This past Friday afternoon only a few minutes before Shabbat, 17 Sh’vat 5778, my Bubbie Bea, Beatrice Brainin, Baasha Rochel Bat Nachman Veshifra passed away. She was a beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and dear wife for 64 years to the love of her life, Zaidy Bill Z”L.

We read in Eishet Chayil in the Book of Proverbs, Chapter 31.

(כו) פִּ֭יהָ פָּתְחָ֣ה בְחָכְמָ֑ה וְתֽוֹרַת־חֶ֝֗סֶד עַל־לְשׁוֹנָֽהּ׃ (כז) צ֭וֹפִיָּה הֲלִיכ֣וֹת בֵּיתָ֑הּ וְלֶ֥חֶם עַ֝צְל֗וּת לֹ֣א תֹאכֵֽל׃)

(26) Her mouth is full of wisdom, Her tongue with kindly teaching. (27) She oversees the activities of her household And never eats the bread of idleness. Translation: Sefaria

The Midrash explains פִּ֭יהָ פָּתְחָ֣ה בְחָכְמָ֑ה refers to Serach Bat Asher who was the wise woman who rebuked Yoav, King David’s general, in order to save an entire Jewish city.

You might remember Serach Bat Asher the daughter of Asher one of the 12 Shevatim. According to Jewish legend, she was the one who played on her Kinnur, harp, to revive her grandfather Yaakov, the last of our patriarchs with the words that his beloved son Yosef was still alive. She was was one of the 70 children of Israel who entered Mitzrayim, experienced all the years of bondage, lived to see the Exodus when she helped Moshe identify the coffin of Yosef when he was searching for it to bring to the Promised Land, she wandered for forty years in the desert, and lived to enter Israel where she gave advice to Yoav, a confidant of Dovid Hamelech.

What was the secret of Serah’s tremendous longevity?

Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik Zatzal explains Serach bat Asher was the keeper of memory. Every generation needs a Serach Bat Asher a matriarch who lives a life of purpose and longevity, who always had the right words sometimes musical, sometimes of a stronger tone to make sure everyone remember the traditions of yesteryear, linking us to the previous generations (“Pleitat Sofreihem” in Divrei Hagut ve’Ha’aracha).

פִּ֭יהָ פָּתְחָ֣ה בְחָכְמָ֑ה

In our family this was our family Matriarch, the wise woman, Bubbie Bea, the last of the Horowitzs, kid sister of Aunt Sarah, Uncle Max, and Aunt Dora. Bubbie who went to college and got an accounting degree when such a thing was not the norm for women. For whom family was the most important value when she said to her husband he could choose between becoming a doctor and having children so she supported him when he went to pharmacy school and raised her beautiful family, my Ima and Tanta Nomi.

פִּ֭יהָ פָּתְחָ֣ה בְחָכְמָ֑ה וְתֽוֹרַת־חֶ֝֗סֶד עַל־לְשׁוֹנָֽהּ׃

Like Serach who played on her Kinnur a lullaby to her grandfather, Bubbie Bea taught me to sing. You might wonder about this since although Bubbie was quite musical, raising very musically inclined daughter, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters she hardly had a singing voice later in life. Let me explain…

When my wife Shifra and I were a young married couple living in Kew Garden Hills with two babies, me working full-time, and Shifra still in college and teaching Hebrew school, Bubbie Bea and Zaidy Bill were the spry folks in their seventies who watched our children, Bubbie even taught her husband how to change diapers for the first time, so that our children would always be raised by family. And Bubbie used to sing our children a lullaby, the lullaby she taught me to sing to my children. Hallalulalula Baby……

פִּ֭יהָ פָּתְחָ֣ה בְחָכְמָ֑ה וְתֽוֹרַת־חֶ֝֗סֶד עַל־לְשׁוֹנָֽהּ׃

There was something I noticed listening to the many recordings we have made over the years of Bubbie Bea, Zaidy Bill, Aunt Sarah. Bubbie rarely talked about herself on these tapes. She was in the background, correcting her sister when she felt that Sarah was mischaracterizing the way they were raised. Sarah used to say that they had two very different childhoods, her and Uncle Max, the older children and then Bubbie Bea and Aunt Dora who were much younger and experienced their parents differently. Bubbie was correcting Bill on the tapes. And even when she was asked to talk about herself, she talked about her parents, her family, the way she was raised. She was always telling others what to do and what was correct. Never talking about herself.

