Yizkor — Pesach 5784

By Rabbi Judy Weintraub

Brief background of regional history of Northern Romania, how many present have connections to that region?

Northern Romania known as The Bukovina, used to belong to Austro-Hungarian Empire until WWI

Romanian Nationals took over, German no longer taught in schools, replaced by Romanian. Jewish day schools forced to close. Local Jewish families pooled resources to hire a number of tutors, teaching all facets of a Jewish education.

My mom was her Hebrew tutor’s favorite, Moreh Chaim Grossman.

Indeed, she was a gifted student, excelling in Hebrew, Chumash, the liturgy (later, in math and physics) and had a tremendous capacity for languages, eventually speaking 8 fluently. M. Grossman cried when he, his wife and son prepared to make aliyah and he would no longer be my Mom’s tutor.

A few years later, the Romanian police, on order by the Nazis, banged on my grandparents’ door on Erev Simchat Torah and ordered them to leave their home with only their coats. Many of the Jews in the region were forced to march from N. Romania to a ghetto/camp in the Ukraine known as Transnistria. It was decades later, that I learned that only 1/3 of that region’s Jews survived. Of 150,000 Jews, my mother and grandmother were 2 of the 50,000 who made it through. 

Grief takes on a life of its own, whether recent or from decades past. We gather each in our own thoughts, and at the same time standing together in community, lending power to our prayers and solidarity to our hearts.

One of my mother‘s favorite prayer/songs is Min Hameitzar from Psalm 118. The word meitzar, we understand to mean the narrow place. According to Rabbi Steinsaltz, Min Hameitzar refers to “boundaries of my life closing in on me” —Hashem frees not by words, but by inspiring one to Action.

My mother always took action and kept moving forward, no matter what, often shouldering the burdens of family members. She worked hard,  and used her gifts of language and great compassion for others.

Earlier, we sang Dayeinu as the Torah was returned to the a

Ark. Dayeinu-it would’ve been enough – my mom was the polar opposite of greediness… She never asked for much, she was not materialistic whatsoever. Is it any wonder that one of her favorite Seder table songs was Dayeinu? Whatever it was, it was always enough.

Later, after discovering that a “lump” on her breast was benign, she expressed her gratitude to Hashem by keeping a strictly Kosher home from that point forward.

Connect to Maftir, gifts to Hashem, creating pleasing aroma.

-Num 28:19-25

Also, connects to Psalm 116:12-19, מה אשיב לך  how can I repay You?  … I will make an offering of thanksgiving to You.   The Alshich (16th c. Rabbi, born in the Ottoman Empire and lived his life in Sfat) teaches that it’s not really possible to repay H- but we can always keep a reminder that we have an obligation/responsibility always to H- for all that we have. 

For the second part, the Alshich emphasizes Al Kol Eleh (for all these things). Alshich understood this to refer to everything which God has given us that we continually say thank you for. When I saw these three little Hebrew words that carry so much meaning, I was stunned.  It was one of my Mom’s all-time favorite Hebrew songs, and she sang it with great gusto and requested it every chance she got, including at Cafe Europa.

על כל אלה

(At this point, unexpectedly, I began to sing these words. Then I paused and quietly and gently many members began quietly singing the song, moving me deeply.)

When I was young, and towards the end, my mom would call me her oytzer, Yiddish for otzer meaning treasure. I was not only hers, but, in reality, she was my oytzer.

So many stories… I look around the space and I see a great repository of stories. These stories can help comfort us, teach us and inspire us. And help us to go forward in this crazy world that we live in.

May we all hold on to the treasured memories of the ones who have passed from this world, but continue to live inside of us.

Chag Pesach Sameach

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