A Long Year
Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita
There is this large wicker basket that sits in my small office at home. I haven’t been able to bring myself to open it since the dark days of a year ago when my Rebbetzin A”H suddenly was niftar. It contains hundreds of letters, mostly hand written, that were sent to the family during those difficult days. Each one was read and then placed in the basket. It has taken a year for me to bring myself to revisit those meaningful words and I ask the many writers to forgive me if I haven’t been able to reply. As the first yahrzeit arrives it is time to contemplate our loss and share the chizuk we can find. Tragically our sorrow is not unique, we are living in challenging times, and thousands have had to sit shiva over loved ones in this difficult year.
So what does a year bring to a mourner, how does it soften the blow? I have been in the position to offer support to many over the years I have had the merit to serve in Rabbonus yet still I have not learnt of any magic bullet that can soften the pain of the bereaved. Each wound is unique, just as every soul is different. We all create different bonds with those we are closest to and therefor when they are gone, we each must carry the hurt according to the uniqueness of that attachment.
Memories don’t disappear, nor do they fade into the fog of yesteryear. Instead they find a lodging in your heart that allows us to move forward without losing the shared connection that was so paramount in our lives.
So the yahrzeit arrives, with tentative steps we visit the Tziyun and light a candle. Every one of the family carries different thoughts, each according to their own emotions. Then we will look to one another and wonder how will we move further. Love shared is forgiving, it gives each one the energy to allow for memories to become cherished without becoming destructive.
I remember many years ago when my Shver Zt”l was niftar. Our family, that knot that was held together by his strong intensive Neshoma, was shocked and muted. As the year of mourning was coming to an end, all were preparing to come to Tzfat for the yorziet. We lived nearby in Chatzor and after visiting the Tziyun all would come for a seudah at my home. The Rebbetzin stood in the kitchen preparing the feast, her mind filled with her private thoughts at this very complex time.
My son was in another room, playing about with a large old fashioned tape recorder. It seems he had found amidst all the papers and family paraphernalia a number of open reel tapes that must have been made way back when I was first married. Suddenly, a voice came from the room, it was the Shver singing an ancient nigun that he had brought from the Ger of old and sang at family simchas. He was a renown baal tfillah with a gorgeous sweet voice, and as the Rebbetzin peeled the carrots, she heard her father, clear and full with his heartfelt voice.
It was the merit of his intensive bond that somehow found its way into our lives at the moment we most needed him.
I believe such is with all our loved ones, they come with their eternal energy into our hearts and minds when we most need them. This is the bond we make, sealed with years of togetherness and trust.
In Parshas Vayeitzei we find Yaakov having a dream wherein Malochim are going up and down a ladder that starts on earth and reaches to the heavens.
”A ladder was set earthward and its top reached heavenward. And behold Malochim were ascending and descending.”
Rashi raises the question of why the passage tells us the Malochim were going up first and then they came down. One would think that Malochim being created in Heaven would logically be coming down first, only after would they be going upwards.
The Kotzker Rebbe’s Zt”l grandson, the Rebbe Tzvi Hersh of Lamoz Zt”l explains that any creation that came in proximity with Yaakov Avinu would immediately have a heightened spiritual uplift. Even Malochim, whom had originally originated in Shomayim, rose even higher in their kedusha just from their exposure to the Tzadik.
We all live lives that offer thousands of opportunities to create Malochim through our fulfilling mitzvos and creating chesed.
Loved ones have created wondrous moments of good in our lives, and it is these Malochim that draw us higher in our connection with Hashem. Our memories, those reminders of moments of illumination from loved ones, are the Malochim that will bring us higher, despite their physical departure.
A year is but a speck in the largess of time and space, yet these moments are eternal.
Yes, we will visit the Tziyun, and perhaps sing the Shver’s nigun. This will be the tapestry of remembrance that will keep us remembering the Malochim the Rebbetzin AH created. It will be these memories that will raise us closer to kevuchal the Eibishter.
Sometime before the Rebbetzin was niftar, she told me that rather than be laid to rest near her parents in Israel, she wanted to, after 120 years be buried in Manchester. This was a departure from what we always thought about such matters. I asked her why and she answered, “I want to be close to all ‘my girls’ so that they can always be able to come and visit me in times of pain”.
Malochim come in many guises, Chaiky the Keep Fit Rebbetzin had her own.