|Pop and me|
My most cherished memories are of getting together with the whole family, including aunt, uncle and cousins, for holidays such as Pesach (Passover) or Chanukah. Before any family gathering, Nanny would be busy in the kitchen preparing the festive meal. I watched with fascination, as she mixed together all the ingredients needed for the cake. Her method of baking was very simple but the desserts always tasted delicious. These special times are eternally engraved in my mind and I am thankful to HaShem for being given the opportunity to have known my grandparents. Due to the tragedy of the Holocaust, many were not blessed with this privilege. Baruch HaShem, thank G-d, all four of my grandparents left Europe long before the war broke out, but their stay in Canada was merely a temporary stepping stone for our survival.
Despite his small physical stature and calm demeanor, Pop’s heart and soul were larger than life. I can still see his kind, sweet smile and hear his cheerful laugh. He was the Patriarch of our family, seated respectfully at the head of the table as we participated in the traditional meals. While none of us were religiously observant during that period, we nevertheless followed his lead, as he read the Pesach Haggada and sang the customary songs. He would always hide the ofikomen (matza piece) in the same place, yet finding it still brought delight to young and old alike. He imbued us with a fondness for our heritage which will remain with us always, and for that I am grateful.
Despite societal pressures, Pop endeavored to remain true to his beliefs and would never compromise his devotion to Judaism. Living in small-town Canada in the early 1920s, keeping kosher wasn’t nearly as easy as it is today. Before I was born, my grandparents raised chickens in their yard so they were ensured a kosher chicken for Shabbat. (As a child, my mother a’h took pleasure in watching the chickens run around, but found it difficult knowing they would soon be shechted [ritually slaughtered]). I was told that although Pop would accompany other family members for a meal in a restaurant occasionally, he would only order fish, as he couldn’t bring himself to eat treif (non-kosher). He did what he had to do, and so my grandparents attempted to set an example, despite the fact that everyone around them was giving in to the lure of the modern world.
The course of recent generations has been anything but smooth. We are all victims of the ‘enlightened’ culture which made our journey all the more challenging. The number of Jewish Neshamot (souls) who have lost their spiritual direction is staggering. Those families who have not been touched by intermarriage are few and far between. Yet, thank G-d, the numbers of returnees to their roots, to true Torah Judaism is increasing by leaps and bounds. This overwhelming teshuva movement was a prophecy of the days leading up to Moshiach, the days which are presently upon us.
The path to any admirable goal is never straight and rarely effortless. There can be pitfalls and roadblocks, stumbling blocks and icy patches, but the incentive to succeed comes from the desire to attain the lofty objective. Once we finally reach the pinnacle, the awesome view on the other side takes our breath away and we don’t know how we ever lived without it.
In the article, Illuminating our Children, Rabbi Lazer Brody writes “Tradition tells us that a person’s favorable judgment in the Heavenly Court after he finishes his term of service in this world is conditional; one doesn’t earn his or her permanent place in Gan Eden until the Heavenly Court sees how the subsequent three generations turn out. In other words, once your great-grandchildren are living lives of emuna, you get your permanent penthouse in Paradise.”
After all our ups and downs, our return to a Torah lifestyle and our aliya to the Holy Land of Israel, I pray that my dear, beloved Pop, may finally be able to settle down right next to the Heavenly Throne and the King of Kings Himself, along with all our righteous ancestors. And may we all merit to greet our departed loved ones once again with the fulfillment of the thirteenth principle of faith, techiyat hameitim (resurrection of the dead) as stated in the Mishnah, Sanhedrin.
This post is dedicated li'iluy nishmat (elevation of the soul) of Yosef Aron ben Meyer v’Chaya Gittel for his 33rd yahrtzeit (anniversary of death) 19th of Shevat