The First Yahrzeit

On Friday morning, September 23, 2016 at 3:45 a.m., one week before Rosh Hashanah, my beloved wife Rahel breathed her last breath. At 4 o’clock in the morning, our esteemed rabbi and his lovely wife were at my home. They informed the chevra kadisha to come and remove her lifeless body in preparation for the funeral five hours later.

The comfort which they gave me is indescribable. Such love, caring and compassion is hard to find. But it poured from their hearts into my broken heart.

There is a saying that “time heals all wounds”.  I have completed a program of group therapy in Bereavement and Grief Counseling . The first statement that our facilitator shared with us was that the saying is not true. Time never heals the wounds  we suffer for the loss of a loved one. The knife in our hearts will remain there forever, invisible to all eyes but ours.

We are taught to speak freely of the death of our cherished ones. We are encouraged to cry and not to hold back the tears which help in the grieving process. We are told to speak of the dead and thus keep the memories alive.

I honestly do not know how I could have survived this bitter and painful year were it not for the devoted members of our synagogue who knew Rahel. During the week of shiva, 161 people came to offer condolences.

The overflowing of compassion continued for long months after the shiva.  It touched the hearts of me and my children more than mere simple words can convey.

I was in our home but my darling Rahel was not with me. Her many photos hang on the walls and as I look at each one every day, the memories of our togetherness and our burning love for one another overwhelms me. And even now my tears flow freely and frequently.

We met on board the Zim lines ship SS/Theodor Herzl. It was love at first sight. We knew each other only six days and decided to marry in Tel-Aviv in January 1960. For 56 years, she was the light of my life. And now I walk in darkness. My life has lost its meaning and purpose without her.

And now, on the 20th day of Elul, my children and I will observe our first yahrzeit in her blessed memory. As the candle flickers and is eventually extinguished it is a symbolic testimony to life. A flame leaps up in our youth to gladden us and then is extinguished forever, leaving us only with treasured memories.

The tears still flow. They will never cease flowing. And I look forward to a day when our souls will be re-united as I lie in the earth beside her.

I pray that the New Year will be one of life. “Zochrainu l’chayim Melech chafetz b’chayim”… remember all of us for life, O King, who desires life.

I owe much love and heartfelt gratitude to all who offered me comfort in my year of bitter sorrow.  I have been unable to return to life as it was prior to Rahel’s death. Children and grandchildren are a blessing. But they cannot fill the void, the emptiness, the loneliness, the pain which torments me.

I eat my meals alone. I sleep alone. I talk to the walls, which cannot answer. I, who have comforted hundreds of bereaved persons, am unable to comfort myself.

When Rahel was alive, she frequently visited the graves of her parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, running from Nachalat Yitzchak cemetery in Givatayim to Trumpeldor cemetery in Tel-Aviv to remember her dead family  and to recite prayers in their memory.

I have followed that practice likewise, visiting Rahel’s grave frequently, sobbing as I embrace her monument, praying as my tears choke my words, and speaking to her to remind her of the love we shared together for fifty-six years.

And even though my beloved Rahel is no longer in my sight, the love we had continues to live. It is a love that can never die.

On the 20th  of Elul, corresponding to the 11th  day of September, my children and I will light a candle which will burn for 24 hours. We will drive to the cemetery and pray and weep at her grave. And then we shall return home to resume our lives.

May Rahel’s beautiful memory ever be for a blessing.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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