“Let them sing happily upon their couches.” (149:5)
I remember when my children were very young and would lie in their cribs or beds late at night or early in the morning, happily babbling to themselves. They would read or recite a book, sing songs or prayers, or just make adorable noises. But all reached a stage when they could lie in their bed before falling asleep or wake up in the morning by themselves and keep themselves happy with music or words. They, and we, haven’t changed much. They still hum or sing or talk out loud, as do we all. It helps us organize ourselves, rid ourselves of anxiety, or express joy.
“May you see your children’s children.” (128:6)
Leaving aside the rich and deep Jewish conception of the eternal soul, life in heaven, and the resurrection of the messianic era, what many of us want is to see our legacy in our lifetime in the form of children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren, if we are blessed with longevity. However, just as we learned, while raising children, not to expect that they will be carbon copies of ourselves, we need to remember that our grandchildren might not have the same interests and passions for business, community support, and institutions as we do. We can only hope to be blessed to see our genetic legacy and that they perpetuate our basic values for their grandchildren.
“Your guardian will not slumber.” (121:3)
Think about parents who just brought home a tiny infant, helpless and demanding. Mom and Dad are understandably reluctant to leave this new member of their household unsupervised, even while the baby is sleeping. So no matter where they are in the house, there is a monitor, video or audio, connecting them to baby. When they themselves go to sleep, the lightest baby peep, the softest cry, is enough to wake them. And in fact often the lack of sounds, the thought that they can’t hear the baby breathing, is enough to rouse them in a panic. Such is the protective nature of love.
“For it is a law for Israel.” (81:5)
What makes us Israel is a shared sense of law, of obligation. We are Israel when we clean our homes and celebrate Passover. We are Israel when we are conscious of the contents of the food which we put into our bodies. We are Israel when we rest from creative acts on Shabbat. We are Israel when we join a Jewish community for prayer. We are Israel when we celebrate a boy’s birth with circumcision, celebrate puberty with bar or bat mitzvah, celebrate marriage with a huppah, and commemorate a death with Shiva.
“… to cut off their memory from the earth. (34:17)
When I get to the end of my life, I’d like to have made a difference. I know it’s not reasonable to think that 50 years after my death I will be remembered as anything other than a name, and after another 50 years, probably not even that, so my goal is modest. I’d like to be remembered for something for a generation or two. Having children is one way to guarantee that your memory will not be immediately cut off. Having the means to leave a financial legacy such as a named endowment fund or family foundation is another way. If it is within your power, how do you want to be remembered?