When my father got remarried my amazing stepmother, my Ema, he often shares – much to Raizel’s chagrin – that in the beginning he would pull out one child at a time from a closet, spaced out by a week, so she wouldn’t be shocked at having married a man with 11 children.
While one can debate the depth of the humor, the point is certain worth exploration. In China they limit the amount of births allowed due to concern of over population and the ability to sustain the masses.
Many wonder about the ability to properly tend to the needs of so many children. In fairness, there are certainly times when the burden of the “squeaky wheel child” may take some of a parents energy for the rest of the brood.
Having said this, I like to tell people, with a fair measure of sincerity, that love is like a flame of a candle, sharing it with others doesn’t take away from the original candle. You can light hundreds of other candles without diminishing the original candle at all.
This is not true quantitatively, as there are a finite number of hours in a day, however, qualitatively, the depth of the love is limitless. Just when you think you have reached your max, your find new reservoirs of love for another child.
This is why, when I attended the wedding of my niece this past week, I was most moved by a short moment after the Chuppa, and before the reception, that while sweet to most of the onlookers, was particularly meaningful to me a Chabadnik in the burbs trying to just keep up with chaos of life and a family with seven children.
The memo went out, “everyone, family picture NOW in the hallway outside the ballroom, get there now!” Of course I dutifully showed up, but was caught off guard at the size and scope and diversity of the massive group of people jockeying for position in the picture. Little kids in front, adults sitting, teenagers in the back. Oh, and short, fat, balding adults (me), stand with the teenagers.
My in-laws, who are relatively young, sitting pridefully like a king and queen, sitting in the center and can say with incredible pride, look at what we have made. If they did nothing else in their lifetime, this would be worthy of a top shelf spot in paradise.
A young man from Brooklyn, and young lady from Kfar Chabad, a small village in Israel, managed to create a veritable army of successful people with potential that is endless in under a generation.
Not even three decades later, hundreds of children and grandchildren following in their footsteps, is a naches that is brag worthy and a real feather in their cap.
What makes this notable is that it is just a short time after the holocaust where much of both of their families were decimated by the Nazi’s, may their names be blotted out forever.
What makes even more notable is that this is happening in the snowflake generation where the me me me movement is at its strongest (in history?) and yet, there is a love, a bond and unity that replaces the I with the we at least most of the time.
Making life is easy, giving life is harder. Giving a life of values, meaning and purpose is harder yet. Yet this is what they did. This is what it means to have a large family. This is why we do it. This is what makes it worth it all!
Sure, we are no different than others in our squabbles and other idiosyncrasies. We have our differences both with one another and in our individual relationships with Gd. We journey uniquely, but we journey purposefully. In that we are all the same.
A large family is a lot . A lot of work, time, exhaustion, expense and the list goes on, and on, and on. But if I ever doubted its worth, that snapshot (or Kodak moment for those who remember) the other night put the value of it all into crystal clear focus.
Mazal Tov Shver and Shvigger. Look at what you did? You can be really proud.
Lechayim! Onto the next Simcha!
Blog 46/52 Photo Credit Mushka Morozow