helped me out in all kinds of ways because of these healthy relationships, and everyone who lives in this building has benefited from it.

Closer to home (literally) I've found that taking care of ordinary day-to-day tasks like laundry and washing dishes is a great way to make my wife happy, and as another old saying goes "happy wife, happy life."

My wife is my closest "neighbor" after all, and so I should be willing and even eager to serve her and love her and try to make things easier for her in any way I can. She does the same for me by the way, and it works pretty good that way.

Making the best of a difficult situation

In the last 8 months that Israel has been at war, the people who live in our little building on our little street have become much closer. We talk often about ways we can help each other prepare for the possible scenarios that we can see coming and in many day-to-day things as well. I've lost count of the number of trips I've taken to hardware stores, camping stores, and even the grocery stores, together with my neighbors who weren't sure what to get to fortify their homes. In turn, my neighbors have helped me with many things, especially things that require paperwork with the government, since these kinds of things require really high-level Hebrew, and my Hebrew isn't at that level.

Further afield, I've grown much closer with the other parents at the school where my sons attend, as we've all had to rely on each other for many things. This has provided me with many opportunities to love the neighbors I have who live in buildings up and down these streets. I would have preferred to get to know these people under less stressful circumstances, but I'm grateful for the opportunity nonetheless.

Everyone knows we're Believers, and that's not always welcome in Israel (although it's much less of an issue now than it was when I first made Aliyah 20+ years ago). But my willingness to be helpful to anyone who needs help has led to a lot of very fruitful conversations, even with people who are ultra-Orthodox and Modern Orthodox.

These neighbors of mine, whether religiously observant, traditional or secular, often "lack answers and are desperate" and they're interested to know what I think about all this. Knowing that I care about them has made people care about what I know and what I think. It all started with me spending a couple of hours raking up leaves and picking up some garbage in the garden in front of our building. That was how these relationships started, and over time, it's led to this.

So, in conclusion, brothers and sisters, I beg to remind you (and myself) of yet another old saying that we are all called to "make a dent where you're sent."

If you want to be about our Father's business of sharing the Gospel with a lost and dying world that desperately needs it, a good place to start is by looking around your own neighborhood and seeing what opportunities there are to serve your community.

Is there junk lying around that needs to be picked up? Are there leaves and other trash littering the street that need to be swept up and thrown in the dumpster? Are there little repairs that need to be done on public spaces and/or infrastructure? Are there other children who go to school with your children whose parents need help? Are there elderly people who live alone and look like they need someone to invite them over for coffee and a snack? Are there single mothers who need help (remember that the Bible has a lot to say about the importance of caring for widows and orphans)?

You don't have to go far to find people who need the Gospel, and these days, with things getting so difficult and frightening, people are more open to the Gospel message than they would be in more easy times. There's never a bad time to "love your neighbor as yourself" but the season of history we're in now makes it an especially auspicious time.

One last point I'd make about all this is that loving our neighbors as ourselves IS a great way to love ourselves because one of the quickest ways to feel better about your own problems is to help someone else with their problems.

On that note, I hope reading this blog blessed your life.

Some Thoughts on Aliyah at this time by Aaron Hecht

 


A group of new immigrants arrive in Israel (Wikipedia)

I made Aliyah to Israel right in the middle of what was already being called the "Second Intifada." Buses were being blown up by suicide bombers in Tel Aviv, tourist venues in Jerusalem were being targeted, and the economy was in very bad shape. Over 250,000 people were unemployed and a fairly large number of people were leaving the country, while a tiny number were moving here.

I was one of that tiny number, and from the first moment I got here, everyone I met expressed their disbelief that I was coming at a time when they wanted so badly to leave. I mean, literally, the first conversation I had along those lines was with the cab driver who drove me from the airport to my hotel where I spent my first night here.

His name was Yitzhak, he was in his late fifties, a veteran of the Yom Kippur War, and he spoke to me in the tone of a concerned uncle, saying in as many words that I was young and foolish and making a terrible mistake. He even offered to turn the cab around and drive me back to the airport so I could get back on a plane and go home, and he wasn't joking. When he dropped me off at my hotel, he gave me his card, which had the number of his cell phone (a somewhat new technology at the time that was just beginning to be commonly available in Israel) and told me that if I changed my mind I should call him and he'd come get me and make sure I got back to the airport.

I still have that card, and I even called the number a few years later to say hi and let him know I was okay and still in Israel. He was glad to hear from me and told me to stay in touch, but I kind of got the feeling that it would be awkward if I did, so I didn't call him again.

In any case, Yitzhak might have been the first Israeli I met who expressed incredulity that a young American would be coming to Israel at a time when so many veteran Israelis would have liked to leave, but he wasn't the last.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed, there would be many more well-meaning people who said similar things to me when I informed them that I'd decided to make Aliyah at that time. They sometimes also expressed respect for my courage and idealism, but to my surprise (I was VERY naive back then) many of them also expressed high-octane cynicism about this country and sometimes I even felt like people resented me for what I was doing.

