How will your “dash” between your dates of life and death read? Until 120

What will your life look like? Does destiny hold the answer to your questions? Or does our Torah teach us life long lessons to live by…

All pictures taken by me for the purpose of sharing our stories.

History and legacy of our family. Who knew and what will be?

What does the future hold? Are there any clues to go by?

A way to continue on with the future.

Doesn’t it really start here? Way back 4,000 years ago +?

וַיִּהְיוּ֙ חַיֵּ֣י שָׂרָ֔ה מֵאָ֥ה שָׁנָ֛ה וְעֶשְׂרִ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה וְשֶׁ֣בַע שָׁנִ֑ים שְׁנֵ֖י חַיֵּ֥י שָׂרָֽה׃

Sarah’s lifetime—the span of Sarah’s life—came to one hundred and twenty-seven years.

My grandparents on my mother’s side were born in 1905. That would bring the count to 115. So where would the 12 years come from? From the time that my great parents left Odessa, from their shtetl in the  Ukraine, to establish their home or temporary dwelling place,  on the West side of St. Paul, MN where the Jews from the Ukraine were living at that time.

וַתָּ֣מָת שָׂרָ֗ה בְּקִרְיַ֥ת אַרְבַּ֛ע הִ֥וא חֶבְר֖וֹן בְּאֶ֣רֶץ כְּנָ֑עַן וַיָּבֹא֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם לִסְפֹּ֥ד לְשָׂרָ֖ה וְלִבְכֹּתָֽהּ׃

Sarah died in Kiriath-arba—now Hebron—in the land of Canaan; and Abraham proceeded to mourn for Sarah and to bewail her.

My grandparents, children of refugees, were nomads in the sense that they tried to live in other areas other than the West side of St.Paul, in order to make a living. At one point, work brought them to Dallas, Texas. There my grandparents found work but it wasn’t to last. It was the time of the Depression. Work was hard to come by. My grandparents split up, each one taking one child. My grandfather took my mother and brought her back to the West Side of St. Paul. to be raised by his mother, Bubie Klara, a Jewish refugee, while he went to find work in the scrap metal yards.  My ” new American” grandmother took my uncle Larry and came to find work and living arrangements in Chicago.  My great grandmother raised my mother as a proud Jew, and promised her that she would be at her Jewish wedding. Alas, it was not to be. Bubie Klara died in the land of West Side of St Paul, MN.,  three years before my mother married. On her deathbed, my mother promised to name her first daughter after her Bubie Klara, Bubie Klara’s memory, to carry on her legacy.  My mother proceeded to mourn for her Bubie and to bewail her.

וַיָּ֙קָם֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם מֵעַ֖ל פְּנֵ֣י מֵת֑וֹ וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר אֶל־בְּנֵי־חֵ֖ת לֵאמֹֽר׃

Then Abraham rose from beside his dead, and spoke to the Hittites, saying,

and then my mother arose from beside her dead, and spoke to her people, saying, “I can’t stay here any longer. I need to move on. “

גֵּר־וְתוֹשָׁ֥ב אָנֹכִ֖י עִמָּכֶ֑ם תְּנ֨וּ לִ֤י אֲחֻזַּת־קֶ֙בֶר֙ עִמָּכֶ֔ם וְאֶקְבְּרָ֥ה מֵתִ֖י מִלְּפָנָֽי׃

“I am a resident alien among you; sell me a burial site among you, that I may remove my dead for burial.”

I am feeling like a resident alien among you. Let me go. I feel dead here. I need to remove my dead sense of self for burial and move on to the next chapter in my life. Let me go to Chicago where I can make a life for myself there. I can find a Jewish hevreh on campus. I can find a Habonim chapter there. I can find good schooling there. I can find a Jewish husband. “

וַיַּעֲנ֧וּ בְנֵי־חֵ֛ת אֶת־אַבְרָהָ֖ם לֵאמֹ֥ר לֽוֹ׃

And the Hittites replied to Abraham, saying to him,

and her father and stepmother, replied to her, saying, ” We don’t know what you will find there. We know what you have here. You have us and other family members.  You can ask to stay with your mother until you can get on your feet.

שְׁמָעֵ֣נוּ ׀ אֲדֹנִ֗י נְשִׂ֨יא אֱלֹהִ֤ים אַתָּה֙ בְּתוֹכֵ֔נוּ בְּמִבְחַ֣ר קְבָרֵ֔ינוּ קְבֹ֖ר אֶת־מֵתֶ֑ךָ אִ֣ישׁ מִמֶּ֔נּוּ אֶת־קִבְר֛וֹ לֹֽא־יִכְלֶ֥ה מִמְּךָ֖ מִקְּבֹ֥ר מֵתֶֽךָ׃

“Hear us, my lord: you are the elect of God among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places; none of us will withhold his burial place from you for burying your dead.

