The Son Who Learned to Question

Passover, 1960, I remember, my fathers Haggaddah revealed the mystery of Adolf the Jew. The Haggaddah had a wooden front and back and


printed in the hand of a child. The book was from Germany. An observant ten year old I was sure something was written under Abraham. I snuck into the bathroom with a pencil and using the side of the point shaded “Abraham” to see what was written over. “Adolf.”

“What is this”, I asked, the question of the simple son. I was ignored. No one answered. I waited a lifetime to find a response.

My father and I once road alone from Pittsfield to Greenfield along the Mohawk trail, a trip around two hours long each way. He never said a word. I assumed I was the cause of his being mute. I was raised in silence.

In 1985 when I was doing post graduate family therapy training my dad flew in from Las Vegas and I interviewed him for three weeks. I even took him into Great Meadows Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison where I was the Jewish Chaplain.

I presented the story of my family of origin to the other therapists. The focus of the one year training was on how our relationships with our family influence how we act as therapists. This was especially true for me, the only clergyman, since I would play out family scripts in my congregational family.

My congregation also gave me the silent treatment, never discussing how they felt. When I resigned I was relieved that I would no longer play the role of their Father. Rabbis, it is said, are not Priests and have no mediatory powers. Actually modern Rabbis are often professional Jews who do in fact act as priests for their congregations and offer Aaron’s priestly benediction to the congregation at every service. Call us Rabbi or call us Father. Or was I the son?

I preferred prison work to congregational life as you will see from my screenplay, Days of Awe. To begin from the beginning I will tell you about my birth, as related to me by my mother (after my father died.)

Continue to My Mother