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The Carob Leaf

“Do you want to see something?,” my aunt asked.

She didn’t wait for an answer.

She stepped out the room and returned with a thin, almost translucent paper covered with microscopic handwriting.

She started to read.

I peered over her shoulder.

It was a letter written in 1952 by her mother, a Holocaust survivor who had made aliya to Israel.

She had written in Yiddish, using Latin letters. After numerous wishes for the health of her children in New York, she told the story of her journey from her home in Tel Aviv to Safed where she had visited the grave and former hiding place of a famous Rabbi.

“My mother was a learned woman,” my aunt said looking up. “She studied German as well as Polish in school.”  

She held up small, brown, fan shaped leaf.

“She wrote that she picked this up in the rabbi’s cave. He lived there 1900 years ago.”

The next day, I learned that the cave my grandmother had described  had been inhabited by the celebrated second century Jewish spiritual leader and scholar, Shimon bar Yochi. He had fled there to escape a Roman decree of death. Legend says that a carob tree that grew in the cave nourished him for 13 years.

I realized that her letter wasn’t just a travelogue.

She was sending a message to her children in North America, impliedly telling them, as they lived and labored in the New World,  “Remember who you are!”

I last visited my grandmother when I was 19. I will always remember seeing her as she sat at a window overlooking the Carmel Mountains and read a Book of Psalms.

In spite of all she had experienced including multiple wars, loss of dozens of close relatives and friends, six years on the run in the Soviet Union, the death of her husband shortly after they had found refuge in Israel, she was at peace, reciting words of faith in and praise of Hashem.

About the Author
Elaine Rosenberg Miller writes fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous print publications and online sites, domestically and abroad, including JUDISCHE RUNDSCHAU, THE BANGALORE REVIEW, THE FORWARD, THE HUFFINGTON POST and THE JEWISH PRESS. Her books,, FISHING IN THE INTERCOASTAL AND OTHER SHORT STORIES, THE CHINESE JEW and THE TRUST are available on Amazon and Kindle.
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