One of my earliest memories of Zeidy happened on the deck outside in the back in Patchogue. Zeidy was on the phone, and two bees were circling around him. I thought it was so cool that he wasn’t scared of them and I got closer and closer until ZAP! One of them got me on my elbow. I’m sure I panicked, but I don’t even remember that part. Just my awe of Zeidy who wasn’t scared of bumble bees!
I feel so privileged to have known Zeidy for 27 long and wonderful years – in which he was a loving grandfather to me, and someone who I shared a lot in common with. As I got older, I felt closer him to and loved spending time with him. I had a special name for him – Zeid, which personified his easygoing, youthful personality, even as a great-grandfather. He called me Meech, and his typical greeting is still ringing in my ears: “Hey Meech! How ya doin’ kiddo?” It’s so hard to focus on the fact that I’ll never hear him say those words again, and that’s why I want to focus more on everything I gained from him, which is a part of me that will last forever.
When I was very young, I remember always thinking how Zeidy never gets angry. He never yells, he always says everything nicely and calmly. As I got older I realized that like everyone else there were things that got him upset – especially when we kids would fight, but he would control himself. So much so that the one time I do remember him raising his voice – also because of us siblings fighting, it shook me up like crazy and I thought – we must have been really out of line if Zeidy yelled. We BETTER stop!
Over the years I was lucky to spend so much time with him. When I was in seminary he used to drive over to Har Nof from Rechavia all the time to pick me up. Zeidy, Bubby and I would go to Tal Bagels, Sheyan, or their own gourmet kitchen where Zeidy was just getting into cooking. He always liked to try new things. Zeidy and Bubby had me and my friends over at least twice a week, and on so many Shabbosim. It was the fun place to go. Comfortable, classy and awesome food. I remember when he started making gorgeous yummy apple pies. He was never content to just sit around. He always wanted to learn and do new things. And then he excelled at them because he put love and enthusiasm into everything he did.
Although Zeidy “retired” years ago, he never really did. In Israel he worked as the president for the Israel Young Israel, and didn’t even do it for payment. He was always looking for opportunities to give back to the Klal. I had the privilege of working there with him for a few months. I loved seeing the way he was so involved in all the chesed. The sifrei Torah for the army, shidduch events for deaf people, and so many other things that he was personally involved in for absolutely no personal gain.
During the time Chaim and I lived in Israel, I was so lucky to spend tons of time with Bubby and Zeidy. We went to them for Shabbos all the time, and we went to them for supper during the week. We always marveled at Zeidy’s respect for his shul, and especially his rabbi, Rabbi Berel Wein. But that was something that he had all the years. Tremendous respect for his Rabbi. Whether it was a big name like Rabbi Wein, or a small town Rabbi on Long Island, Zeidy spoke of them in high esteem, and that has made an impact on family and children who see it.
Whenever Bubby and Zeidy were in Brooklyn, I loved coming over to the house in the morning. As expected Zeidy would always be by the table with breakfast and a coffee doing the crossword. The past few times they were here I started doing them with him, but I hardly got anywhere! Zeidy had tremendous amounts of knowledge and he could fill out those hard answers in a flash. Just 3 months ago by Nechama’s wedding, after Shabbos we all started a game a trivial pursuit. When it got up to Zeidy’s turn he won the whole game in one shot. No matter what the question was about – science, history, sports, entertainment – he knew the answer. We were all on square one and he was finished the game. But aside from his secular knowledge, Zeidy was also extremely knowledgeable in Torah. The past few years whenever he was feeling good he’d write a 2-3 page dvar Torah on the parsha. I was his honorary editor. I was always astounded at the way he wove the pieces together – always with an interesting spin and an integral life lesson. He wanted to put out a book of them – or a blog, and I hope to work on that in the coming months. I was honored that he took my opinion into account, and he always wanted a critique, but his writing was beautiful and precise, and the work was always profound.
I keep thinking that it’s so fitting that on the last Simchas Torah of his life, he got the honor of Chosson Beraishis. He really deserved it. Zeidy was the most giving person. He always wanted to help even beyond the limit of his capability. On so many occasions he’d give us gifts, for birthdays, babies and even just for the house. He was generous with helping us out with many things.
Another beautiful thing about Zeidy was his love for singing and music. His kiddush and havdala were strong and melodious, and he loved singing zemiros with us. I feel lucky to have gotten so any brachos from him on Friday night over the years. He would never forget. Years ago, there was a fun Dror Yikra tune that we sang in school and I was singing it. “That’s a nice melody, teach it to me,” Zeidy said, and from then on whenever we were together for Shabbos he would sing it with us harmony and all. We also sang Adon Olam together and so many other songs.
I always knew that Zeidy was a Levi, and I commented a few times on how he must have gotten his musical talents passed down from there. Recently though, I found out that his Hebrew name – Tzuriel – was actually a Nasi of shevet Levi as well. He was a real Levi through and through, not only in regard to his musical talents, but in his regal bearing as well; right until his last day, which coincided with the yahrzeit of the ultimate and very first practicing Levi – Moshe Rabbeinu.
The last time I had a real conversation with him was one week ago. I called him to say good Shabbos and I asked him how he was doing. He never wanted to talk about himself, but he asked how Chaim and the kids were doing. I’m so so lucky that my kids got to know Zeidy – or New Zeidy as they called him. He gave them rides, read them books, and I know that they remember it all. Yaakov Dovid was so worried about him that he spent the past month or so saying Tehillim every single morning for New Zeidy. I’m happy they had that connection.
I was zoche to see Zeidy just two days before he passed away. I was nervous; I kept hearing how the situation was dire. I came into the Boca apartment, and Zeidy only came out of his room about half an hour later. He was walking with a walker. He looked very far from the vibrant energetic Zeidy that I had seen only two months before by Nechama’s wedding. But I was struck by the fact that he looked beautiful. It may sound weird but it was true. His eyes were sunken in. His always immaculate hair was tousled; his clothes were hanging off him. So it couldn’t have been a physical “beauty” that jumped out at me.
It was Zeidy’s neshama shining out because it was almost time for him to go. Even though he was confused, his eyes were burning with life, and I was lucky to sit next to him and hold his hand for a few hours. He didn’t say much, but he gave me two kisses and sat next to me. Later when he was in his room in bed, he told me to come sit with him and asked me how I was. Then when baby Batsheva came in he got more animated and smiled and gave her a bunch of kisses and hummed to her a little bit – it was so him. The last thing he said before I left was “I just want you to know that I’m so thrilled to have you all here.” And that was Zeidy’s biggest accomplishment of all. His family. Together with Bubby, the two of them turned their lives around completely to bring their daughters up as religious Jews. They are the only line in their families combined, who will have Jewish generations living on for all eternity. They gave up on the society they were a part of, and were subject to scorn from some. But Bubby and Zeidy have something that is eternal – 21 frum grandchildren, and three frum great grandchildren – so far, who will learn and daven for them forever. None of us will ever forget Zeidy, his handsome lively face, his energy, warmth and the love he had for all of us. But I am so sure that because of the life he lived, of Torah, of chesed and of accomplishment, he can do more for us from his special place up there, then we can do for him down here. May he be a meilitz yosher for all of us, and may his neshama have an aliyah.