The Internment of Good
The famous phrase by William Shakespeare upon the burial of Julius Caesar frequently comes to mind: “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.” This is true when we as humans feel slighted, ignored and/or diminished by friends and family whom we have mentored, raised and loved. It happens in daily life. The friend who has let us down, the child that we have cherished who ignores his parents because he finds fault and only remembers something she did not give or do for him, forgetting that he was pampered and coddled, that his mere smile brought rapture into their lives; the daughter who reverses roles, diminishes them, becomes critical, directive, impatient and embarrassed when she has to deal with her mother on occasion; the many husbands and wives who find fault and become hateful to the person they once adored. The children who speak evil about their father because he is ignorant or has opinions contrary to theirs. The grandchildren who only remember the inconvenience their grandparents are, how intrusive “with their boring reminiscences” and their presence at an occasion. They have forgotten the trips, the car or the airplane tickets that were extended to them, the listening ear, the comfort given, the loyalty they gave against a child’s “enemies” by going to the school to avoid further hurts, by interceding for them when parents were angry, and much more.
The psychological internment of good allows the perpetrator to shed any feeling of gratitude or responsibility toward the discarded, inconvenient human, thus clearing him or her of conscience. Gratitude is a rare feeling.
I am reminded of a single gentleman who sat on the doorstep outside of his apartment and made the statement, “I don’t owe anyone anything, and they owe me nothing.” He was a pitiful creature - so afraid that he might have had to extend himself in any way.
We as Jews are encouraged to help each other and any and all of humanity to whom we can extend a helping hand. It is true when we give “Schlach Mones”, to people in need (symbolically it is now a gift bag with some enticing food to our brethren); when we “sell our chometz,” paying the synagogue who can use the funds for a worthy person or cause, when we give “zedakah” funds where needed to the poor, and so on. The person who gives without recompense, without expecting anything in return is truly a Tzadik. To give “bechol levovko, ufchol nafschecho, ufchol meodecho” (with heart, soul and hand) belongs in that catergory.
We should not have to worry about our offspring when they extend themselves for us, the parents. As parents we have given with love and enjoyment to furnish them with a healthy, fulfilling and secure life that we did not have (especially those of us who lived through the Nazi era). For many years we were the givers and most of the Jewish parents and others gave without hesitancy without wanting anything in return. Parents do not want to be the receivers or play the role of child to those they have raised from infancy. They want to live with dignity - not with reluctantly given doles with rejection and with anger!
The mother of Absalom physically punished her son so that he should not shame her as he grew into adulthood with these words: My son, if you will be evil the world will hold me responsible! Even in biblical times parents, especially mothers, felt guilty and took responsibility for their offspring's behaviors and actions!
folk who suffered the holocaust and survived and those who have lost their
parents because of it, or who barely knew them, and those of us who had Jewish
parents, let us give them the koved they deserve, have derach eretz and remember
them with love and devotion.
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.