Like Martin Luther King, I too had a dream. But a very different one. Strange but very welcome.
My father’s father (my zaideh) appeared to me in a dream last night. It was very strange because he died in 1941 when I was only an 8 year old boy.
My memories of him remain with me, although only certain parts of him can I recall. His photos from his married years in Czarist Russia hang on my wall. Each morning upon arising, after reciting the Modeh Ani prayer thanking God for restoring my soul unto my body, I throw a kiss to my zaideh’s portrait on the wall.
He did not speak Hebrew. Only Yiddish. So he was not my saba, just my very beloved zaideh. He obviously spoke Russian but I never heard him speak it.
He was a very observant Orthodox Jew who prayed three times each day in his small synagogue, Linas HaTzedek (resting place for the righteous). And he was definitely a very righteous man.
He had only one brother, Yermiyahu, who together with his wife and four young children traveled from their Russian village, crossing Poland and arriving in Germany from where they set sail for Palestine.
They arrived in 1913 and settled in Jaffa. At the beginning of the World War in 1914, the Ottoman Turks expelled all Russian Jews out of Palestine. The family took refuge in Alexandria, Egypt and remained there until the British ousted the Ottoman Turks from Palestine in 1918.
My zaideh had never heard from them again. I only knew the names of his brother and one or two of his children. (Happily, in 1956, I found my father’s family in Tel Aviv and we have been lovingly re-united ever since).
Sometime just as World War I was beginning, zaideh arranged passage on a ship sailing from Russia to Liverpool, England for him and his two older daughters Cherna and Chaya. The others remained in Russia until immigration could be arranged for them.
I don’t recall the exact year but it was during wartime and ships were often followed by enemy submarines. My father always remembered the fears they had.
But ultimately his mother Sarah Rivka with him, Yaakov Lev (my father) and his brother Yitzchak Mottel and two sisters, Etta Leah and five year old Bella were reunited with the rest of their family.
My memories from ages 4 to 8 (the year he died) are of a grandfather who smothered me with his wet kisses, stroking my hair and singing Yiddish songs to me while I sat on his lap. His hugs were so strong I could sometimes not catch my breath. But each time I was with my zaideh is burned deeply into my mind and the memories of abundant love will continue to remain forever even though he died almost 80 years ago.
So when he suddenly appeared in my dream last night I was a bit frightened. He spoke to me in Yiddish and I can remember every one of his words in my dream.
“Esor’l mein tayer einekal. Fun mein dreitzig eineklach du bist die eigeneh ver bist a shomer mitzvos und ver davent yeden tog azoi vi mir und dein tayer tateh. Bleib gezunt mein Esor’l.”
“(Esor’l (his name for me).. of all my 13 grandchildren you are the only one who keeps our Jewish tradition strong and who prays every day just like me and your dear father. Stay well, mein Esor’l”.
When I awoke I could feel wetness on my cheeks. Not the wetness of zaideh’s kisses but from the tears of happiness to have heard his voice in my dream.
While holding on to my memories of a beloved grandfather, I am a bit frightened. What does it mean when a voice from the dead is heard in a dream? I truly hope it does not mean that which I do not want it to mean just now.
Zaideh’s religious traditions have been passed down to my son and to his son and his young wife who are Orthodox Jews observant of all the religious laws and customs of our people.
Zaideh planted the seed and from it grew a beautiful blossoming tree. May all his wishes and my dreams come true.
Ain v’lo hayu kamohu. There is not and never was anyone like my zaideh.
My dream of him was strange but at the same time it was very welcome!