To the Editors: This is a letter about my personal journey with my husband as he approaches a milestone birthday. I hope that it will be shared often. He is a humble man, a man not given to excess, a man who needs no praise. I think, however, that once in 80 years, a man is entitled to a public airing of his virtues. This will be my birthday gift to him, God willing!
I am a fanatical believer in the ayin ha ra. Therefore I will never say that all is well or even that the traffic is lighter than usual. I know those kinds of statements could awaken the dreaded evil eye. I’ve seen it happen. Just say, for example, that things are going great and you’ll shortly be drowning in disaster. Don’t test it!
So, as my husband, my very own beloved, approaches the 80th anniversary of his birth, I cannot yet bring myself to wish him the normal things that one might utter on such an occasion. Such an auspicious occasion! No. I must wait, with the help of God, for the very day, January 6, to actually arrive. And since that day is Shabbat, I am forced to share my thoughts in writing ahead of the event. I’ve spent much time thinking of how to couch the blessing without tempting that evil eye. I decided I will record our story but not include the usual greeting. That I will do verbally on the blessed day, bli ayin ha ra!
My husband is my best friend. Sure you might not know it listening to us go at each other like a pair of fishwives (fishhusbands?). It’s interesting that we both came from very peaceful homes. His parents didn’t seem to argue very often and mine never did. Really. So where did we learn this lack of anger management ?
He learned it from me. I always had a temper! I met a calm and easy going guy and through the years turned him into a fighter. At least with me. Had he married someone else he would have reverted to what he was. Too late now. He matches me point by point. He’s as good as it gets! My temper has become his temper.
But not to worry. Forgiveness comes fast and fury flies away in the face of love.
We met when he was 19. I know that we were a typical love story of our generation. Ours was a summer romance. We worked at a small hotel in Parksville NY, The Tanzville. And while we seem typical to you, we didn’t seem typical to each other. Ours was, as they always are, a remarkable love story. And it stuck.
I was a recent high school graduate. I mean really recent. Say, two weeks! He had finished two years of college. We were very young. But from that day in July 1957 when we met, we never cast eyes on anyone else. In three years, when he was 22 and I 20, we married.
Let me tell you about him. He’s, first and foremost, a good Jewish man. I use those words carefully since they are both of equal importance. How different our lives would have been if one of us were not Jewish. In those days, intermarriage was so much rarer than it is today, that the miracle of two Jewish kids falling in love with each other was taken for granted. And so it was!
But the good part…….that’s equally important. He is a man with a mighty soul. The love that he shares with his family members is profound. He has been the paradigm for our progeny. Love is everywhere. How can he help you? What can he do for you? Anything, Everything. True, true, true.
Our children can share endless stories of how Abba, or Sabba, or Sabba-Rabbah, built things for them. Noam Yair, our baby great-grandson has a Sabba Rabbah created, designed and built, dressing table. All over, in every household, are desks, bookcases, and many other custom crafted treasures made out of wood and love. Our son-in-law Matt has a shtender. Our grandchildren Eitan and Dita have an original made in our garage netilat yedaim unit. The labor of his hands and creative mind is everywhere……….especially in our two homes, in New Jersey and in Israel. He has been known to schlep suitcases filled with lumber to Israel. If there’s a project there, where our home is an apartment, minus many of the power tools he has in New Jersey, he will design an object, painstakingly, prepare the lumber, and then reassemble it in Israel like a jigsaw puzzle. Piece by piece. Sounds crazy? It works! And we are unique. How many other people do you know who carry suitcases filled with lumber across continents and oceans?
He greets each project with fervor. I confess. I am less enthusiastic. I cherish the finished products but am no fan of the sawdust sprinkled generously through both homes. We just returned from a sojourn in Israel and I found a small mountain of sawdust mixed into the contents of a suitcase. International transporting of sawdust. Indeed!
But it’s not only with his creations for the family. He is kind and caring to everyone. Friends. Neighbors. Shul members. He attends minyan reliably, knowing full well the frustration of someone needing to recite the Kaddish and not finding a minyan. And he was a boss with a heart during the many years he worked at a major oil company. When there were layoffs and it was his duty to cull the ranks, he suffered horribly. He was always sensitive and gentle to his colleagues and employees. Years later it is not uncommon to hear from some of them sharing his kindness and appreciating his neshuma.
He has a great and deep love for Israel, our home and our homeland.. During the Yom Kippur War he felt impotent, living in Jerusalem and unable to seriously contribute to the war effort. So he volunteered as a driver, whisking chayalim along dark and threatening roads in the West Bank. He was compelled to do something. Anything to further the cause. Years later he was bursting with pride when our grandson Josh became a chayal in the Israeli Air Force.
He is a man who can occasionally be seen crying. At the loss of his parents, for example. At the loss of my parents. He never forgot how he was nurtured as a child, and welcomed into my family with open hearts. He became a special soulmate to my father who adored him. At the end of my father’s life it was my husband and my sister who best related to him and helped him on his journey. Not me. My husband. He and my sister bonded to help Dad with the transition, a noble and challenging path. How Dad loved him and how it was reciprocated!
I cannot relate the endless talents and qualities that my husband has blessed me with. He is a true gentleman. But, I can say in the names of our children, and grandchildren, and Noam, our treasured new great-grandson, that he, Elya Chaim ben Baruch v Fayga, is a tzadik, and following are the names of our beloved progeny::Amy, Mark, Eitan, Dita, Joshua, Yoni, Benji, Aaron, Lori, Michael, Adiel, Matt, Amior, Ma’ayan, Pam, Matt, Liat, Dov, Sefi, Sarit, Peter, Liz, Samantha, Stella, and Noam. And in my name, Shoshana bat Yisrael v Ite Riva.
Wishing him ad 120, in good health! And with lots of projects to build!