We all have special events, times in our lives that are in some way extraordinary. We often take photos of such moments, or keep mementos and deposit their specialness in our memory banks. All of us know that such happiness is transient, but there is such wonder in remembering the joy that those unique occasions bring to us.
I use a dresser drawer to store my beloved treasures, those memorabilia, printed souvenirs of great days and times; like yesterday, when I opened the squeaky drawer to carefully place another item that will stay with me always. This newest addition is the Playbill, looking remarkably like a real Broadway Playbill, of our granddaughter Sammy’s appearance in a middle school production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Sammy played Charlie and had a wonderful time of it, almost as wonderful as we had watching! She was amazing and so was the whole cast. Of course this easily qualified as an addition to my treasures. I have quite a collection. And each time I look at these pieces of a life, my life, and my husband’s life, I shed a tear of joy, and remember those events that have brought such delight. Those are treasures indeed.
When I come home carrying such a precious piece of paper I never throw it out. Its objective value is totally negligible. It has none! But to me, to us, it is a reason to live, parts of our success stories, events of unquantifiable importance. The collection has moved with us and it will be with us as long as we live. These are the items that sustain us.
As I always do when I add to the collection, I read some of the older submissions and note their beauty, a beauty that truly resonates mainly with us. Who else would be interested in the report card of a first grader now a grandmother herself? And who else would find that beautiful?
Some of our pages are words crafted by us for special occasions. A brit. A baby naming. A graduation. A wedding. Words that were offered at important life-cycle events and that were considered to be important gifts to the recipient.
The power of everlasting words is something we all know. Our three great-grandsons, for example, although very young, ranging in age from 1 to 5, each has his own individual email account. Hence an email to Lior who just celebrated his first birthday goes to his Gmail address and his father, our grandson, tells us that when Lior is old enough to read he can review his messages for himself. So, when we are writing to one year old Lior, it behooves us to remember that we are also writing to Bar Mitzvah Lior, or Chatan Lior, or even, Abba Lior. Our words should matter as, no doubt, they will be all that he knows of us!
It will be that special connection, similar to what happened this past Shabbat when our granddaughter Sarit, serendipitously, drank the kiddush grape juice from a cup given to us in 1960 when we first married. Over 60 years ago and here was this 16 year old young woman feeling the spirit of that gift, given so long ago and engraved with the prayers of her very own great-great-grandmother Babba Skopp, known to us as the Big Babba, all 5 feet of her, but taller than the Little Babba, by a lot! The kiddush cup is,of course, not in the drawer! We use it every Shabbat.
Our first grandchild, who is that father of three, was given advice by me at his brit to inherit the characteristics of those in our family whom I hoped might inspire him. I considered what I would say about each of us and chose those words that he could look at in future days, like today for example. I am amazed indeed how this paragraph to him has passed the test of time.
I wrote, E, you and I are both new at this. But we will get the hang of it! May your life be a constant source of joy and pride for Klal Yisrael and may the first word you use to describe yourself always be Jewish. May you feel as at home in Jerusalem as you do in New Jersey, and may you learn to speak Hebrew as well as you speak English. May your thirst for all things Jewish be constant and, above all, may you grow to be a mensch.
Prophetic words indeed for a young man who is now a rabbi! I am so very proud of his love and kindness and caring for his congregants. He is a consummate mensch! This document is clearly a keeper!
I wrote to another grandson, also at his brit, a young man who now stands over 6 feet 4 inches tall: Young man, very very young man, we pray you will grow tall and strong. And that you will be prepared for a life of adventure, for your parents are adventurers. They seek to know the entire world and to find its beauty. You will soon be photographed for your passport and slid into a backpack, off on a journey to who knows where!
And to another young man at his Bar Mitzvah I wrote, may you not only have a Jewish life but may you be a Jewish life. This means that you should be profoundly Jewish and a source of great nachat to our people always, and that you shall teach diligently unto your children.
Of course my special cache includes all of our collected graduation programs. From the Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union, from the Frisch School, from the Abraham Joshua Heschel School, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, from Brandeis University, from Columbia College, from Tulane University which loved our graduate so much that they let her and her entire class graduate twice since they were only virtual graduates the first time and the school wanted to try again with, hopefully, no pandemic, from Binghamton U and McGill, and Maryland and a rabbinic degree from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, and three separate BAs from the University of Pennsylvania. The learning goes on and this month we will have a graduation program from Yale University. There are graduate degrees, and honors, and one which I cannot produce but which I saw awarded to our graduate from the Columbia School of Engineering, made all the more remarkable since it was a complete shock. All the tuition money clearly went to good places, educating good people for good and committed lives. And hopefully there will be more to come!
And back to plays, another of our young women, S, was in a number of plays at the JCC right here in West Orange, NJ. Attending her very first play I learned the most important lesson of playgoers that feature a grandchild: don’t even think about coming without a bouquet of flowers! When we walked into that first play we were clearly the only ones without flowers for our star. We won’t make that mistake again.
Weddings deliver the greatest joy. Jewish young men marry Jewish young women! Prayers ascend to keep those chuppahs coming as they bring with them the scent and the flavor of eternal life, new generations to carry on our community, our faith, and our traditions, as a family and as a nation. We are now awaiting our e-vite from Jerusalem where Shosh and our grandson Josh are soon to be wed. Mazal tov.