Rabbi Perl Drafts Bernie Madoff Funeral Speech to Mark

Dear Mark,

I forgive you for your actions; can you forgive me for mine?

I am writing to you because these words are long overdue. You and I were not ever properly introduced. I was so clumsy at being a father. I concentrated on the amassing of wealth at any price and not on nurturing you, showing you how to properly live in the world or loving you. When I realized how I probably ruined your life I tried desperately to shift the spotlight and anger of the world away from you and onto me. But alas that was just another foolish delusion of mine.

Somewhere along the path of my life I lost myself. Now I am spending time re-introducing myself, to myself. There comes a time in life when we have to look ourselves in the mirror and ask, "Who are you?" I don't like what I see in the reflection. Am I pleased with the man that I have become? No!

I am examining my mistakes and what I allowed to slip out of my hands. Can you forgive me for who I was, who I am, and who I failed to be? Who I taught you to be?

I have had time to read and study and when I read the following story, the truth of what I had done hit me hard. A well known rabbi, the Zhitomer rebbe, was walking with his son when they noticed a drunken father and his drunken son stumbling along. The rabbi said to his son, “I envy that father. He has accomplished his goal of having a son like himself…I can only hope that the drunkard is not more successful in training his son than I am with you.”

Have I too succeeded? Have my horrible actions shamed you so that you were compelled to take your own life? This too I will have to live with. This too I will have to pay for.

Society will certainly judge us both. Hashem will certainly judge us both. It is my hope and prayer that your actions will eventually be judged with sensitivity and compassion. 

When we make an effort to see people in a favorable light we are confirming our understanding that although a particular behavior seems hurtful, there may be another side in the story. True there is evil in the world and there are people who are incapable of rational behavior. Indeed I may be one of them. Still we must work with a premise that most of the people we deal with, are decent. Now, make no mistake. Giving the benefit of the doubt is not about defending evildoing. Nor does it mean whitewashing improper behavior. It certainly does not preclude taking action, defending the rights of others. Rather, it means constantly reminding ourselves that things are not always the way they seem. I pray that you will be judged with that understanding.

So I would like to re-introduce myself to you. I am Bernard Maddoff, a person who indeed hurt many but I am also your dad. I am a father who made so many mistakes. Mark please know that I love you my dear son!



Judaism Speaks to Parental Responsibilities  

Father and Son

Life is not a bill of rights; it is a bill of responsibilities. If children grow up without a sense of responsibility and are unable to fulfill the myriad obligations of society, they are liable to become depressed and withdrawn. If children are taught to welcome responsibility, they can approach life with an energetic eagerness to grow and accomplish.

Responsibilities to My Children

A father is obligated in to his son to circumcise him, to redeem him [in a pidyon haben ceremony if he is first-born], to teach him Torah, to marry him to a [good] woman, (which indicates that parental responsibility continues after bar [or bat] mitzvah), and to teach him a trade or craft. Some say, [he is] also [obligated to] teach him to swim. (Talmud Kiddushin 29A)

Why Have Children

The first mitzvah of the Torah is “Pru u'revu”. This translates as “be fruitful and multiply” and simply means to have children. The Sages explain that the purpose of the mitzvah is to raise children educated in Torah study and performance of mitzvos. Children are to be replicas not only of the physical and bodily traits of their parents, but also of their spiritual, intellectual and moral selves.

If our livelihood depended on the outcome of a crucial business meeting, we wouldn’t take it lightly: we would prepare arduously for hours, if not days or weeks. Educating our children deserves the same effort.

Raising children must be well formulated. Responsible parents ask themselves what spiritual concepts and values do we want to communicate to our children? Each day we set aside significant time to thinking about our children’s learning and moral standing.