A Legacy of Love
by Daniel R. Weiss
Daniel R. Weiss is the Head of School at Bornblum Jewish Community School in Memphis, Tennessee.
Today, Friday, July 27 is Tu B’Av (the 15th day of the Hebrew month Av). Tu B’Av might be the least known of all of the Jewish holidays, yet according to the Talmud in Taanit 30b-31a, Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel said, “Never were there days as good for Israel as the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur. It (makes sense for) Yom Kippur, since it has forgiveness and pardoning upon it; it is the day upon which the second set of tablets were given; but the Fifteenth of Av, what is its significance?”
Rav Yehuda in the name of Shmuel lays out a number of reasons that we celebrate on the 15th of Av. Among them, it is the day that tribes were permitted to intermarry with other tribes and it is the day that all of the unmarried Israelite girls would borrow clothes from another, so that you could not tell who was rich and who was poor, then go and dance in the vineyards in front of the men who would choose a wife based on the outer and more importantly, their inward beauty.
I find this year, Tu B’Av holds a deeper meaning as it has been one week since the passing of my grandmother, Claire Snyder z’l. My grandmother possessed both an outer beauty and an inner radiance. We all knew that my grandmother’s last days were drawing close as she had elected not to have heart surgery at the age of 91. This past Thursday, we received a call from my mother that we should start making our way to Cleveland as her passing was imminent. Jessica and I were lucky enough to arrive in Cleveland on Friday afternoon, to spend 45 minutes with my grandmother before Shabbat was to begin. Two hours later, just as we were making our final preparations for Shabbat, we received the call that she had passed. It was as if she had needed, as much as we did, a chance for us to say goodbye.
My grandparents were married in 1948 and their love story could not be any more beautiful. As my mother, her siblings, their spouses and my cousins came together the night before the funeral, I learned a tremendous amount about my grandparents and the love that they shared for 63 years of marriage, as well as the love my grandmother continued to possess for the past seven years since my grandfather passed away. In fact, the day that my grandmother passed was the seven year anniversary of the stone setting for her husband, her true love.
My grandparents met at Fairmount Temple in their religious school high school program in Mr. Brilliant’s class and attended prom together. My grandfather served in Europe on the railroad during WWII and every day of his service wrote a letter to my grandmother. Those letters were divided up between my mother and her four siblings. It wasn’t until after the war that the two married in 1948 and built an incredible legacy. Together the two had five children, my mother being the oldest. They had nine grandchildren, twenty-seven years between the oldest and the youngest. They had nine great-grandchildren, with one more on the way and countless more to come.
As we sat together learning more about my grandmother, it became abundantly clear that what we had all gained in our relationship with her was the idea of unwavering love and legacy.
In this week’s Torah portion V’Etchanan, we read the Ten Commandments. We are told in the fifth commandment to “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may long endure…” We also read the opening paragraph of the Shema, “Hear, O’ Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. You should love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay and home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise up…”
I am struck by the connection between the commandments and the Shema. I believe that the Shema uses the word heart two times as a connection to a mother and a father. As the Shema goes on, it adds in the next generation and our role to impart that love to our children. My mother, my aunts and uncle, my cousins, my children, my brother’s children, my cousins’ children, have had those lessons impressed upon us by my grandparents. There can be no greater legacy.
Wishing you all a Shabbat full of love.