On Thursday morning, August 30th (yesterday as I am writing this) we got up from sitting shiva for my dear father Eli Fachler z”l.
Over the last few weeks as we were struggling to get Dad back to health at the Herzog Hospital, certain thoughts welled up from inside me and I started to write them down. After he passed away, I strung some of them together, and at his funeral last Thursday I read them out in the form of hesped. For those of you who missed the levaya, below is the full text of the hesped.
The shiva took place in Yerushalayim and for the last two days also in London, which my brother Yossi flew back to attend. It was attended by an on-going stream of people who told us the story over and over again of how my parents’s totally open house effected their lives. Some even claimed that they should be sitting shiva themselves — even though they are not blood relatives, they feel like children or grandchildren of my parents.
I am also attaching the link to the video of the amazing address my dad delivered at the event commemorating the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht in Berlin in November 2013.
Dad. My dad. But when I take a step back I realize that you are Dad for all seven of your children. To my children and grandchildren, you are Opi, but you are Opi to around a hundred grand and great grandchildren. And you are special to each of them in a unique way. So we are mourning the passing of seven dads and more than a hundred opis.
Dadalleh, as we tried to care for you over these last weeks and beyond, I was preoccupied with the thought that you, Dad, did not have the opportunities for the mitsvah of Kibbud Av Va’em. Leaving home at the age of 15 and never seeing your parents again….I felt that we were not only we fulfilling our mitzvah, but also yours that you missed out on.
If I was to attempt to describe your personality, it would be that you possess a singular presence of nobility.
Singular — in that you are comfortably set in your ways, uniquely not influenced by social norms and ideas that surround you. Your thoughts and ideas are not the run-of-the-mill quotes from this commentator or another. Rather, you express your take on the primary sources you engaged in, more often than not from the siddur.
Presence — in that your mostly quiet and non-presuming personality exuded a sense of strength. Not in the extrovert or domineering approach of taking up space, but rather in the potency of one who possesses the confidence in his own ways with zero need to impress or convince others. And while you showed on certain occasions, such as in Berlin last year and at your recent London 70th wedding anniversary dinner, that if called upon you have a stage presence that is second-to-none, you never craved the stage, never looked to occupy positions of authority. A presence that sets an example to others — an example that is impossible to ignore.
Nobility — in that when you combine the two attributes of singularity and presence, the result is a majestic purity of soul that is the essential Eli Fachler. This has never been more apparent than during these last few weeks when your body was failing you, but the essential you, the noble and majestic purity of soul/personality has shone through in all its singular presence of nobility.
In the early years of my life, our relationship centered on that quiet but potent presence. In later teen years, that relationship matured towards one that included an on-going dialog regarding values, ideology, theology and eventually more private and intimate issues of the heart. I remember on different occasions some of our discussions. Upon returning to London from yeshiva in Israel, while I had respect for many of the rabbinic figures I came across in the yeshiva world, I was more than frustrated at the lack of any rabbinic figure that spoke my language and with whom I could personally identify. My spiritual search led me to a book called Crisis and Faith, by Rabbi Eliezer Berkovitz. Walking to shul with you, Dad, up the Finchley road, I mentioned to you that I was blown away by the fact that such an Orthodox approach on life existed. It was then that you smiled and said — Yes, he was my private rebbe in Berlin.
On a different occasion, when I mentioned to you that I was studying and researching the different forms of the broad spectrum of Orthodoxy, you started quoting ideologues and thinkers from the Kibbutz HaDati movement and you began to espouse your ideology and approach that you had formulated. When I was a student, you would come with me to Jews College to hear Rav Nachum Rabinowitz speak on Yom Yerushalayim or on Parshat HaShavua. When we lived in London, you would come with us to shul in Yakar in Hendon and you would pick fights with Mickey (Rosen) when he would say things that you felt were too left-wing. And of course the countless times at our Shabbat table, when you would share with us your incredible insights on whatever the topic of discussion was at the time. It was and continues to be for me a source of pride that as I have come to my ever evolving approach to life and Yiddishkeit, it turns out to be remarkably similar to yours.
Together with my siblings, I have tried to be there for you as you got older and your heart started calling for attention. Everything we did was out of love and appreciation — not only as duty. But whatever we managed to do was but a speck compared to everything we received from you.
Your motto has always been ובחרת בחיים (choose life). You would mention this on a regular basis. You would say that in this world we are to celebrate life — Judaism steers far away from anything associated with death. And though death of your loved ones followed you throughout your life, your parents, your David and then more recently your Marcus, you never allowed death to dictate your agenda. Hahefech — in this world — ובחרת בחיים
At the age of 15 you left home to join the Kindertransport train to Whitingham in Scotland, never to see you parents my grandparents, ever again. While the majority of your friends who were with you, one by one, jettisoned their Judaism, you were steadfast. You joined the Bachad Hachshara Kibbutz in Buckingham through pristine religious Zionist ideals. There you met mum with whom you decided to build and rebuild the Fachler/Becker tribe in Letchworth, London and Yerushalayim with now well over 100 offspring. So your motto wasn’t only an idea or a way of life, It found concrete expression in the myriad of new Fachler souls that now inhabit this earth.
After one of her visits to you, Ateret said to me that she saw in your eyes that you were preparing for the next stage of your journey. Preparing to see those you haven’t seen for so long… So now, after nearly 92 full and amazing years, over 70 of them with Mum, your Chava, the amazing Omi, now it is your turn בשיבה טובה to return your soul back to the Creator of all life. Now you can catch up with and spend real quality time with your loved ones who you have missed so much and who you love so much.
Dad, we have all inherited from you the some of your awesome middot. Your children, including myself, worked day and night to help you continue your mission of ובחרת בחיים. But now, with unbearable sadness for us, we bid you a צאתכם לשלום (farewell). You leave us in the firm knowledge that you continue to be the beacon for all of the lives you leave behind here. I am sure that in the lofty location where you are now headed to, you will become the Pillar, the Singular Presence of Nobility that will set the example to all even there. Because yours is the purest of souls. A soul beloved by everyone and by Hashem, a soul that my children and grandchildren have the zchut to call Opi and a soul that I have the zchut to call — my dad.