Arie E. Pelta

The Pelta Story – The Pelta Legacy (chapter 18)

PM Yitzchak Rabin + Grandma Szyfra Pelta . Prime Minister of Israel, 1974–77, and 1992 - assassination in 1995. (personal family photo)

Grandpa Leon’s brother, Izek Pelta, died in Israel (after making Aliyah) on the 19th of Tamuz (1983). He is buried n the Holon cemetery, Kinsk section of the Holon Cemetery. Interestingly, the both died almost a year apart, to the day.

Grandpa Leon/Lejbus (יהודה לייב) died on Erev Shabbis July 20, 1984 (20th of Tamuz) in his San Francisco home on 14th Ave.  My grandparents were on their way to their summer vacation house, under construction in Calistoga for Shabbis. He died on a Friday. Talmud Bavli (Shabbis 103b) states that it’s a good sign for one who passes away on the eve of Shabbis (Friday).

Friday is an auspicious day to die; this individual enters Shabbis with a true day of rest shortly after death. Shabbis is a Holy day of rest also for the souls in the hereafter. Souls that are being cleansed of their sins in Gehenom are relived of that painful process on Shabbis. Thus, one who dies on Friday is assured of entering a restful state immediately upon reaching the “world of souls”.

The first Friday of creation Adam was born and Chava was created from him. When one dies on a Friday, according to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, it is reminiscent of the first Friday of creation. Adam had a temporary sleep and out of that rest of his, the entire population of the world was born. When one’s descendants continue to follow Torah values and mitzvos, imparted by their family even after their death, this demonstrates that the family continues in the lives of the children for all eternity, for an eternal legacy. One day in the future all of the righteous Jews of the world צדיקים   will be resurrected and come back to life, only in Eretz Yisrael ארץ החיים .

Grandma Szyfra died March 4, 2011(Friday, also Erev Shabbis!) at the age of 95 in Los Angeles CA  at a nursing facility. In those last years of her life (after 2000) she suffered from deteriorating late stage dementia and Alzheimer’s. She slowly lost her memories and then her ability to speak.  She passed away comfortably without any pain. My grandparents are both buried next to each other in the Jewish section of the Home of Peace Cemetery in Colma California, South of San Francisco.

My grandparents built for themselves a very luxurious summer home in Calistoga California; wine country. One of the main features of the backyard was its wooden porch and trellis.  Growing along the supporting beams of the porch all around were grape vines. Around the month of August, clusters of grapes wound grow and hang from the ceiling of this porch.

The Rabbis compare a good match to intertwining grape vines and implore of one to make every effort possible to seek out a fine family perpetuating Torah-true values. Grape vines cannot stand on their own, but rather need a base, a trellis, something to lean on, wrap around, and grow. Likewise, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach explains, Chazal praise families by comparing them to a “grape vine” to remind them that our home was built on the bedrock of our ancestors.

Similarly, though there are plenty of other fruits of Eretz Yisrael to compare to, grapes were chosen specifically, because they are the only fruit whose juice is more valuable than they are. Usually, the fruit, the parent, is more significant than its juice, its offspring. However, wine is unique in that it is ultimate principal of the grape. Correspondingly, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach elaborates that we bless a new couple, that their offspring should not only be as exemplary as the parents, but also reach even greater heights than the parents did.  Alternatively, regular fruit juices spoil after some time; wine is the only fruit juice that improves with fermentation. As such, we ask that Hashem should bless family with a happier and more wholesome life as time goes on.

תלמוד בבלי פסחים מט עמוד א

תנו רבנן, לעולם ימכור אדם כל מה שיש לו וישא בת תלמיד חכם וישיא בתו לתלמיד חכם. משל לענבי הגפן בענבי הגפן דבר נאה ומתקבל.

The Rabbis Taught: One should always be willing to sell all he has in order to marry the daughter of Torah Scholar and in order to marry off his daughter to a Torah Scholar. This type of marriage can be compared to grapes of a vine that become intertwined with grapes of a vine, something which is beautiful and acceptable. (Talmud Bavli, Pesachim 49a).


Some Pelta Minhagim

  • We wash our hand with water for bread, three times on each hand.
  • Say Tehillim (134:2 and 23 ) ””שאו ידיכם and “מזמור לדוד”, after the hands are washed.

תהילים קלד:ב

שאו ידיכם קודם וברכו את ה’.

Lift your hands to G-d in holiness  and bless Hashem.


תהילים כג

מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד, ה’ רֹעִי לֹא אֶחְסָֽר.

בִּנְאוֹת דֶּשֶׁא יַרְבִּיצֵנִי, עַל מֵי מְנֻחוֹת יְנַהֲלֵֽנִי.

נַפְשִׁי יְשׁוֹבֵב, יַֽנְחֵנִי בְמַעְגְּלֵי צֶדֶק לְמַעַן שְׁמֽוֹ.

גַּם כִּֽי אֵלֵךְ בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת לֹא אִירָא רָע כִּי אַתָּה עִמָּדִי, שִׁבְטְך וּמִשְׁעַנְתֶּךָ הֵמָּה יְנַֽחֲמֻֽנִי.

תַּעֲרֹךְ לְפָנַי שֻׁלְחָן נֶגֶד צֹרְרָי, דִּשַּׁנְתָּ בַשֶּׁמֶן רֹאשִׁי כּוֹסִי רְוָיָֽה.

אַךְ טוֹב וָחֶסֶד יִרְדְּפוּנִי כָּל יְמֵי חַיָּי, וְשַׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית ה’ לְאֹרֶךְ יָמִֽים.

A song of David. Hashem is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He causes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Even when I walk in the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff  [the Yesurin we experience, they are for my good]- they comfort me.

You set a table before me in the presence of my adversaries; You anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows [with wine].

May only goodness and kindness pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of Hashem [Eretz Yisrael] all the days of my life.

  • My Grandfather would have us say Shema prayer and then בורא נפשות (he pronounced it Bar-nee-foo-shis) before we went to sleep. Clearly, he would drink water before he went to bed. Then we would wish good-night and list every family member we could recall.
  • Grandpa Leon insisted on us combing our hair prior to going to bed (something I still do today).
  • My grandparents spoke Yiddish in the home.
  • Do not sit at corner of the dining room table.
  • One should have a string in the mouth, while being fitted for tailoring.
  • Suits are to be treated respectfully. Either hang a suit jacket on a hanger, or fold the suit jacket on its seams properly.
  • Grandma would light Shabbis candles in the dining room and also in the bedroom where we slept on Friday nights.
  • Hebrew blessings were pronounced in the “Chassidik” pronunciation. Baruch Ata is  – Boryich Atoo…
  • Grandpa would wear a silk robe during Shabbis/Yontiv meals.
  • When taking a drink of wine during a meal, one says “לחיים טובים ולשלום” with an appended blessing in Yiddish:

.”זאל זיינ מיט געזונט, שטרארק, ומאזל דיק, צו הונדרט און צוואנציק יאר”

  • A person who was seriously not liked was called – a “cholera”.
  • Food does not go to waste. Grandma always had her cupboards full of food in addition to two full refrigerators.
About the Author
Arie E. Pelta, M.D., a Board Certified General and Colorectal Surgeon from the USA, made Aliyah with his wife and 7 children in 2013. He received his Rabbinical ordination in 1997. He is also an active Medical Corps Officer holding the rank of Captain in the IDF Reserves. Dr. Pelta is currently a full time Senior Surgeon practicing in Laniado Hospital (Netanya); specializing in the surgical care of all colorectal diseases.
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