In a few days on the 20th of Elul I will light a candle and go to the synagogue to recite the Kaddish prayer for my beloved and sainted wife. It is two years since I closed her eyes moments after she no longer breathed.
I screamed and cried at our great loss. For eight months we knew the day was coming. Pancreatic cancer took her away from us.
Min ha-maitzar… from out of the depths I called upon my God. “Why did You take her away from me?”
Two years later, I ask the same question. I visit her grave often, crying and praying and begging Hashem to take pity upon me, to surrender my life and be buried next to her. Hashem hears me but He does not respond. At least not in ways that I can hear.
For 56 years she was my light and my guide. From the moment we first met aboard a ship in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, I knew that this was the young lady whom I wanted to marry. And we knew each other only six days prior to our wedding in Tel-Aviv. Our two hearts were joined as one.
Rahel was my inspiration. She was more religiously observant of Torah and Halacha than I was. She had more knowledge in her smallest finger than I had in my entire body. She rose up each morning at sunrise to begin her daily prayers and I followed shortly thereafter, thanking Hashem for another day of life together with her.
In 1980 I lost my father. In 1993 I lost my mother. In 2018 I lost my only brother. And while I mourned for them and observed the year of Kaddish, I overcame my grief. But with the death of my wife in 2016 my grief is my constant companion. It gives me no rest.
I pray to God for comfort and I am given anxiety. I pray to God for strength and I am wedded to weakness. I pray for light while continuing to walk in darkness. Min ha-maitzar…from out of my depths.
Loving and devoted children and grandchildren grieve with me and yet are able to function in their daily professions and responsibilities. They too visit Rahel’s grave and there too, tears flow.
Her body no longer exists but her beautiful soul, our memories, will linger as long as there is life within our bodies.
From the moment of her death one individual stands out as my greatest healer. He understands my pain and my affliction. Some years ago, he also lost a very young wife, mother of his five children. He mourned. He cried. He prayed. And he went on living, rejoicing in his beloved family.
Rahel passed away at 2:45 in the morning. I lit a candle beside her bed, closed her eyes and covered her with a sheet. I called Rabbi Polakoff and within 15 minutes he arrived at my door. He hugged me and he shared my sorrow. He notified the Chevra Kaddisha and shortly thereafter he and Rabbi Lichter followed behind Rahel’s body which was then taken away for preparations before burial.
The words which he spoke at her funeral were from his heart. D’varim she yotz’im min ha lev nichnasim el toch ha lev… words which come from one heart enter into many other hearts.
Each Shabbat morning in the synagogue he approaches me to wish me a Shabbat shalom accompanied by a hug and a kiss on my cheek.
Ish ha Elokim hu. He is truly a man of God. I hold him in high esteem and respect, not out of obligation… only out of love for him.
My children see my pain but they cannot feel my pain. Rabbi Polakoff sees and feels.
Two painful years of loneliness and despair will be remembered on the 20th of Elul. There will never be healing. The wounds will never disappear. I can never again be what once I was.
Rahel’s framed photo sits at our Shabbat table in front of the lit candlesticks. Her seat is empty and always will be. A vase of dried flowers rests at the place where she sat. My daughter and I, at the end of Zemirot and Birkat Ha Mazon which concludes our Shabbat meal, pick up the photo and kiss it while wishing a beloved wife and mother a Shabbat shalom. Neither of us have dry eyes.
Min ha- maitzar… from the depths of depression I call upon the Lord.
He hears my voice and my supplications but He remains silent. The light has faded, overcome by darkness.