פִּ֭יהָ פָּתְחָ֣ה בְחָכְמָ֑ה וְתֽוֹרַת־חֶ֝֗סֶד עַל־לְשׁוֹנָֽהּ׃

Bubbie was the matriarch of our family who taught my children how to sew, encouraged them to pursue their passions, apply themselves academically. She was always giving me advice whether I wanted it or not. And she was never shouting, that’s just the way her voice was.

פִּ֭יהָ פָּתְחָ֣ה בְחָכְמָ֑ה וְתֽוֹרַת־חֶ֝֗סֶד עַל־לְשׁוֹנָֽהּ׃

She taught us the Torat Chessed. Rav Soloveitchik explains the difference between Mussar Avikha and Torat Imekha. The Torat Chessed. The father can communicate the Jewish law and practice. The dry motions of Judaism. But it is the mother who gives over the Torat Chessed. The Jewish soul. The experience of being Jewish. This is something we also got from Bubbie.

ויזכו לראות בנים ובני בנים, עוסקים בתורה ובמצוות

Bubbie was most proud of the fact that she raised children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all of them devoted to her values of family and Torah. Every one of them a religiously observant Jew.

(כז) צ֭וֹפִיָּה הֲלִיכ֣וֹת בֵּיתָ֑הּ וְלֶ֥חֶם עַ֝צְל֗וּת לֹ֣א תֹאכֵֽל׃

Bubbie was always practical. I remember when she and Zaidy went to visit us in Israel during the first year of our marriage.

This was the first time that Bubbie and Zaidy ever went to the Medinat Yisrael. Even though they had been devoted to the cause of the Jewish state since the 40s when they put their names down as the ones who commissioned a ship to bring weapons to help in the Jewish fight for independence, a boat conceived in Bubbie’s apartment in the Bronx with Aunt Sarah, Uncle Max, and Zaidy Bill. Bubbie and Zaidy were so scared that their “illegal” activities would be found out during their lifetime that they never let us talk about this story. Well now Bubbie, I am.

(כז) צ֭וֹפִיָּה הֲלִיכ֣וֹת בֵּיתָ֑הּ וְלֶ֥חֶם עַ֝צְל֗וּת לֹ֣א תֹאכֵֽל׃

Well when Bubbie and Zaidy went to visit us in Israel, Bubbie was convinced we were starving with our Kollel food so she cooked a top of the rib and managed to store it in an ice pack and bring it in her suitcase so we could eat it together in Israel. The best fleishiks we had in months. Bubbie always found a way.

(כז) צ֭וֹפִיָּה הֲלִיכ֣וֹת בֵּיתָ֑הּ וְלֶ֥חֶם עַ֝צְל֗וּת לֹ֣א תֹאכֵֽל׃

Later in life, Bubbie did not hesitate to try new things even in her old age. She taught herself how to use a computer, get Pandora to listen to her favorite classical music and operas, check her email, and even use Facebook so she could see pictures of what the great grandkids were doing. This did not come easy to her. I know since I was the one on the phone with her for HOURS when the Gremlins took over her computer. She would patiently wait as I would tell her which buttons to click so I could remotely take over her computer and fix the Gremlins. Eventually, I gave up and got her a chromebook. Just the Internet. No Gremlins possible but the Gremlins found her anyways.

I remember just recently, we cut the cord, so we would use Bubbie’s login to get TV service. But we forgot the login information. So when I called Verizon, they said they could text Bubbie the security code to reset her password, but Bubbie didn’t know how to text. So they offered to call her with the code. She had them call 4 times because they kept speaking too fast for her but she kept trying because she was going to figure out how to log into her TV, Gremlins or no Gremlins. And she did.

שֶׁ֣קֶר הַ֭חֵן וְהֶ֣בֶל הַיֹּ֑פִי אִשָּׁ֥ה יִרְאַת־ה’ הִ֣יא תִתְהַלָּֽל

Most importantly Bubbie was so devoted to her dear Bill, husband of 64 years. They had a love affair of a lifetime. I remember watching them walking together in the streets of Kew Garden Hills, always holding hands. Bubbie looked out for Zaidy’s every need and nursed him back to health after the war. She and Zaidy are a role model for me and Shifra and for our children as well.

Bubbie was our role model, our link to the generations that have preceded us.

We will miss you dearly although we know you are still looking down on us back with the love of your life, Zaidy Bill, guiding us, shouting advice from above, encouraging us to continue to be devoted to our Jewish heritage and our family and never stop learning and growing.