“You cried?” he said.
“I heard you cry. I know you. You’ve cried every time since you came back from the Six-Day War as a young man. Anyway, I thought I heard you crying from up here, so I came.”
“So I cried. So what?
“I’ve told you a thousand times you don’t have what to cry over. We didn’t cry ….” He gestured with his numbered hand. “What we went through without crying … Thousands of us killed every hour, herded by the hundreds into the crematorium every seven minutes, and we didn’t cry!”
“Then maybe the time has come to cry,” I said. “The numbers keep adding up. There’s no end. You promised us that we had come here to put an end to the era of death!”
“Nu, nu,” said my father in his Polish Yiddish Hebrew, clicking his tongue. “Have you forgotten the inheritance I left you?”
“What inheritance, Abba? You worked liked a dog your whole life, but there was no inheritance! Not a dime!”
“What abbout the Kaddish prayer I left you? That inheritance. Every year I said Kaddish on the Tenth of Tevet and on Holocaust Remembrance Day in memory of all the relatives who were murdered by the hundred. Now it’s you, my heir, who has to say it instead of me.”
“What kind of an inheritance is that, Abba?” I yelled. “I should say Kaddish? I never even met them!”
“Precisely,” my father exclaimed with a victorious smile. “You understand now. You never met them, and I never meet them either. They went to their deaths anonymously by the hundred, by the thousand, by the million. Now everything has changed. Today your newspapers are full of names, pictures, stories. Every person who is killed has a name, and the whole nation remembers him. Where we were, who remembered them?
“Now you understand that there is a difference. In between the tears, you can smile a little, you have to allow yourself some happiness. Now you have a state, and an army, and someone to bury the dead, which we did not have …”
With that my father disappeared, wearing the doleful smile he had worn when he came, offering a survivor’s consolation so relevant to these days.