A ryeh Eisenman, my youngest son, has always been an individual.

When other boys in first grade wanted a ball or bat, Aryeh wanted a plunger. His fascination with plumbing, building, fixing, and constructing was already apparent early in his life.

School was never his forte. He left the local yeshivah before middle school; attended a “special” yeshivah for a couple of years, returned to a different local yeshivah for seventh grade, and ended up graduating with honors from Abraham Lincoln Middle School in Passaic.

Just to give you some “stats”: Lincoln Middle School serves 1,941 students in grades seven and eight. The student body is 100 percent minorities, the majority of them Hispanic. When Aryeh was there, he was the only Jewish child. He wore his yarmulke proudly, touted his peyos with flair, and never failed to only eat kosher.

He graduated and proceeded to yeshivah in Boro Park. Yet school was not for him, and other obstacles arose that attempted to blow his life off course. However, Aryeh remained strong. And although formal school was not “his thing,” he was soon working for a frum contractor in Passaic, learning the wonderful work ethic that Dovid Hamelech teaches us in Tehillim: “You will eat the fruit of your labor…”

He became an honest and diligent laborer who realized early on the value of integrity and hard work, and he was never infected by the modern, debilitating sense of entitlement, which affects so many of our young people nowadays.

Aryeh eventually went off to Eretz Yisrael to learn, but soon realized he was meant to fulfill Chazal’s dictum: “A man who lives from the labor [of his hands] is greater than the one who fears Heaven.”

He returned and soon he was running his own successful contracting business. Now self-supporting, Aryeh was able to give tzedakah in far greater amounts than any of his peers and donated to many individuals who will never know their secret benefactor was Aryeh.

Aryeh followed in the way of his father; I, too, realized at an early age that I had to find my own path to happiness and fulfillment, which was unlike that of my father.

After Tishah B’Av, when my wife and I “escaped” for a rare day away, Aryeh called. He wanted to tell us that he was planning on getting engaged that evening.

His kallah, Tova Akerman, is a fine, intelligent, special neshamah who brings out the best in Aryeh. Their shidduch was truly designed and directed by Hashem. That night, as I drank l’chayim with my beloved youngest son, I realized he had taught me the most important lesson I needed to prepare for the holiest day of the year about to descend upon us.

We beg, beseech, and plead before Hashem to judge us favorably, to give us the benefit of the doubt, and to look favorably upon us. Ultimately, the seforim tell us that how we look at others is how Hashem will look at us.

Thank you, Aryeh, for teaching me the lesson that my task is not to judge someone by what I think that person should be.

Rather, it’s the recognition and acceptance of the uniqueness of the individual and the realization of his exceptional individuality, which is up to me to discover and appreciate.

Aryeh, you taught me that the unique path that you took is precisely what makes you special and beloved and that I must recognize the uniqueness of every Jew if I want to even have a slight chance of Hashem looking favorably on me.

If only I can internalize this in time for Kol Nidrei, I’ll feel much better about approaching Yom Kippur.

Thank you, Aryeh and Tova. I love you both. (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 679)