Thursday, June 18, 2009

Al gerei ha-tzedek, v'li-y'rushalayim, modim

Continuing on the theme of how the brachot/blessing of the Amidah prayer call my mother, zichronah li-b'rachah (may her memory be a blessing) to mind, here are some thoughts that I spoke about between Minchah and Maariv yesterday night, our last night of shiva:

We ask HaShem's blessing "al gerei ha-tzedek, on the righteous converts." My mother never differentiated between born Jews and Jews by Choice--a Jew was a Jew, period. My sister pointed out that Mom also won a place in the heart of a cousin of ours by marriage, who told my sister that, since she came from a family decimated by the Shoah (Holocaust), she would always remember fondly how our mother had welcomed her into our family. All were welcome in our home.

One of the visitors commented that our mother sounded like a real "Eishet Chayil, Woman of Valor." That comment brought to mind something I'd neglected to mention before: Our mother was very proud of having served her native U.S. as a Woman Marine during World War II, and bragged that her unit was the best marchers in the Washington, DC area. She also met the description, in the same "Eishet Chayil" passage from Mishlei/Proverbs, that has a good wife earning money to provide for her household. When our father broke his leg and was out of work for six months, Mom put her youngest child in nursery school and went back to work as a bookkeeper because she refused to go on welfare. After Dad returned to work, Mom, realizing that she'd have to have an employment record so that she'd be able to support us if anything happened to Dad, continued working part-time throughout our childhood, then full-time as we got older, until she and our father retired to Israel.

"V'li-y'rushalayim ircha b'rachamim tashuv, to Jerusalem, your city, in compassion, return." My parents eventually settled in Yerushalayim to be near my brother and his children, and it was there that my mother ended her days. Even when she was no longer so mobile, she enjoyed just looking out a window and seeing the sukkot in her neighborhood.

"Modim anachnu lach . . . al tovotecha sheh-b'chol eit, erev, va-voker, v'tzohorayim, we thank You for Your goodnesses that are at all times, evening, morning, and noon." Finally, on the last night of shiva, I expressed my gratitude for the good life that our mother had. It certainly wasn't an easy life, and my parents never had much money. But they made the best of it. Realizing that, with four kids, they couldn't afford hotels, they became great fans of camping, accumulating a tent and camping gear in the basement and taking us camping just about every summer. (I forgot to mention it last night, but I still have fond memories of our camping trip to Canada when I was a teenager--I was very impressed by Niagara Falls, and thought the parliament building in Ottawa was beautiful.) That same can-do spirit led them to spend some of their early years in Israel living like chalutzim, pioneers, in a trailer in a town under construction on a mountaintop in the Galil (Galilee). And when they finally got old enough to want to be near our brother, they thoroughly enjoyed living in Yerushalayim, surrounded by their three sabra (native Israeli) grandchildren. My mother had a good life, and I will be forever grateful.


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