Deep thoughts, random insights, and musings by Susan Jacobs

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Remembering Zayde

My grandfather passed away one year ago today. His Hebrew yahrzeit is not for a few more weeks, but because most of my life is lived according to the secular calendar, in many ways it is easier to connect with this date.

He is often on my mind. I miss him, and wish I could speak to him, and hear his loving, reassuring voice, but I am comforted that he is resting in peace, along with my grandmother and other family members.

In the last several weeks, I have done a handful of things that I know he would have appreciated, and that makes me feel good.

Over Memorial Day Weekend, when I was home in Charleston, my mom and I visited the cemetery where he and my grandmother are buried, along with several of her siblings and her parents (my great-grandparents). I know he would be glad that we took the time to "see" him and watch over his resting place.

Visiting the cemetery was very important to my grandfather. After my Bubby died, he visited her grave monthly, when he was able to. And, when I was growing up, he used to make yearly trips, usually in the Hebrew month of Elul, to visit the graves of his parents, who are buried outside of Cleveland. A few weeks ago, I was visiting friends in Cleveland, and decided to visit my great-grandparents' graves on my way back to Pittsburgh. One of my aunts gave me directions, and after wandering in the cemetery for a short while, I found the double stone that marks their graves. Although they died years before I was born, and I had never visited their graves with my Zayde, I could imagine what it would be like to have him there with me, and knew that my visit would have comforted him.

My early love of Judaism and Jewish learning was nurtured by my grandfather. Growing up, my sister and I always lit Shabbos candles with our Bubby, but before we did so, Zayde would hand us a few coins to put in the blue Jewish National Fund tzedakah boxes. That is a tradition that I have reacquired in the last year. Some time ago, someone gave me a blue box, and I had been periodically depositing my spare change in it, but after Zayde's death, I started making it a habit again on Friday afternoons. Last week, the box was nearly full, so I took it to the local JNF office in exchange for a new one. It seemed like an appropriate gesture to remember Zayde.

And finally, my grandfather used to spend a few minutes of Shabbos dinner on Friday night talking about the weekly Torah portion. His lessons were very basic, often just simple summaries of the storyline for that week's sedra, but he always spoke about the parsha with great enthusiasm. Two particular parshiot stand out in my memory. He marveled at the funeral procession that accompanied our patriarch Jacob's body from Egypt to the land of Canaan and his burial place in Hebron. "Can you imagine all those people marching through the desert?" he would say. The other parsha that amazed him was the one we read this past Shabbos, Parshas Korach, in which a rebellion against Moshe is quashed by a phenomenal earthquake, in which the earth opens, swallows the rebels up, and then closes again. "Can you imagine that?" he would say, never ceasing to be amazed, no matter how many times he read the account. Thinking about that always makes me smile.

I am grateful to my Zayde for all the lessons he taught me, and I hope I will be able to pass his love of Judaism onto future generations.