Ladies and gentlemen,
When I was invited to participate in
this important and impressive conference, I was asked: what subject could we
give you for your lecture? My answer was: give me the subject you like
and I’ll speak about the subject I prefer.
Family as the Cornerstone of Society.
I presume I am supposed to prove, more
or less, the importance of family in the past, present and future. If one has to
prove an issue, one has to come with rational arguments. And if one is not able
to do so, the issue becomes a subject of believe, presuming, feeling, thinking.
A proof could be a scientific
conclusion, based on research or statistics.
Now I am sure there is no scientific
proof that family is the cornerstone of society.
Perhaps there are statistics. But, I
apologise if I insult anybody: are there any statistics that prove that
conclusions based on statistics are statistical reliable?
The first commandment to mankind
mentioned in the Bible is: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth!
(Let the man be responsible for) taking control of it!”
Mankind should get married, build a
family and conquer the world in a positive way. And that is the reason that
Family should be the Cornerstone of Society.
Is it just a matter of believe and
acceptance or are we able to understand and perhaps prove the value of this
As you may have read in the programme, I
am committed to a psychiatric hospital. When I started working there 34 years
ago, there was a strict distinction between the male and the female ward: total
segregation. Psychiatrists taught me that men and women living together in a
psychiatric environment wasn’t healthy at all. So there were two doors between
the male and the female department and in the evening and at night it was
carefully locked. Only very few staff members were in possession of the key.
Fifteen years later the doors
disappeared completely. “Men and women should share the same ward”. The same
doctors told me that in a psychiatric environment the mixture of men and women
is very healthy, it stimulates the healing process. The radiation of a woman is
a natural part of life. This confrontation of men and women should exist, as a
reflection of society.
Today, in every mixed ward there is a
special living room for women only, where they can sit and relax without the
presence of men, since the intimidation of the male towards the female is
considered far from healthy…
Wait and see: in about five years the
original two locked doors with the special keys between the male and the female
ward will be back again!
My Dutch born secretary, who was sitting
with me as a passenger in my car, asked me years ago: is someone, who does not
want to get married, allowed to become Jewish. She,
being very Dutch, believes that although the Jewish Law tells us that each of us
should at least try to get married because of the commandment mentioned before,
nevertheless if someone does not feels like it, it should be his or her personal
right and choice.
There was also someone else in my car. A
Canadian girl of about 20 years old who was a student at the Utrecht University
and was living in our house for about half a year. Although she did not speak
Dutch, she understood the question and before I was able to answer my secretary,
the Canadian student answered: but such a person is sick! Of course everybody
should at least try to get married.
Imagine: what would have been the
opinion of this Canadian student if she would have been brought up in our Dutch
Society? And how would my secretary react to the same question if she would not
have been so Dutch?
One of my aunts told me about 45 years
ago: abortion is murder. Today, this same, very old lady considers the
possibility of abortion, the ability given to parents to decide if they want or
don’t want to be parents, she considers this a blessing from Above.
Murder changed into blessing and
blessing could change into murder!
Recently there started, thank G’d, a
discussion about children with Down syndrome. It used to be common thought that
a child with Down syndrome is unhappy and suffering and therefore, it was
considered normal to have an abortion. Don’t misunderstand me, I do realise very
well that every father and every mother wishes for a healthy child, but does
that mean that if someone expects, G’d forbid, a child with Down syndrome, we
more or less take it for granted that that foetus’ life should be terminated? I
am acquainted with many children with Down syndrome and I am wondering who is
more happy, they or we, the so called normal people?!
Mankind, society, is able, and must,
make laws concerning speed limits, fraud, child abuse and many other issues. But
to make laws based on reason concerning ethical questions is far from easy, if
not completely impossible. Our ethical views and feelings are formed by
television, radio, Media and by our own neighbours.
And just like the question whether
abortion has to be looked upon as murder or as a blessing, it all depends on the
opinion of my surroundings,
likewise, my respect or disrespect for a
fellowman with a different skin colour is also formed by my education at home,
in school and on the street.
Back to the family, the cornerstone of
Yes, for me there is no doubt about it.
Without family there is no future, without parents no children. In my
Traditional Jewish religious world there is no question whatsoever about family.
Everybody wants to get married, it is normal, it is accepted, it is beautiful.
Look at the happy father and mother on the wedding day of their children, look
at the video, the pictures. Everybody is smiling!
And look at the grandparents. Can one
wish oneself a greater moment than the wedding of a grandchild? Again, the
family pictures with your own children, being married already for a long time,
while you yourself are standing in between your grandchildren, some of them also
happily married and yes, there are already great-grandchildren!
