According to Halakha, when a death coincides with a major Jewish holiday, the traditional shivah period of mourning is abbreviated or superseded by the holiday. In accordance with that practice, there was no formal shivah for my father-in-law, Herbert Yudenfriend z”l, who died at age 94 and was buried on the day before Shavuot, three months after the death of Minya, his wife of 70 years. The timing left less time for formal mourning, which was unfortunate because there was so much for his three surviving daughters, fourteen grandchildren and other relatives and friends to remember.
I remember the first time I met my then-future father-in-law. He made a point of telling me that the good thing about glass is that it breaks. When I questioned whether that was a good thing, he responded: “It is if you’re in the glass business!” It was the first of countless amusing lines I was to hear from him over the years. The first thing he said to me whenever I spoke to him on the phone was: “Do you have any funny stories?” All of those who spoke at his Zoom funeral made prominent mention of his propensity for telling and listening to jokes.
Despite the limitations imposed by the holiday, there was something appropriate about the timing of his death. Shavuot, after all, celebrates the gift of Torah, and Torah study was an important part of his life. He was devoted to Judaism and to his synagogue community. He sought knowledge of every kind — Presidents, state capitals, and math problems, to name just a few. He had the good fortune to retain his intellectual ability and interest until the end. Indeed, in the hospital on the morning of the day he died he asked one of his daughters to bring him a pen — so he could do the crossword puzzle.
Herb Yudenfriend was not an effusive person, not one given to outward displays of emotion. Yet his devotion to his family was unmistakable, as was the love he inspired in them. He had a unique relationship with each one. As a son-in-law who had been the husband of the daughter who died more than two decades ago but whom he never ceased to consider a part of his family, I can surely attest to that.
Yehi zichro barukh — may Hebert Yudenfriend’s memory continue to be a blessing to all whose lives he touched.