In recent years, an unspeakable tragedy unfolded for a Jewish family in Brooklyn. A hot plate, left on as Jews typically do in order not to violate Sabbath law by cooking on the Sabbath, malfunctioned and set off a blazing fire that enveloped the family’s home. As it was shortly after midnight, the Sassoon family was asleep. Their father was away on a spiritual retreat. The fire claimed the lives of seven of the eight Sassoon children. Only the mother and one daughter survived by jumping out a second-story window.
I am not telling this story because I can explain it. When a tragedy of such magnitude occurs, there simply are no words. We are as Aaron was when his two children, Nadab and Abihu, were killed by fire: “Aaron remained silent” (Leviticus 10:3). There is nothing to say, nothing to explain. Our silent faith says more than any words could.
However, I do want to share with you the words of Rabbi Gabriel Sassoon, the father of the seven angels who were his children. Moments such as these are horribly painful, and yet there is a certain clarity and light that shines forth. Rabbi Sassoon’s words at the funeral of his seven children not only glorified God, but also taught us some powerful lessons.
“People forget what’s important in life,” Rabbi Sassoon tearfully said. “My children were unbelievable. They were the best. But the truth is, every child is the best. Every child is the most beautiful child there is in the world . . . When you love your child, you are loving Hashem (God). The child’s smile, his giggle, his laughter, his successes, his dreams – that’s a reflection of Hashem . . . Please everybody, love your child; love your student; love the other children. That’s all that counts.”
Psalm 72 marks King David’s last psalm.The last verse reads: “This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse” (v.20).What is the subject of David’s final words to us?What is the object of his last recorded prayer to God?It is a plea on behalf of his son, King Solomon.The psalm begins: “Of Solomon. Endow the king with your justice, O God,the royal son with your righteousness.”As David’s life came to an end, he prayed for what mattered most — his son.
I want to encourage us all to love all of God’s children. If we would integrate Rabbi Sassoon’s message, we would bring meaning to the lives of those departed and greatly enhance the lives of those living. All too often we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and forget what truly matters. Quite simply it is to love and cherish every single child.