Dearest son the Seders are the body of my spirit. I turn to you and ask the question Jacob asked his sons: Will you be connected to the lineage of your noble ancestors?” Hear O Israel” they answered, “The Lord our God the Lord is One.” This is also an echo of Malachi and Elijah, the dining room table being the place the reconciliation dialogues between Father and Son religion will begin.
As Hans Kung suggests this discussion begins a process that defines fundamentals and understanding between the religions, a prerequisite for peace between the nations. Amen. Sealah.
Franz never sent his letter to his father. I imagine it remained in a pocket in his mother’s apron. We have all experienced the threats, irony, spiteful laughter, and oddly- self pity of our own fathers. Did our mothers stand idly by, empowering the abuse?
Son, I became a rabbi to flee anything that remotely reminded me of my Father. My most serious joke is that I rebelled and became a Rabbi.
Now, to my dead father, in this Kaddish, I confess an ignorance of who you were and what you saw and suffered. At the end of your life we shared our Judaism in harmony. You considered me a success as a Rabbi and family man, praising Karen for the women of valor she is and acknowledging that Joseph and Talyah did not just happen to be extraordinary children. Our Shabbat Seder meals together, are highpoints in our life.
Joseph my son, my father Abraham Isaac, Adolf the Jew, wanted to be a Cantor in his later years. He went through all the training, put on Tefillin, like Kafka, and even led services Friday evenings in Las Vegas. Now I know he did this all for me.
Franz Amschel Kafka found his way back to Torah via his Lowy mother. He considered himself more his mothers son than his fathers’ son.
I can relate, for Kafka set the pattern I and future generations follow.
Would it be better for us, fatherless, also to not have a Jewish Mother?
Jewish mothers, listen: the men’s domain, the synagogue and church and Governments may be beyond repair. Men await male messiahs and have not found one who teaches a way to actually achieve prosperity and peace.
My Mother, Rachel Rhoda, wife of Adolf the Jew
My mother always told me she would love me even if I became a garbage man.
“Son I will always love you even if you are not a success.” Motherlove.
The domain of the home is redeemable. Remember our tradition also teaches that Peace on Earth begins with Peace in the home, as Elijah proclaims.
Franz writes in his letter to his father that when the Ark of the Covenant was opened in the Synagogue he was reminded of shooting galleries, except there something interesting popped up, a target where one could hit the bull’s eye. In the Ark, Kafka remarks, it was always just the same old dolls without heads. What a wonderful cheap shot! What an image!
I recently taught, in a public forum, that modern Bar and Bat Mitzvahs that mark the end of Jewish life for the celebrant is idolatry. I actually thought some of the listeners might hit me. Kafka is exactly to the point again when he confesses his bar mitzvah was a “ridiculous memorizing, the passing of an examination”. True then, true now.
Franz was also alienated by his Fathers Passover celebration in the home. The Seder became a farce, with fits of hysterical laughter, because the parents were unable to disciple or discipline their children.
Remember, Joseph, you could have done any Torah portion any week of the year for your Bar Mitzvah. You chose to lead the Passover Seder when you were thirteen. This family right of passage worked under your leadership, a true Bar Mitzvah. Franz Amschel had to wait until just before his death for his real Bar Mitzvah.
Son, your only complaint about me as a Father is that I may not have been strict enough. I understand. Now, with Gevurah, I ask you son if you will be a disciple? I will ask you once again the question Father Jacob Israel asked his sons: Will you proclaim the God of Israel by walking the path of Torah? The Seders have your Name!
With all the dreadful fear Franz Amschel Kafka had for his Father he always honored his father. My father also mainly demanded respect.
My son, I only want love, so love is what I give.
Love, your Father, Aryeh Moshe, son of Abraham Isaac Alpern