My wife’s aunt told us when our first
child was born: little children don’t let you sleep at night, but you should
realise that grown-up children could prevent you from enjoying life at night and
It looks all very nice on the picture
and of course, if someone becomes elderly and needs help and you know yourself
surrounded by caring children, this is worth more than all the money in the
whole world. I do meet people without a family. They are now alone, without
anything of their own, sometimes very unhappy. Yes, they lived their life. They
so called enjoyed life, “anything goes” no restrictions. That was their
Bible, their philosophy, and now it is too late. They are lonely and they live
But not always is a large family the
solution and the key to happiness! The more souls there are in the family, the
bigger the possibility of illness, fights, divorce, financial problems. And who
tells me that if someone gets married the couple is able to have children? The
hope and desire to build a family can be very frustrating if it just doesn’t
work. A lot of hospital visits… And than again, the surroundings looking,
staring at you, thinking:
They are married already for so many
years and still no children?
Nobody can predict happiness. A single
person can be very happy and satisfied with his or her life. He or she could be
of immeasurable importance to society.
And the same we could say about family:
it can bring frustration, but also plenty of happiness, satisfaction and
So, do I believe that family is the
cornerstone of society? YES!
For me, and with me for millions of
other people around the world, because it is written in the Bible, it is the
will of G’d. And even for those who don’t accept the Bible but who use another
basic system as their authority, family is an accepted system that was never
questioned and did not need to be proved.
Is that rational? No, but life itself
isn’t rational at all!
To my humble opinion, it is far from
rational to always be rational! The person who only wants to think in a
rational way, who claims not to believe in a Supreme Force because this is not
rational, does not realise that his God is called Rationalism.
Be fruitful and multiply, and fill
the earth! We just have to accept that we are
supposed to build a family without understanding,
because of religious reasons or because
it is natural or just because…
But just having a family is not enough
and just having a family does not mean that the family is the cornerstone of
(Let the man be responsible for)
taking control of it. At the moment that we are
blessed with a family, we have a responsibility. We should take care of the
world. The family is responsible for the wellbeing of the world; we have to make
sure that family will be the cornerstone of society. Just having a family
does not mean that this family is the cornerstone of society! We have to make
the family that cornerstone; we have to work on it, put effort into that
Family as a unit is under constant
attack. An attack from within and an attack from outside.
The parents are the basis of the family.
Yes, they love each other, children see their mutual love and respect. But, do I
love my wife because I love myself or do I really love her?
The second of the Ten Commandments is:
there should not be any idol worship.
What is the meaning of this
commandment? Does it only refer to a piece of wood or clay that we are not
allowed to worship?
Jewish philosophy tells us that at the
moment that I believe in G’d, the Almighty, and I believe at the same time in
Myself, it is considered serving an idol. The father and the mother
should not only just love each other, but they must show and feel respect
towards each other. Easier said than done, but it means that each of them should
not serve idols, be able to stop serving the idol named ME, love each other
rather than love their own ego.
This unity will be seen and felt by the
children, it will be noticed by everybody coming into the family home and it
will lighten up the surrounding darkness.
But there is another danger that tries
to prevent the family from being a cornerstone.
There is a parable about the sun and the
wind and how they debate who is stronger. The sun claimed to be stronger than
the wind, but the wind disagreed and told the sun that he, the wind, is
stronger. While arguing, they saw a man walking in a coat. “I’ll show you that
I am stronger than you”, said the wind. “I am able to get him out of his coat in
a few minutes” and while saying this, he started blowing at the man. But the
man, feeling the cold wind did the exact opposite. He closed all the buttons of
his coat, and the more cold and strong the wind blew, the more did he huddle
himself in his warm coat.
It was now the sun’s turn. The sun
started to shine a little bit and as soon as the man sensed the sun’s heat, he
opened the top button of his coat. The sun started to shine more, and the man
opened another button until after a short while, the man took off his coat.
Often we see that an icy cold wind
attacks a family: problems, suffering, illness. But although we don’t wish
anybody any problems and if there is illness we do have to see a doctor and look
for support, we very often observe that a cold wind brings family together, it
brings unity, solidarity.
But the sun’s heat, on the other hand,
the many hot temptations from outside, forms a significant danger to this unity,
love and mutual respect. A family that suffers from the sun, a family where
modesty and privacy are gone, is still a family, for the time being,
but such a family is far from being a
cornerstone of society.
May G’d give all of us the strength to
build a family that is a cornerstone for society, a family that will illuminate
this dark world.
And if you are puzzled and maybe wonder
how you, as a small family, a numeric minority in this large world, could bring
You should know that one little candle
is able to dispel a tremendous amount of darkness.
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