Letter To Son

To my dear son, Binyamin Zev,

Of all the times that I could not be with you, this one is the most painful of them all. I so wanted to be with you when you read from the Torah and accepted upon yourself the yoke of
mitzvot! It is certainly a mitzvah to dedicate oneself and to sacrifice on behalf of our People and Torah - and missing your Bar Mitzvah is the greatest sacrifice of all for me. All of my efforts, for you and your sisters and brother, are to instill within you one basic understanding: that it is not life itself that is important, but rather how you live it. That you should know what is important and eternal, and what is trivial and passing...

And now, I want to impart to you some advice, which was accumulated through life experience and the Holy Torah, whose lessons are sweet as honey, better than a thousand rubies:

1. Be equipped with "Ahavat Yisrael" (Love of Jews). Be sensitive to your brothers' pain,
"Do not stand idly by your brothers' blood", and "You shall love your fellow Jew as yourself". These are the golden rules of the Torah. To achieve this love, work on yourself to create within you a merciful heart, a tendency for giving and loathing injustice...

2. Concerning "Ahavat Yisrael," it is quite important not to neglect
yourself. Just as it is forbidden to hate a Jew, it is also forbidden to despise yourself. Understand this. And just as it is forbidden for one to hate himself and think badly about himself, it is also forbidden to go to the other extreme, and love oneself in a way that he becomes arrogant and haughty. In english, there are 2 words for "ahava." One is love - one should not love himself. But the other word is like - one should like himself, he should be self-confident, but not arrogant. Because people who are at either extreme - that is, they love themselves or hate themselves - both will eventually hate the other person. He who hates himself is incapable of loving anyone, and he who loves himself will look down upon others. And so if you go in G-d's way, know that this is the true path. You will have self-confidence and not be trapped in dangerous extremes. And most important - simcha (joy)! Happiness in your portion; calm acceptance of the good and the bad. If you act accordingly, you will be happy all the days of your life.

3. Steep yourself in the sea of Torah. Acquire the ability to sit diligently and drink from its waters. The Almighty endowed you with exceptional talents, a sharp and open mind... Set for yourself a fixed learning regimen, so you will learn at fixed times ten verses from Chumash (with Rashi), one half chapter of Tanach, one Mishnah, two
halachot from the Mishnah Brura - if you do this each day, praiseworthy are you!

4. Respect for your mother and elders, especially Grandma Kahane who is a widow. Visit her at least once a week. Know that doing
chesed is greater than giving tzedaka, since the latter is only with money, and the former is with both money and self.

5. Accept upon yourself the Yoke of Heaven - that is, to make His will your will. Sometimes out of a lack of understanding, we may not "agree" with a certain Torah concept. Know that the true definitions of "justice", "mercy" and "truth" are defined by the Almighty who created justice and truth. He knows what is good and what is right, and if we just trust Him, we will begin to understand what was previously unclear.

6. Acquire for yourself a
rav, and learn from him. But don't turn into a parrot or a robot. If there is a shiur or a halchic ruling you do not understand, ask the rav one hundred times. If in light of the sources, it still seems incorrect - while you must obey the ruling, continue to nudge the rav. If he still does not budge, or does not explain his view convincingly, and it is an issue that is important to you, start looking for another rav. Respect for the Torah does not mean that one becomes a robot who cannot think for himself.

Finally, know for the rest of your life that you will not find people who love you more than your parents do. If you have a problem - no matter what it is - turn to us and we will help you as much as we can. Don't be shy, and don't hesitate. The meaning of love is that each one wants to
give and not to take. Read this letter from time to time, and I am sure you will be helped by it...

With Love,

By Rabbi Meir Kahane
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