Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Shul that Davened Yizkor Twice

I know many of you who observe the holiday of Purim are very busy with all your preparations. I am busy too. Trust me! However, this topic is not about the hustle and bustle of Purim. It’s about my grandfather, Zaidy Moshe.  I wrote this up shortly after my grandfather passed away, around 3 months ago. Ironically, right before purim(!!), I decided to share it with you. Don’t worry. It’s not sad. It’s inspiring and uplifting. I hope you enjoy.
The Shul that Davened Yizkor Twice

My grandfather passed away this month. I was unable to attend the funeral, as it was in Montreal, a far drive from my home in Israel. To compensate for being so far from family during this emotional time, I spent Friday night, after my babies had gone to bed, telling my husband different stories about my Zaidy.
There was one story that happened a few years ago that left a strong impression on me. I remember spending shimini atzeres and simchas torah at my grandparents’ house. It was cold there. My Zaidy had recently been sent home from the hospital.
I woke up shimini atzeres morning, and it was raining outside. My grandparents and mother were drinking coffee and eating sour cream cake in the small, cozy kitchen. There was a small argument occurring. My grandfather had mentioned that he wanted to go to shul to say yizkor for his parents. My grandmother was furious that he could even think of jeopardizing his health by going out in the cold, right after he had come home from the hospital!

To my grandfather, davening yizkar was something that was precious and sentimental, and this is why he would traditionally lead the yizkor services in his shul each year. My grandfather was not a Rabbi. He did not have a long beard nor did not attend yeshiva in his youth; however, his tfillos were filled with emotion and feeling. He took his davening seriously, very seriously. I definitely recall his sidder. The pages were ragged at the end from the constant use. To my Zaidy, davening was not just a requirement according to Jewish law. It was his way of connecting emotionally to Hashem.
Zaidy's sewing station, with his prayer book nearby

My grandfather especially loved to attend shul and daven with a minyan. He had fun in shul. It was a social outing where he could see friends and make his signature jokes. His shul that he attended for years with his old-time friends eventually died out, as most of the members became too weak to attend daily minyan. A lubavitch minyan took over the shul. My grandfather continued to attend his familiar shul with the new crew of members. To our amazement, these new young “minyaners” exalted my grandfather on a pedestal, giving him respect at every possible opportunity.
I popped in the kitchen and the tension subsided. I was served a heaping portion of sour cream cake and a big glass of milk. After I ate, I slipped out to shul. Before I left, I noticed the depressed look on my grandfather’s face. He really wanted to go to shul, too.
I arrived at shul, thinking of my grandfather’s sad expression. When it came time for yizkor, I joined the ladies who were not obligated to say the tfillah on the shul porch. I was chatting with my little cousins outside, when I noticed my mother wheeling my bundled-up grandfather in a wheelchair toward the small shul. I flinched. Yizkor was about over. When they arrived, my grandfather stood up from the wheel chair and climbed the stairs to the shul doors. The members of the shul saw him enter and somehow understood that my grandfather could not find out that he had missed yizkor. They somehow understood that he had schlepped all the way, in the cold, especially for this special tfillah. The tfillah that he had just missed. Instead of gently informing him of his loss, the rav of the shul said, “Ah, Reb Moshe, so glad you could make it. Would you like to lead us in yizkor?” My grandfather jumped at the offer, and the whole shul recited yizkor, again. Somehow everyone understood. Somehow everyone caught on. It’s hard to understand how everyone knew the right lines in the script, how no one shouted out, “Hey! Why are we saying it again?”. It’s hard to understand; but somehow it just worked.
My mother became really emotional when she found out what really had happened. It was a really special act of kindness those shul members bestowed upon my grandfather. And that is the story I shared with my husband that Friday night. I like that story. I feel like those shul members viewed my grandfather as the genuine yid that he was.

Words that are not part of the English language:
Davened/Davening: prayed/praying
Hashem: G-d
Lubavitchers: a sect of ultra orthodox Jews
Minyan/”Minyaners”: A group of at least 10 men that gather together to pray
Shimini atzeres and simchas torah: Jewish holidays in the fall
Shul: Synagogue, place of prayer
Reb: a respectful title
Rav: Rabbi
Tfillah/Tfillos: Prayer/prayers
Yid: Yiddish word for Jew
Yizkor:  prayer said 4 times a year to remember one’s diseased parents. Someone with both parents is not obligated to say yizkor

Zaidy: the Yiddish word for grandfather

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