Dear Beit Sefer Families,
Last week was my grandmother’s yahrzeit, the Hebrew anniversary of her death. I remember it each year by the Torah portion. She died the week that we read the Torah portion Behar. Every year, as we approach this Torah portion, I think of her. I had the unusual and incredibly fortunate opportunity to live with my grandmother for a couple of years and then to be her next door neighbor (apartment living in NYC) for many more years. My grandmother cared about the underdog, the oppressed and those in unfortunate circumstances. Herself having lived through the depression, she never took for granted her sense of privilege in having more than enough money for all her needs. She thought she paid too little taxes, and that she didn’t need Social Security; she would have prefered to see the money go to people who needed it for food, shelter or education. She was generous with her Tzedakah and with her family. I think how meaningful it is that she departed the week we read Behar. In Parshat Behar, we read a vision of an equal society. In the Jubilee year, all debts are cancelled, land acquired reverts to the original owner, and debtors are freed. This weekend, we read the Torah portion that most years accompanies Behar, Parshat Behukotai. When it isn’t a Jewish leap year (when an extra month is added to the lunar calendar) these two portions are read together.
This weekend, I am traveling to the neighborhood I call “home.” I will be visiting a close friend of 30 years, and attending his wedding in the neighborhood where I used to live with my grandmother: where we walked together, debated together, and went to restaurants together. I will see my cousins who also were our neighbors (yes, a very extraordinary circumstance) and who also inherited my grandmother’s sense of responsibility for others. I am struck by the coordination of these events, physically being in the environment of the life I had with my grandmother, on the week of her companion Torah portion (which I will be reading Saturday morning,) and at the same time, hosting Big Sunday at TBI which is a representation of her influence on my life.
This weekend, I honor the memory of my grandmother on two coasts at the same time.