”We don’t know why you would want to go to college. For what? You will end up getting married and washing diapers. It is best for you to stay here. It it doesn’t work out there, then come back. It is best to bury that dream of yours. Stay here in the choicest of our places; none of us will withhold his home place from you for burying your dreams. It’s the Depression after all. “

וַיָּ֧קָם אַבְרָהָ֛ם וַיִּשְׁתַּ֥חוּ לְעַם־הָאָ֖רֶץ לִבְנֵי־חֵֽת׃

Thereupon Abraham bowed low to the people of the land, the Hittites,

Thereupon my mother paid her respects to her people of the house,

וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר אִתָּ֖ם לֵאמֹ֑ר אִם־יֵ֣שׁ אֶֽת־נַפְשְׁכֶ֗ם לִקְבֹּ֤ר אֶת־מֵתִי֙ מִלְּפָנַ֔י שְׁמָע֕וּנִי וּפִגְעוּ־לִ֖י בְּעֶפְר֥וֹן בֶּן־צֹֽחַר׃

and he said to them, “If it is your wish that I remove my dead for burial, you must agree to intercede for me with Ephron son of Zohar.

and she said to them, “If it is your wish that I remove my dreams from my soul, I can’t do that. It’s between Gd and me. But you must agree to intercede for me with Gd, only if you feel like praying. I need to try out my dreams. ” She heard them chuckle. Them pray? They were Americans now. Being and living Jewishly was from the Old Country, a thing of their past.

וְיִתֶּן־לִ֗י אֶת־מְעָרַ֤ת הַמַּכְפֵּלָה֙ אֲשֶׁר־ל֔וֹ אֲשֶׁ֖ר בִּקְצֵ֣ה שָׂדֵ֑הוּ בְּכֶ֨סֶף מָלֵ֜א יִתְּנֶ֥נָּה לִ֛י בְּתוֹכְכֶ֖ם לַאֲחֻזַּת־קָֽבֶר׃

Let him sell me the cave of Machpelah that he owns, which is at the edge of his land. Let him sell it to me, at the full price, for a burial site in your midst.”

Let them sell me a train ticket so that I may travel to Chicago, only after my mother agrees to take me in, which is at the edge of Chicago, the new Goldeneh  Medinah/ land.

וְעֶפְר֥וֹן יֹשֵׁ֖ב בְּת֣וֹךְ בְּנֵי־חֵ֑ת וַיַּעַן֩ עֶפְר֨וֹן הַחִתִּ֤י אֶת־אַבְרָהָם֙ בְּאָזְנֵ֣י בְנֵי־חֵ֔ת לְכֹ֛ל בָּאֵ֥י שַֽׁעַר־עִיר֖וֹ לֵאמֹֽר׃

Ephron was present among the Hittites; so Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the Hittites, all who entered the gate of his town, saying,

and her father was present among the family members, her stepmother, her stepbrother, her half sister, her half brother, so her father answered in the hearing of the family, all who had entered the doorway of his home, saying. 

לֹֽא־אֲדֹנִ֣י שְׁמָעֵ֔נִי הַשָּׂדֶה֙ נָתַ֣תִּי לָ֔ךְ וְהַמְּעָרָ֥ה אֲשֶׁר־בּ֖וֹ לְךָ֣ נְתַתִּ֑יהָ לְעֵינֵ֧י בְנֵי־עַמִּ֛י נְתַתִּ֥יהָ לָּ֖ךְ קְבֹ֥ר מֵתֶֽךָ׃

“No, my lord, hear me: I give you the field and I give you the cave that is in it; I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.”

No, but you my daughter, you are strong willed and determined. and I can give you the train ticket to reach Chicago.  I give it to you in the presence of my people. Go chase after your dreams and then bury your dreams. You will soon see that I am right.”

וַיִּשְׁתַּ֙חוּ֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם לִפְנֵ֖י עַ֥ם הָאָֽרֶץ׃

Then Abraham bowed low before the people of the land,

and my mother bowed low before her people of the Tankenov/Tanner household.

וַיְדַבֵּ֨ר אֶל־עֶפְר֜וֹן בְּאָזְנֵ֤י עַם־הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר אַ֛ךְ אִם־אַתָּ֥ה ל֖וּ שְׁמָעֵ֑נִי נָתַ֜תִּי כֶּ֤סֶף הַשָּׂדֶה֙ קַ֣ח מִמֶּ֔נִּי וְאֶקְבְּרָ֥ה אֶת־מֵתִ֖י שָֽׁמָּה׃

and spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, “If only you would hear me out! Let me pay the price of the land; accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there.”

and spoke to her father in the hearing of the people in her family that flocked into the house, saying, “If only you would hear me out! Let me pay the price of my dreams; accept that from me, that I may chase after my dreams and bury them if I must. But let me try!”

