Even the car already knows the obvious way. Once a year, during the Ten Days of Repentance, between cover and decade, I gather my dear parents and together we go on the annual trip to Mount of Rest.
The custom of Israel is to visit the graves of parents and elderly people on days of mercy and forgiveness. Since we all gathered in one neighborhood, more or less, in the Givat Shaul cemetery, which turned out to be the neighborhood where the living part of the family lived, it wasn't a long and arduous trip, but a small jump – but one that had a big impact on me. So big that I allow myself to share it with you.
When I say everyone in the same neighborhood, I mean it, because just two or three adjacent plots honor my two grandparents, and what's more interesting: three pairs of my grandparents. They're all there.
As such, this story becomes a mini-roots journey that speaks to me very much. Not every member of my generation gets this magnificent exhibition before his eyes. I'm talking mostly about the distant generation of grandparents who have a place in my life and their legacy far more than they could have imagined in their lives, apparently.
• • •
First are my own grandparents, and it's no wonder I feel a warm connection to their tombstones. I knew them all and grew up on their knees until old age. I can almost accurately identify the places where they left their impression on me. The Hasidic heritage on one side, the Lithuanian heritage on the other, and the indirect education touch of the grandparents, which I actually encounter at countless points.
Then you go back a generation and meet Rabbi Yitzchak and Chaya Leah Arieli. My great grandfather was one of the greatest rabbis of Jerusalem, a close disciple of Rav Kook, a prolific adjudicator and author, winner of the Israel Prize for Torah literature. This year marks the 50th anniversary of his passing. Recently, many of his descendants, including great rabbis, judges and men of letters, came together and began to maintain a relationship between us. I have already told you that these meetings, which are attended by men and women whose relatives are third and sometimes fourth generations, are particularly successful and exciting.
Then we continue to the adjacent plot, where Rabbi Yaakov Eisenbach and his wife Yehudit reside. Yehudit, the "Baba Yehudit," was a businesswoman who ran charitable organizations in the old settlement of Jerusalem at the time, and was also known as clever and even cunning. There is a story in the family about how when government and municipal officials held out their hand to shake her, she would humorously evade and say: It's okay, there's no need. I believe your word.
Grandpa Yaakov is especially suited to come these days, because he was a famous cantor whose main legacy is the text of the prayers on the High Holy Days written in his name. If I have any musical talent, and there is, it is him, especially since I am named Jacob after him.
• • •
I have to confess something: my family is on the level of mental illness. Family lineages are something that excites me a lot. When I meet new people, I sometimes have to forcefully block my urge to reveal to them the meticulous details of their grandparents and aunts up to ten generations, just so they don't label me as eccentric or old or troublesome or all three combined.
In general, this is a problematic mental tendency, but it sits firmly on something else, and that is the great weight I attribute to family sources and to family in general. When it comes to so-called "attribution" - I lose my head at all. Not that I think, God forbid, that anyone deserves any status or appreciation because they are the grandchildren of any celeb; The thing is, I believe that if someone is Churchill's grandson, that grandmother has a role in their personality, and the way that role is implemented manages to fascinate me.
• • •
I remember once knowing a famous writer who is the grandson of a former prime minister, and it took me a considerable time to free myself from the presence of my grandfather, which hovered before my eyes. The thing is that most of my surroundings, especially the less ultra-Orthodox one, don't care about these matters at all.
In the past, I published my story when, one day, someone insisted to me that Hanoch Levin was the grandson of Rabbi Yitzhak Meir Levin, who was the leader of Agudat Yisrael and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. I knew it wasn't true, because if it were, it would be the Big Bang itself, but I nonetheless embarked on a short exploration, during which I discovered to my horror that there were very few people who knew or were interested in these two characters.
Moreover, most of the people I spoke to did not understand what the great storm was about, and I let you know again here and now: if it were true, it would change my life (it is not, if you were worried. He is only his relative).
Moreover, I can't quite figure out how it could be otherwise. After all, there is really no dispute that man is the pattern of his native landscape. For me, this riddle of tracing the landscape of the homeland through the pattern makes the whole hundred-fold thing more interesting. It turns people into stories, and what do we want more than stories?
• • •
Then we go down a little bit, to my grandparents, Rabbi Chaim Todros and Rivka Herschler, my grandmother Batya's parents. Rabbi Chaim Todros lived all his life some distance from the house where I live today, in the Shaare Chessed neighborhood of Jerusalem. He was a righteous man whose fairy tales still circulate in the neighborhood today. By the way, his tombstone reads: He ordered that no adjective be written before his name (although I think he did not order them to write this line).
Then we close the round and go back to the car, and every year I think about the fourth couple. What about him? There were only three! The fourth couple is not buried anywhere. His ashes remain there, in Poland's forests and camps, and the naturalness with which this difference is received here is gorgeous – and it also plays a role. For even this does not imprint a pattern in me, even though I have never lived it and even though I have been exposed to it and internalized it only very late.
So that's it, Happy New Year grandparents. More precisely, a Gut Yaher, Zaidas un Babas. Rest in peace. You are present here, as mentioned, much more than you imagined, and we are here, each in his own way, giving work. I'm not sure that every single one of them would be proud of every word of my words and every deed, but the very news that grandparents of parents, only one of whom I have been privileged to know, have a presence in my life on an almost daily level, is a very big deal.
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