But the years passed, the Second Intifada came to an end, and conditions in Israel improved. Eventually, the expressions of disbelief that I would choose to stay in Israel when I had the option of leaving and going to live in America became less frequent.

But now, with Israel embroiled in a seemingly endless war that threatens to rapidly intensify into something much worse at any moment, I'm once again being asked more frequently if I'd consider going back to the US. But this time, it isn't my fellow Israelis making these well-meaning but incredibly annoying suggestions, but old friends from the US who have been watching too many "news" reports and assume that I'm in imminent, mortal danger.

Nothing could be further from the truth, as I probably don't have to explain to readers of this blog. In fact, as difficult as things are in Israel right now, with a multi-front military conflict, tough economic times, a deeply dysfunctional government, and an increasingly dysfunctional civil society, I still feel much more comfortable here than I would back in the Old Country.

That's because the America I grew up in is almost entirely gone, having been replaced by something I never thought it was even possible that it would become. Things are happening in the United States that would have been literally unthinkable just a few short years ago, and it makes me very grateful I live in Israel, even with all our problems.

An anecdotal example of this came to me in the form of an article this week in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, telling a story about an incident in the small town of Woodstock in upstate New York. This small town of 6,000 people has just a few Jewish families in it, but a bunch of anti-Israel thugs decided that was a good enough reason to go there a few days ago and take part in a demonstration that included screaming abuse at the Jewish elementary school students as they attempted to ride past in their school bus.

The mother of two of these terrified children went to rescue them and she came under verbal attack from the protesters as well. But she said that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was that some of her neighbors came out of their homes to shout encouragement at the protesters.

This anecdotal incident is demonstrative of a VERY widespread phenomenon.

It might be a hackneyed cliche to say "The world is losing its mind" but there is an ever-growing list of anecdotal incidents that point to the conclusion that in this season of history, the world really is losing its mind, and this hackneyed cliche is becoming an actual, undeniable fact.

I have written before in these blogs about how we're in the so-called "post-truth world" in which everyone feels entitled to their own opinion AND their own facts and having the actual, objective truth on your side won't help you much. Many people are still acting rationally, but many more have stopped even trying.

Another anecdote that demonstrates this came across my desk this week. It was a report about how the massive floods that recently struck Brazil have given rise to truly astounding conspiracy theories.

Instead of accepting that sometimes bad weather just happens, many people are expressing their belief in ludicrously absurd rumors about how the torrential rains that caused these floods were caused by weather monitoring towers in Alaska, vapor trails seeded in the clouds by airplanes sent up by some mysterious/sinister cabal of evil bad guys, etc.

Brothers and sisters, some of you might be wondering what a bunch of looney toon conspiracy theories about extreme weather in Brazil have to do with Israel, Jews, or Aliyah.

The answer is, EVERYTHING!

When bad times come, and they always do sooner or later, people always get scared and worried. They worry about what'll happen to them and their families, they worry about where they'll get enough money to pay for all the things they need, they worry about whether the things they think they need will even be available and what will happen to them if they're not.

When people get worried about these things, it leads to them being angry, and it leads to a weakening of their ability to think rationally and/or their willingness to listen to reason. It leads to them being less willing, or even able, to believe the truth when they hear it. It leads to them being willing to believe lies that, if they weren't so afraid, they'd realize were utterly absurd. Last but certainly not least, it leads to them looking for something or someone to blame for everything that's going wrong all around them.

The Jewish people have been victims of this toxic brew of absurd, hysterical nonsense many times over the past 2,000 years, and NOTHING is stopping this pattern from repeating itself again.

As Voltaire said, "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

We can already see that large numbers of people all over the Western world, including the United States, have been talked into believing the absurd lies that Hamas and its supporters are peddling. It's caused them to voice their approval for the atrocities that Hamas committed on October 7th, and it is a VERY short step from voicing approval for such atrocities that someone else committed and committing atrocities yourself.

In summary friends, there is a kind of madness sweeping this world, and it's making everything more and more dysfunctional. The huge rise in anti-Semitism all over the world is only part of a larger problem of a massive and unprecedented rise in sheer insanity of every imaginable kind. Demonic spiritual forces are obviously part of what's driving this madness, as has been the case in the past.

I believe that many things are near a breaking point, and unprecedented upheaval and chaos are just around the corner. Because of this, every day that goes by it will get more dangerous for Jewish people, whether they live in big cities like Paris, London, and Los Angeles, or small towns like Woodstock, New York. 

With all of this in mind, making Aliyah at this time might seem like a huge risk, but the fact is that despite the ongoing war and all the other problems, there is no safer place for Jewish people in the entire world right now.

Appending "You might like" to each post.