Ten years ago, I got my parents back

There are not many couples who get to celebrate a tenth anniversary after four decades of marriage, but it’s becoming something of a family tradition for us.

For Bubby & Zaidy, it was a technical reason. Bubby was–and still is, בע”ה–an educated and professional woman, and she told Zaidy that if they were going to do this marriage thing, she would have to schedule it on the one “extra” day in 1948: February 29th. So, at least for the Yekkes their children would eventually marry into, they technically only had an anniversary once every four years.

For my parents, a decade ago, it was life or death, literally. My mother needed a kidney transplant, and my father immediately asked her doctors if he could donate. They were dubious: after all, spouses aren’t related in that way, and they usually aren’t a match for each other, for the purposes of organ donation. But they ran the many, many necessary tests anyway, and as each one showed that my father was in fact a good donor, the miracle only grew.

The day for the operation was set, and I flew in from Israel to New York, leaving behind my wife Yael, eight months pregnant with our first child. It was bitterly cold, and it seemed to be dark all the time. The operation was long and had some complications which you would find fascinating, dear reader, if you were a nephrologist or a transplant surgeon. The important thing is that it was a success. Six weeks later, we were able to celebrate the birth of their first grandchild.

And in those many dark, cold hours I spent in the hospital, I thought about many things, while trying not to think of many others. When I could pray no more, etymology was a safe topic. In English, of course, transplant is derived from “plant;” but in Hebrew, there are two verbs: nata, to plant a tree; shatal, to transplant. The Latter Prophets love to use the latter term, especially Ezekiel. I was struck by one verse in particular, 19:10:

Your mother is like a vine in your blood, transplanted by the waters: she was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters.

There are many interpretations of this verse, but to me it speaks of the reality that we are all transplants. For all of us, life on this planet is about relocating from our mother’s womb. Indeed, the Psalmist refers to all children as transplanted saplings (128:3). Some of us may find ourselves transplanted many times, putting down roots in a new land. For Jews, it is our defining national narrative, the reason we must show compassion to the refugee and the stranger. But it is a universal need, especially in this month of Shevat, a month of rebirth and renewal, when we celebrate our common ancestors, Adam of the earth and Eve mother of all life.

As for me, I’m just happy that I got my parents back ten years ago–and that we are all replanted here, as Ezekiel envisioned (17:23):

On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches.

About the Author
Yoseif Bloch is a rabbi who has taught at Yeshivat HaKotel, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Yeshivat Shvilei Hatorah and served as a congregational rabbi in Canada. He currently works as an editor, translator and publisher. As a blogger and podcaster, he is known as Rabbi Joe in Jerusalem.