Keith Brooks
International Business Executive Living and Working in Israel

11 Months Later

We, I, my grandmother still miss my grandfather. Who knew what this year would bring. I thought I would say kaddish every day and that got muddled when the pandemic started.

Something you take so seriously, but there are other priorities that take over. Not everyone saw it this way. I could have gone to “illegal” minyanim, and could still go to some outdoor ones. The question of whether I should end up being remembered under מי במגפה, who by plague, from the ונתנה תוקף that we say on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, is not really what I had in mind and chose to limit my opportunities to say kaddish, for the benefit of my family.

It made me feel guilty for the days I did not say kaddish, yet also let me remember him more. I would think about him when I could not say it. Just like I do when I pass his photos or look at the one on my desk.

My grandmother has a new answering machine at home, she needed new phones for the house because now she is all alone, she wanted a phone where it would be accessible. At 97 she should enjoy the luxury of not having to run across the house to get the phone. Unfortunately, the new phones come with an answering machine that does not play an outgoing message. She wanted to hear my grandfather’s voice, so her answering machine is the old one with his voice on it and the phones are on, but their answering machine is not.

Yesterday I went fishing in the Mediterranean with some friends. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate thing to do as I finished saying kaddish. When I was younger and then a teenager, my grandfather and I would go fishing, sometimes to the local canal, sometimes on a boat, sometimes to the Haulover pier in Miami. I recall one time some mall promotion where they had set up tanks and fish for people to catch that we did too.

I hadn’t thought to ask my grandfather about his fishing days. He had tackle boxes and rods so obviously had spent some time with friends or family fishing long before I came around. It was Miami after all, lots of great sea creatures to catch. Guess as I grew up and moved along I forgot about the fishing and never thought to ask about it. The things you think about after someone is gone, little things that no doubt meant much to the person but you can only hear their tales alive them vicariously. I wish I could hear his tale of this or any of the ones I neglected to ask about.

Saying kaddish becomes a weight at times. Having to plan ahead flights and someone to say kaddish when I was in Holland, pre virus lockdown, by a few days, made me feel bad but had no way to do it without someone else saying kaddish.

It is interesting that kaddish is not about our loved one, or ourselves, but about Hashem. The line which to me has the most meaning is:

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen. יְהֵא שְׁלָמָא רַבָּא מִן שְׁמַיָּא וְחַיִּים עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל יִשרָאֵל. וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן 

We want our own peace. For those we have lost we want them to be settled, and live well in the next life.

Everyone that has parents, or grandparents, or great grandparents that have been secluded at home, is the hardest thing to do. You know you may not have much time to spend with them and there is not much that can be done about it. Make time work for you and them, the best you can by calling them, Facetime, Skype, do anything you can for them, and for yourself.

About the Author
Keith Brooks made Aliyah in 2014 with his wife, 3 kids, and their dog. Keith writes about his Aliyah, Israel and Jewish life in general. Keith is CEO of B2B Whisperer, helping executives become better speakers and presenters. Keith advises B2B companies on their strategy as it relates to sales, pricing, marketing and competitive intelligence. Keith is a MassChallenge Israel mentor, an HCL Ambassador.
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