Reb Yisroel Gordon Respected His Fatherhood

Today’s youth have a weakness when it comes to respecting elders and authority, but perhaps the fault is not entirely theirs. It’s not easy to respect an authority that doesn’t respect itself. Reb Yisroel Gordon a”h respected his role.

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

Reb Yisroel Gordon, a veteran Chabad chossid and also my wife’s grandfather, passed away this week.

From childhood, he was close with the Rebbe and the Rebbe’s family. When he became engaged, he brought his kallah to meet the Rebbe’s mother, Rebbetzin Chana. During their visit, they suddenly heard a key turning at the front door. “Ah! My son is coming.” The Rebbe had arrived on his daily visit to his mother.

Not wanting to intrude on the Rebbe’s visit, Reb Yisroel and his kallah hurried into a nearby room. From his hiding place, Reb Yisroel overheard how the Rebbe took interest in his mother’s day, asking her if the cleaning lady had come and the like. The Rebbe also made a cup of tea for his mother which she drank as they talked. “The Rebbe sat there as if he had nothing else to do that day.”

Once the Rebbe left, Reb Yisroel watched through the window as the Rebbe practically ran back to 770.

In this week’s sedra we read the mitzvah of kabeid es avicha v’es imecha. The Rebbetzin once remarked: “Indeed, he [the Rebbe] fulfills the mitzvah of kibud eim above and beyond his obligation.”[1]

In her diary, Rebbetzin Chana writes:[2]

“My son, long may he live, about whom I have written above, has just left my home. He visits me daily—may it do me no harm to mention it, as women are wont to say—and twice on Friday. He makes my life much better and, as they say here [in America], makes me feel better.

“My apartment where I am now is not very large. It so happens that during the time he sits here with me, the room seems to be much bigger!”

Honoring one’s parents is the obligation of the child. But there’s another element to this mitzvah as well.

Harav Moshe Wolfson interpreted kabeid es avicha v’es imecha to mean, “Honor your fatherhood and your motherhood.” Parents must respect and honor their position as parents.

During shivah for Reb Yisroel, all his children related in their own way what a devoted father he was. When necessary, he was a disciplinarian and other times, playful. To borrow the Rebbetzin’s words, Reb Yisroel fulfilled the mitzvah of honoring his fatherhood above and beyond his obligation.

This probably explains why his children showed such respect and honor for him, especially during the last years of his illness.

He honored his fatherhood, and that made his fatherhood honorable to his children.

Today’s youth have a weakness when it comes to respecting elders and authority, but perhaps the fault is not entirely theirs. It’s not easy to respect an authority that doesn’t respect itself.

Being a parent is far from easy. Just knowing when to be firm and when to be soft is something most of us struggle with. But the very fact that Hashem commands us to fulfill this position tells us that we are empowered with what it takes.

Let us honor and treasure our position as parents and with Hashem’s help enjoy the honor our children will show us and their Father in heaven, above and beyond their obligation. 

[1] The Chassidisher Derher, 12 Tishrei, 5774

[2] Memoirs of Rebbetzin Chana, part 34

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