Covered Walls and Bubbles In the Air

This is no intention of bragging. Only stating the facts and the dilemma.

On one wall there hangs 21 diplomas and certificates from universities and governments. On other walls there hangs 42 citations, proclamations, testimonials and honors. All tributes for 56 years of service, presented to me mainly by universities and officials of governments.

I don’t dust them in their glass frames for fear of falling from a ladder. They remind me of the words of a 1920’s popular song, “they rise so high, nearly reach the sky, then like my dreams they fade and die; fortune’s always fading, I’ve looked everywhere. I’m forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air….” .

Now my problem or dilemma is a not-so-simple one. My three children are middle-aged and have no desire to clutter up their walls with remnants of my past. My three grandchildren are not yet married and while some may want to keep a small few of what hangs on the walls, I can hear the voices of their yet un-known spouses shouting “We don’t need all that junk in our house. Get rid of it. Give it to some museum or bury it next to your grandfather when he dies”.  It won’t be too much longer, I can feel it approaching.

Of course, one solution might be to remove all the papers and parchments from the frames and re-use the frames for family photos.

It does so happen that I cherish many of the memories of those past 56 years… certificates of honor from the Congress of the United States of America, signed portraits of prime ministers and past presidents of Israel among them.

And on one wall hangs the greatest treasure of them all. A treasure because it does not pertain to me personally but only to my past family. It is the great parchment genealogy of the names of my maternal family from 1727 to 1927, celebrating 200 years of rabbinical life in Polish cities, town and villages.

I can breathe a little easier now, because I am assured that my almost twenty year-old grandson, a chozer b’teshuva  (returnee to traditional Judaism) and a follower of the Chabad Chasidic movement, will not allow it to be destroyed or buried. He is the eleventh generation of all those who are named in it.  For him, it is not a “bubble in the air”.

Together with more than four thousand books in my library, the wall-hangings will only create unnecessary problems for my children after I am gone. No one wants them. Libraries don’t accept used books. I offered them to used-book dealers whose song was the same oft-heard melody “no one is interested in buying old books. Not even Amazon”.

Of the total collection I can think of only two books out of the thousands  which will be chosen by my son who really wants them.  The first one with its detached cover is the original 1636 printed volume,  “A Treatise of The Foure Degenerate Sonnes, viz. the Atheist, the Idolator, the Magician and the Jew:  Being the Fourth Volume of the Workes of M. Ioh. WEEMSE of Lathhocker in Scotland. Printed in London by Thomas Cotes. 1636”.

The second book of his choice, one of my most dearly cherished, is an original printing of the 1956 first edition of the Hebrew daily and holiday prayerbook ever printed in the Soviet Union.  SIDDUR HA-SHALOM, edited by the late Chief Rabbi of Moscow, Rabbi  Shlomo ben ha-Rav Yechiel Michal Shliefer.

It was sent to me as a gift on April 11, 1959 by Rabbi Yehudah Leib Levin, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Religious Community of Moscow, USSR.

I open it for prayer only once each year on Yom Kippur.

The New York Times printed an article by Irving Spiegel on page 68 of its Sunday edition, April 19, 1959 entitled “Soviet Puts Out Hebrew Volume” followed by an article in a Boston newspaper written by Leo Shapiro, entitled “Copy Received Here. Russian Jews Win,  Prayerbook Printed”.

I keep the original newspaper clippings inside the prayerbook’s blessing for peace and welfare of the government.

Receipt of the first Hebrew publication since the 1917 revolution in Russia made news in media around the world.  I received a Western Union Telegram (in the decades before faxes, e-mails, etc.) from Kathleen Schwarzchild, Managing Editor of “Keeping Posted”:

“Would be grateful for positive photostat Soviet prayerbook page containing prayer for Soviet government for publication Youth Magazine Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Gladly give credit and pay expenses. Can you first class mail this week 838 Fifth Avenue, New York”.

My son can have the historic prayerbook.  I’ll keep the newspaper clippings and telegrams.

Memories ?  Yes.   Bubbles in the air?  Not faded away yet !


About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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