Caleb Jacoby -- Boston area readers, pass this photo on to everyone you know

Caleb Jacoby — Boston area readers, pass this photo on to everyone you know

Lord, have mercy:

Caleb Jacoby, the 16-year-old son of Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby and his wife Laura, has been missing since Monday.

Jacoby is a Brookline resident who is in the 11th grade at Maimonides School. According to a flier distributed by the Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Maimonides School, he is 5-foot-11 and weighs 140 pounds.

Ellen Pulda, a spokesman for Maimonides School, said, “The school is engaging all of its resources to aid Caleb’s parents and the Brookline Police. Our entire school community is praying for Caleb’s safe return.”

This cuts close. Jeff is a friend. My favorites of his columns over the years have been his yearly letters to his son Caleb, on Caleb’s birthday. From the very first one, in 1997:

My beloved Caleb,

You are only 16 days old, and virtually everything about you is still a mystery. Are you smart? Are you strong? Are you lucky? Already my love for you is more intense than I thought possible — and yet I know almost as little about you as you know about me.

I have no idea what color your eyes will be, or when you will speak your first word, or which of your parents you will more closely resemble. I don’t even know when you’ll next need to be nursed.

But I do know what I want you to be when you grow up.

I want you to be good.

Oh, my beautiful little son, I have such hopes for you.

From Jeff’s column on Caleb’s fifth birthday:

Not that we’re in any hurry for you to grow up. You are a happy, secure, and deeply loved 5-year-old boy, and it would be a crime to let you learn too soon just how unhappy, insecure, and hateful a place the world can be.

That is why, for you, last Sept. 11 was just another day in pre-kindergarten. You didn’t learn then and you haven’t learned since about the mass murders that took place that terrible morning. Nor do you know anything about the savage bombings that have killed hundreds of innocent people — including children younger than you — in Israel, a country you have visited twice. You have never heard that a mother in Texas drowned her five children in a bathtub. Priests committing sexual abuse? Anthrax sent through the mail? Of all these horrors you are blissfully ignorant. For now.

That’s not to say you don’t know that terrible things can happen in this world. You’ve learned in pre-school, and we’ve talked at home, about some of the atrocities that are recorded in the Bible — Pharaoh’s malevolent decree to drown every Jewish baby boy, for example. But it is one thing to know of such episodes as stories from long ago. It is far more unsettling to know that evil and terror are all-too-real parts of the world *you* live in.

Unsettling or not, they are realities you will have to face, and part of my job is to make sure you are ethically and emotionally well-grounded when you do.

Sometimes you startle me with the moral seriousness of the questions you ask. When you learned in school about Noah and the Flood, you came home troubled. “All the people who died in the water were bad,” you said. “But what about the babies in their mothers’ tummies? They weren’t bad.” It reassured you when I said the unborn babies went back to G-d. I know such simple answers will not always suffice. But I want you to go on being troubled — and asking questions — when you learn of injustice and suffering. In the presence of evil or cruelty, too many people are mere bystanders. I hope you will be better than that.

From the 2008 column:

When you were a baby, I loved watching you sleep. Sometimes I would stroke your tiny hand as you lay in your crib, and you would instinctively wrap your fingers around one of mine, clinging to me even in your sleep. Could you sense somehow that I was a safe harbor, a snug refuge from the world’s storms and stresses? Mama and I have tried to be that haven, to furnish you with the physical, emotional, and spiritual resources you’ll need as you journey through life.

But harbors aren’t only places of sanctuary and shelter. They’re also the stable places you push back from when it’s time to head out into the world. You’re 11 now, growing steadily more independent and beginning to test your sails. Increasingly you push back instead of clinging, insisting on your way instead of mine. The day will eventually come when you’re ready to head off on your own. Wherever the voyage takes you, Caleb, we’ll always be your home port.

Pray with me, readers, that Caleb finds his way back home. Please do this. I can’t bear to think of Jeff and Laura’s suffering tonight. If you live in the Boston area, please send that photo above, or a link to this blog entry with the photo, to everyone you know. We have to find this boy!