The Torah relates the story of the twelve spies whom Moses had sent to search out the land and to bring their reports to him. Ten of the twelve spies came back with negative reports.
“The men are like giants and we appeared to them as grasshoppers” – Or so it seemed to them.
Likewise, in my life I was the grasshopper while my precious wife was the giant. Not in stature but in wisdom, in knowledge, in understanding, in patience, and in bright optimism.
I was, as she used to call me, a “Gertie gloom”. Whereas her cup was always full, I would complain that mine was half empty.
Rahel was superior to me in every way. She had more wisdom in her smallest finger than I have in my entire body. When I was often critical about some people, she would remind me to look for their good qualities. And if I said “I can’t find any” she responded “Look more. Try harder”.
Six days knowing one another before 56 years of a happy and blessed marriage. The Chief Rabbi in Tel-Aviv who married us in the presence of guests from the American Embassy blessed our marriage in long Hebrew phrases, the translation of which I had to whisper for the diplomats.
Rahel and I shared our lives together in spite of differences. While she was strictly Orthodox in all aspects of daily life I was Conservative. We differed in our manner of observances. While she waited six hours between eating meat and dairy, I waited three hours. While she insisted that cheeses must be kosher, I held to the Conservative ruling that all cheeses are kosher because the rennet is a changed product in the production of the cheese.
Between her Orthodoxy and my Conservatism, our home was kosher and religious observances followed Orthodox practices. In spite of our different ideologies our lives were happy and filled with love every day of our 56 years together. When we went to sleep at night we held hands and each one of us said to the other, “I love you. Thank you for a beautiful day. Let us share many more days and years together”.
On the matter of politics, both of us being Israeli citizens, we were members of the same political party and voted for the same candidates. Never a dispute. Never discord. Most unusual for Israelis, we were unlike many of our friends and neighbors who spent so much of their time disputing the government’s policies and defaming the candidates. We were just grateful that we had a Jewish State and the privilege of being Israeli citizens who could vote .
It is two years since her death. She lives in our hearts. Her seat at the table is empty. No one is permitted to sit in it. A vase of dried flowers rests permanently on the table in front of her chair surrounded by framed photos of her. At every meal we have the privilege to look at the photos, to kiss them and to invite Rahel to “join” us at the meal with a “b’tayavon”… good appetite.
If she were alive today, looking at past and present Israeli history, I can only imagine with a smile what her reaction would be to my comment.
In 2012, Benzion Netanyahu, Bibi’s father, published a book called “Fathers of Zion”. As an ideal Revisionist (as both Rahel was and I am), he wrote that “Jabotinsky’s guiding light was the principle of resistance to subjugation.”
My comment would have been “isn’t that what the Palestinians are doing in their resistance to our subjugation of them?”
In my mind’s eye I can see the angry smirk on her face.
Every single day as our children left for school or work and I for work, Rahel always gave us her blessing.
In English translation…. “have a nice day. May God protect you and keep you safe. May He guide you to do all the right things in the right way and may all your good wishes be fulfilled”.
My children have asked me to write out Tefilat Rahel… Rahel’s prayer. The blessing of a giant.
I would gladly do it except for one problem.
I am a grasshopper and grasshoppers can only hop but cannot write.