United Hatzalah program honors our survivors, war veterans with specialized medical care
My mother, the eldest daughter of Reb Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l, was niftar last month at the age of 92. She took her last breath in her home in Efrat, Israel, next door to the shul that was my father’s for 24 years before his passing in 2007.
My mother died as gently as she lived, while holding the book of Samuel in her hands and preparing for a weekly women’s shiur. I was asleep at the Avenue Plaza Hotel in Boro Park, Brooklyn, when my mommy left us, and was awakened to listen to the funeral proceedings taking place on the Mount of Olives just before Shabbos in Israel, on the 2nd of Iyar.
In her memory I would like to share the deepest understanding of the most glorious and majestic garment on earth – the tallis, our prayer shawl, and its connection to one’s life in this world.
Many years ago, in the hallway of Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv, the rosh hayeshiva, Rav Shlomo Freifeld, zt”l, walked over to me and, grasping my hand, said, “Shurin, c’mon, let’s learn some Gemara together!”
“Fine, what should we learn?” I asked.
He pulled out a Talmud Bavli Mesechta Berochos from a bookcase and randomly opened it. “Let’s learn this blatt; this page, its Torah, it’s the shining light of Hashem!”
The Gemara taught that when King David acquired an understanding of the five periods in one’s lifetime, he composed five songs – or chapters in Tehillim.
When King David understood death, the Gemara taught, he wrote Psalm 104, where the first verse tells us: Hashem, my God, You are very great. “Hod v’hadar lavashta” – glory and majesty are Your garments.
I was baffled and asked, “This is the pasuk we recite when we wrap our prayer shawls around our head before resting the tallis on our shoulders; what does this have to do with death?”
Rav Freifeld answered, “A person’s lifetime is a tallis being woven. Every breath, every decision, every deed a person does is another stitch being woven into his tallis. With death, the garment is completed. Then our Creator, so to speak, wears this garment, this tallis, which has just had its final stitch.”
A short time after learning this with Rav Freifeld, a young acquaintance from Brooklyn College, barely nineteen, died a tragic death. This woman had done something interesting: When a poet, a non-Jewish colleague of ours, was thinking of becoming Jewish, she bought him a large beautiful tallis.
After her funeral it became clear that the poet would not be converting, so I asked him if he would give me the tallis. I told him the girl’s Hebrew name was Bracha, which means blessing, and that I wanted to make a blessing on her tallis each morning, which would be a source of happiness for her in the upper world.
I received the tallis and for years I wore it, making many berochos in memory of this young girl named Bracha.
After it had gone through much wear and tear, my holy mother, of blessed memory, noticed its condition and said, “Dov, it’s time you bought a new tallis! The one you’re wearing is old and ripped.”
I didn’t answer, but soon afterward my mother surprised me with a brand new tallis. I kissed her and said, “Mamale, although the tallis I’ve used is very special to me, I accept yours and feel I must wear it for kibbud em, honoring one’s mother.”
When I returned home, Bracha’s tallis was gone. I looked everywhere but it was as if it had disappeared into thin air.
I wore my mother’s tallis for years, and it never seemed older than the day I received it. It always looked neat and sweet – like every chatchke in my mother’s Efrat cottage.
I spent time in my hotel room after her petirah reminiscing about my mother’s last days. She was so holy. I remembered how I had spent her last Pesach seder with her as she sang every word of the Haggadah. I told her to lift her cup for vi’he she’amda and for Hallel. Not one drop of wine left her cup even though she raised it on an angle. The wine simply refused to spill.
I was forced back to reality as realized I had to rush to a late minyan. I was now an avel and needed to lead the service and say Kaddish.
I went to the amud and opened my tallis and tefillin bag. But where was my tallis? Had I forgotten it in this same shul the day before? I looked and looked, to no avail. I needed to sit shiva that week, but where was my tallis?
I continued my search when shiva was over, but my tallis was gone. It was my mamale’s tallis. And it was now complete, to the last stitch!
I said, “Mommy, I lost my tallis!” Looking upward, I knew exactly where my tallis was and who was wearing it.
May my mother, Malka Kamenetsky Shurin, be an upright spokeswoman for the final redemption.
About the Author: Dov Shurin is a popular radio personality and the composer and producer of several albums. He lives with his family in Israel and can be contacted at email@example.com. His Jewish Press column appears the third issue of each month.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
What was supposed to have been a 15 minute interview, turned into an intense learning session and intellectual battle, the likes of which I had never experienced in my entire life.
Rav Lichtenstein did not learn Tanaim, Amoraim, Rishonim and Achronim, rather he learned with them
How can NIF claim they don’t support BDS when they try to repeal laws forbidding boycotts of Israel?
As Holocaust survivors decline rapidly attacks on the veracity of the Holocaust rapidly escalates
The Constitution created history’s most powerful legislature & inherent foreign policy power battle
The S-300 poses a major problem; Israel will have to get creative as to if, when & where it strikes
“The resentment towards us (Jews/Israelis) was really intense. They clearly hate Zionism & Zionists”
Egypt has been more effective against Gazan smuggling tunnels than Israel’s military operations
She had many names and was many things to many people, but to me she was just Babineni.
Is ISIS in Gaza? “No, but there are ISIS loyalists here..we pray to God they unite under ISIS’ flag”
Rabbi Portal was that great “inspirer,” changing people for the better, enriching the lives of all
Iran knows Obama, Putin, and the Europeans don’t have a Red Line beyond which they will go to war
There is no way to explain the Holocaust. I know survivors who are not on speaking terms with G-d. I know many who are the opposite. I have no right to go there…
When a whole side of your family perishes, friends become the extended family you do not have.
Fortunate are we to have Rosh Hashanah for repentance, a shofar to awaken heavenly mercy.
Isn’t it comforting to know that our God loves life, grants life, and promises eternal life?
While the phrase “Let It Be” implies doing nothing, “Lu Yehi” implies working toward a goal.
An Israeli company should make “Arafat’s Dead Sea Tonic” with this warning: “may cause severe vomiting or even death.”
“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.
Boundless love was something Rav Kook had for the nation of Israel. Just as one cannot question the boundless love of Hashem for Israel, one cannot question the boundless love of a Torah giant for his people.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/dov-shurin-columns/mommy-my-tallis-disappeared/2013/05/22/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: