On Friday morning I happened to hear Rav Lau’s Parashat Hashavua on the radio. The more he gave his explanation of the different aspects of Parashat Noach, the parasha that was read this past Shabbat, the more I started thinking about you.
It wasn’t the part about the flood and the obvious analogy to the turbulent emotional time we had been going through while supporting and accompanying you and Safta through your illness and hospitalization that caught my attention, but rather to other aspects of the parasha that I will explain now.
The first was Rav Lau’s reference to the animals that came into the ark in pairs, and his explanation of the meaning of “zugiyot” – about what it means to be a pair, a couple. You and Safta have always been my role model for what a couple is. I never once heard you raise your voice or complain, you only ever showed Safta love and respect, you were always the quiet, strong, humble presence, Safta’s eternal partner. Somebody once described you and Safta to me as being like Velcro, one side soft, the other side a little more rough but always securely stuck together that nothing or no-one could separate.
But Saba, the main reference to the parasha that made me think of you was Rav Lau’s explanation of the symbolism of the ark itself. He described the ark as being a sanctuary against the flood, that the ark in today’s reference is Eretz Yisrael, that Eretz Yisrael is the sanctuary for all Jewish people, Hashem’s modern day ark for all Jews to seek refuge from the turbulent seas of the rest of the world.
Moreover and most importantly, Noah’s instructions were not only to put himself on the Ark, but him, his wife, his sons and their wives, his entire family. It is not good enough for parents to make aliyah and leave their families behind, or for children to make aliyah and leave their parents behind, but that whole families need to come to live in Israel together.
And look at you Saba, you were just like Noah, not only did you and Safta come yourselves, but you brought your children, your grandchildren too. And the home that you and Safta built here in Eretz Yisrael for us, your grandchildren and great grandchildren, was our ark. Our refuge, our place of safety that we could always feel comfortable in, were welcome in at any time, where we were always greeted with a smile, a joke, endless patience, respect and love.
We always had a very close relationship but your exceptionally special relationship with your great grandchildren, especially with Amit, is something that Amit will cherish for the rest of his life.
Saba, on Saturday night at about quarter to nine I was putting Ittai to sleep and as our ritual is every night, I lie next to him, put my arm around him and sing “hush little baby” to him until he falls asleep. And as I sang to him, the strongest feeling that I couldn’t explain came over me, a sense of urgency that kicked me in the stomach, and when I crept out of Ittai’s room I went straight to Ari and said “I need to go to the hospital now” and left. And as I sped to the hospital with tears streaming down my face, “hush little baby” the lullaby that I had sung to Ittai would not go out of my head. And when I arrived at your bedside and was told that you had taken your last breath only a few minutes ago, I had this overwhelming feeling that I had not only been singing Ittai to sleep but that I had sung you to sleep too.
But upon reflection Saba, after what seems like an eternity since Saturday night, and having thought about Rav Lau’s words that I had heard on the radio, the lullaby was actually your parting message to me.
You never bought us a mocking bird, nor a diamond ring, nor a looking glass, nor a billygoat, but what you did buy us, your legacy to us is ‘another today”, the ark you and Safta built for us in Eretz Yisrael will always be our sanctuary.
Saba, Amit, our son and your great grandson, chose these flowers for you this morning. I will read you what he painstakingly wrote: “I love you very much. I will always love you. I miss you, love Amit.”
Editor’s Note: We in ESRA MAGAZINE will miss Max too. Max and Ruth Geffen were amongst our very first few advertisers in our first ESRA newsletter in May 1979, advertising “Maxine Delicatessen”. For many years they continued to advertise and we appreciate the great support and encouragement they gave us for so long. Moreover, Max used to be a packer of our magazines, addressing and bundling them.
Thank you dear Max for believing in us and for helping us.