וַיַּ֧עַן עֶפְר֛וֹן אֶת־אַבְרָהָ֖ם לֵאמֹ֥ר לֽוֹ׃

And Ephron replied to Abraham, saying to him,

And her father replied to my mother, saying to her,

אֲדֹנִ֣י שְׁמָעֵ֔נִי אֶרֶץ֩ אַרְבַּ֨ע מֵאֹ֧ת שֶֽׁקֶל־כֶּ֛סֶף בֵּינִ֥י וּבֵֽינְךָ֖ מַה־הִ֑וא וְאֶת־מֵתְךָ֖ קְבֹֽר׃

“My lord, do hear me! A piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver—what is that between you and me? Go and bury your dead.”

My daughter, Marvell, our Mindeleh, do you hear me!  a train ticket is worth far more than the dollars that you are asking me to give you. What is the price that is between you and me? Go and chase after your dreams.

וַיִּשְׁמַ֣ע אַבְרָהָם֮ אֶל־עֶפְרוֹן֒ וַיִּשְׁקֹ֤ל אַבְרָהָם֙ לְעֶפְרֹ֔ן אֶת־הַכֶּ֕סֶף אֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבֶּ֖ר בְּאָזְנֵ֣י בְנֵי־חֵ֑ת אַרְבַּ֤ע מֵאוֹת֙ שֶׁ֣קֶל כֶּ֔סֶף עֹבֵ֖ר לַסֹּחֵֽר׃

Abraham accepted Ephron’s terms. Abraham paid out to Ephron the money that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites—four hundred shekels of silver at the going merchants’ rate.

My mother accepted her father’s terms. My mother told him that she would repay him someday, the money that he had agreed to pay for her train ticket.

וַיָּ֣קָם ׀ שְׂדֵ֣ה עֶפְר֗וֹן אֲשֶׁר֙ בַּמַּכְפֵּלָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֖ר לִפְנֵ֣י מַמְרֵ֑א הַשָּׂדֶה֙ וְהַמְּעָרָ֣ה אֲשֶׁר־בּ֔וֹ וְכָל־הָעֵץ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּשָּׂדֶ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּכָל־גְּבֻל֖וֹ סָבִֽיב׃

So Ephron’s land in Machpelah, near Mamre—the field with its cave and all the trees anywhere within the confines of that field—passed

So the money for the train ticket was paid, on the West side of St Paul, near the main street of town, passed on to my mother,  when my mother was turning eighteen, in the year 1947.

לְאַבְרָהָ֥ם לְמִקְנָ֖ה לְעֵינֵ֣י בְנֵי־חֵ֑ת בְּכֹ֖ל בָּאֵ֥י שַֽׁעַר־עִירֽוֹ׃

to Abraham as his possession, in the presence of the Hittites, of all who entered the gate of his town.

to my mother, as her possession, in the presence of her family, of all who had entered into their front door of their house of welcoming guests.

וְאַחֲרֵי־כֵן֩ קָבַ֨ר אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֶת־שָׂרָ֣ה אִשְׁתּ֗וֹ אֶל־מְעָרַ֞ת שְׂדֵ֧ה הַמַּכְפֵּלָ֛ה עַל־פְּנֵ֥י מַמְרֵ֖א הִ֣וא חֶבְר֑וֹן בְּאֶ֖רֶץ כְּנָֽעַן׃

And then Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre—now Hebron—in the land of Canaan.

And then my mother buried her dreams of a life in St Paul, after burying her Bubie Klara in the Jewish cemetery of the West Side of St Paul, facing towards the West Side in the neighborhood of the Jews, now no longer a Jewish neighborhood.

וַיָּ֨קָם הַשָּׂדֶ֜ה וְהַמְּעָרָ֧ה אֲשֶׁר־בּ֛וֹ לְאַבְרָהָ֖ם לַאֲחֻזַּת־קָ֑בֶר מֵאֵ֖ת בְּנֵי־חֵֽת׃

Thus the field with its cave passed from the Hittites to Abraham, as a burial site.

Thus the dream of living in Chicago along with the train ticket passed from her father to my mother, as a burial site for her life in St Paul.

What does the future hold? Only Gd knows but we can help to make great things happen. Thank you Mom, for trusting your dreams.

In memory of a strong willed and determined woman, Marvel(l)/ (added on during her late teenage years because she felt that double lls were much better than a single l.)  D. Tanner Ginsburg z”l, our own matriarch. May her memory continue to be a blessing for all of us, her living legacy.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Claire, the teddy bear Rabbi

Covid 2020

About the Author
Rabbi Claire conceived of the concept Bears from Bergenfield upon a routine check of the Israeli staff at camp SLC August of 2001. She realized that the world needed to wake up and become aware of the suffering the Israelis were enduring as the Palestinians continued their intifada against them. After 18 years and 195,000 teddy bears amassed and redistributed, Rabbi Claire is searching for more public platforms to proliferate and advance her message, that Jewish lives matter, especially with a teddy bear. Rabbi Claire lives in Bergen County with her husband of 38 years, Larry, and their 4 children, Sam, Shira, Seth, and Sarah Rose, plus their incoming son-in-law Ivan. For further information of how to get involved with this endearing project, contact her at
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