My father, Rabbi Shimon Schwab, left a daily diary spanning the last 43 years of his life...43 volumes of fascinating, riveting and spellbinding entries. The most stunning revelation is that it is replete with tefillos and tears, from cover to cover. He wrote out his prayers for himself, for his family, for his community, for Klal Yisroel. One can almost touch the tears that were poured there...a stream of heart-wrenching tefillos that he formulated at every juncture, at moments of difficulty, in his own life as well as others', pleading for G-d's mercy. This, perhaps is the main function and chesed grandparents can perform for family, and for their offspring.
When do we start davening for our children? I found in his diary a piece of paper, which he had written when his first grandchild was about to be born over 40 years ago. He asked:
"Hashem, please lighten for my daughter, Yehudis Bas Rochel, the pain of pregnancy and pain of childbirth. Let her be spared The Verdict of Eve (a Kabbalistic concept). Let the child emerge into the light of the world without danger to the mother, without danger to the child, in a good and blessed moment, for Mazel Tov." And he continued to charter, in his tefilla, the entire life course of the child. "Let there be a live birth, for a long life, to worship You, sincerely and completely, in happiness. The child should serve You in good physical health, and good mental health for a long and peaceful life with good parnassa to support himself with
The whole life of the child was chartered, before the child was ever even born. Tefilla is a tremendous source of strength of grandparents - nay, a duty and responsibility of grandparents - on behalf of their family.
My father's tefilla for his grandchildren was intense. On the evening before one of his great-grandchildren was involved in a car accident, my father had a dream that was most disturbing. He arose in middle of the night and said Tehillim and special tefillos until 5 a.m., and then prepared himself for shul. Later that day, he received a call from his granddaughter who asked him whether her husband should say a Birchas Hagomel, thanking G-d for saving their son's life, since the boy was involved in a car accident the previous evening. He was side spread, thrown a long distance, and landed on the pavement. The boy picked himself up, and after being checked out at the hospital, was released.
My father asked for all the exact details, and then chuckled and said, "now I understand," and told his granddaughter that he had a dream, and Baruch Hashem his tefillos were answered. In his diary on that very morning he inscribed the words that we can read today:
"Chalomos Shov Yedabeiru," which means: "Dreams speak falsely," not wanting to attribute any significance to the dream or to his premonition. Rather, he emphasized that dreams carry little importance, and true significance lies in constant tefilla of parents and grandparents for their offspring: those holy words and thought that will envelop the children at all times. May the zchus of the parents and grandparents who include their children and grandchildren in their prayers always stand by their offspring and by all of Klal Yisroel.
Excerpted With Permission from The Jewish Observer, A Monthly Journal of Thought and Opinion, Published by Agudath Israel
This article first appeared in issue #9 of Down Syndrome Amongst Us