There is a Talmudic expression although I am too ignorant to know its source. Nevertheless, like many sage words, phrases and proverbs, it is the one single one that can describe me and my life.
“Mi rabbotai lamadeti harbai; mi chaverai yoter mi rabbotai; u’mi talmidai yoter mi koolam”
“From my teachers I have learned much; from my friends, more than from my teachers; and from my students, more than all others”.
Looking back at 63 years of my classroom teaching, I cannot make an accurate account of the numbers of young men and women who entered and exited from my classrooms but it surely was at least 600 per year. (You can do the math better than I can).
In my rather lonely and frightened old age, fearful mainly of what awaits me, there exists only one human being, unrelated to anyone in my family…. in fact one individual whom I have never seen in my life, with whom I have never spoken, and who shares a common denominator with me.
Like me, he reads and he writes. Like me, he too replies. Like me, he values the gift of friendship.
David is an immensely brilliant Jerusalemite who has dedicated his literary talents to writing a book about the life of his beloved father for who’s death he still grieves in mourning.
That is the spark which kindled our literary friendship. David still mourns for his father as I still mourn for my wife. It will be 4 years this week since death took her away from me, my children and my grandchildren. At the cemetery I will recite the El Malei Rachamim memorial prayer followed by the Mourner’s Kaddish. I will scream but only the dead and buried can hear me. I will weep only as long as I have sufficient tissues in my pocket to dry my tears.
Last year when I went to visit her grave, I slipped and fell on the pavement and was unable to get up. There was nothing on which to lean. My cane did not have the leverage needed to help me to stand up.
I lay on cold concrete for almost one hour, unable to move, with no human in sight to help me.
Fortunately I had my cellphone in a pocket and I was able to contact my daughter in her law office. She in turn notified the police and within minutes they together with the cemetery officials in a truck lifted me up, dusted me off from earth and grass on my clothing, checked me to see if I could respond to questions, and once they deemed I was still sane (I must have fooled them !) they escorted me back to my parked car and I drove safely home, arriving 40 minutes later, limping on my cane.
This week my daughter will drive me to and from the cemetery. She will hold my arm and will lead me to the grave. I will stare at the empty spot next to it… the spot reserved for me. Matai? When?
Each evening after supper and watching the 8 o’clock news (no news is good news: coronavirus & heat-wave), I go back to my computer and click on to one of David’s tributes to his father. What a magnificent gift Hashem has given him to put in writing the words still deep in his still broken heart.
Believe me, I know from personal experience the depth and love of his words.
He has become, possibly unknown to him, not only a writer-colleague but even more so, a teacher-friend.
Mimenu yoter mi koolam. From him, more than from others do I find some respite from pain.
One heart seems to speak to another heart in the language of love and understanding.
It may be that he and I will never meet panim el panim, face to face, but an invisible friendship will blossom and bloom if we both give it sufficient water and light to thrive. Mayim v’Or= chavruta !
Water and light equals friendship ! More than from all others.