Ma Zot Mishpacha? What is Family?

If you gave me kilos of gold and diamonds they would never have for me the same value as family.  I grew up with a very loving family on my father’s side, a cooler family on my mother’s side. Now with the passing of years, many…most…are no longer alive.

But my only surviving family  (now Keren, originally Kravetzky)  in Israel is in Ramat HaSharon with children in Kfar Saba and Tel-Aviv. To see them, to hear their voices on the telephone, is like a symphony of love.  From their late father’s and grandfather’s hugs and kisses, it has been passed down to the present generation.  I would walk kilometers in sunshine or in rain just to get their hugs and kisses.

There is nothing more precious in all the world than a loving family. In my lifetime, and probably in the lifetime of my readers, we have seen jealousy and quarrels with families.  But never in mine !

I recall a very sad incident which I witnessed at a funeral some few years ago. The mother’s body was not yet covered with earth from the grave when the shouting began.

One daughter yelled to her sister: “Ima promised me her diamond necklace after she died. She promised it to me, not to you”. And the other daughter replied: “When Ima was sick, it was I who took care of her, not you. You were always too busy to visit her. So don’t dare ask me for any of Ima’s jewelry”.

The bitter words flew back and forth and for a few moments I thought one sister would push the other sister into the grave on top of their dead mother.

Only the two husbands were able to separate the sisters from hitting one another. And all because of “sinat chinam”, useless hatred over a piece of jewelry.

My father taught me the blessings of a good family. He and his younger brother, a doctor, were as close and devoted to each other like Siamese twins. The love which they had for each other was truly a blessing from God.

My father never went to sleep at night before telephoning his brother to ask how his day was and to wish him a “Shaina metooka, chalomot paz”… sweet sleep and precious dreams.

The love of two brothers was for me the true meaning of mishpacha… family.

Family means sharing and caring for one another, showing compassion and understanding, rejoicing in one another’s joy and weeping in one another’s sorrow.

The days of my years are numbered. My children constantly remind me to stop counting. Only God alone knows the days and years of a man’s life.  I know that they are correct but often my body tells me another story and my mind wanders.

I walk from the kitchen to the bedroom to get something and by the time I arrive in the bedroom I have already forgotten what it is that I was looking for. The Golden age has turned into a rusty age.

All things can be taken away from me, but never my loving family. They are the only gold and diamonds that I need in my life. They are my only precious gems. And they need to be protected against loss or harm.

The distance between Ramat HaSharon and Rishon Lezion is not too far. I do not have a car and am dependent upon Egged to take me wherever I want to go.  For my cousins Binyamin and Shula, walking is now as difficult as it is for me.

So when we do meet, it is in a kosher restaurant or in one of our apartments. And it is such a joy for me to be with them, their children and their grandchildren.  And I love the many hugs and kisses.

They are blood of my blood, children of our parents who left the shtetls of Russia in 1909 and in 1911 respectively, to settle in new lands and to build new lives.

And with the passing of years and generations,  the Keren-Kravetzky-Ben-Sorek  love still blossoms.

We celebrate Simchat Torah for one day a year. I celebrate Simchat Ahavat Mishpacha every day of every year.

That is what family love means to me.  And always will !

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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