Being interviewed on his 92nd birthday, the late Lord Weidenfeld was asked, “Most people if they reach your age think about slowing down. You seem to be speeding up. Why is that?” He replied, “When you reach 92 you begin to see the door closing, and I have so much to do before the door closes that, the older I get, the faster I have to go.”
Mortality is a reality, but when called upon, as I was this past week. to consecrate the tombstone of baby Jonathon Leaman who was born prematurely and who subsequently died 4 months later in 1981, this presented me with a challenge. For what could be said about the virtues of such an individual whose life’s potential, was left unfulfilled. It occurred to me however, that there is much to be said nonetheless. Parashat Noach commences with the headline ‘Eileh Toldot Noach’, these are the generations of Noach. And then, unexpectedly instead of telling us about the generations themselves, the Torah tells us about Noach himself – Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations. Only afterwards are we given details of Noach’s generations. Why the inconsistency in the flow of the narrative? The commentary (Rashi) tells us something profound. ‘Lelamedcha She’ikar Toldotehem Shel Tzaddikim Ma’assim Tovim’ From here we learn that the primary generations of upright people are their good deeds.
When we are able to touch the hearts and mould the minds of other people, we impact on their lives, and in this way, part of oneself can become part of them. If baby Jonathon had lived to realise his life’s potential, I am certain that he would have mirrored the true acts of kindness which were exhibited by his father Brian who after many years returned from Canada to ensure the laying down of a tomb stone for his beloved son Jonathon (see also From the President’s Chair). This in my view represents an upright example of how one is to live life with a sense of moral purpose and conviction. As parents we have an obligation to lead from the front and to inspire our children to follow us by example. The good we do lives on in others, and it is the most important thing that does.