“Silly child, why are you crying?” Zaida asked me. He reminded us how fortunate we were to be together in a Jewish medina.
My grandfather was a chasiddishe yid, an ardent lover of Tzion and Yerushalayim, a true ohev Eretz Yisrael in every sense. And as Chazal promised, “He who mourns the destruction of Jerusalem will rejoice in her redemption.”
After undergoing surgery in Hadassah Hospital during the Six-Day War, Zaida returned home weak and weary, in need of healing. My husband promised him that if he ate, and gained strength, he would take him to the newly liberated Kotel. It was a real incentive, and after two months, on Rosh Chodesh Elul, Sholom brought the car to the apartment my grandfather was now sharing with my parents in Rechavia, on the edge of Shaarei Chesed, and drove Zaida straight up to the Wall.
The sound of the shofar, unheard at the holy site for so many years, filled the air at the Kotel that morning. Zaida’s tears of joy – tears for having been deemed worthy to daven, to seek forgiveness, and to praise Hashem at the Kotel – have yet to dry up. They linger on, with much vividness, in my memory.
His soul departed four months later, the 12th of Tevet, on Shabbat morning Parshat Vayechi.
Zaida was likened to Yaakov Avinu whose life and death, and the blessings given to his sons, are recorded in Vayechi. He lived his life as a thoroughly devout Jew, having fulfilled each mitzvah, the simple as well as the most difficult, to the minutest detail. Despite turbulent years in Hungarian and American exiles, my grandfather – Reb Menashe Gross z”l – never lost his love of performing mitzvos or his desire to live in Eretz Yisrael.
Passed on through the wine in his Kiddush cup are his performance and his desires. Those who sipped his wine inherited his uncompromising devotion and faith. Others, carrying his name, inherited qualities of his soul.
A few hours after Zaida was laid to rest on Har Hamenuchot, a steady, peaceful snow began to fall at midnight, blanketing Jerusalem. That quiet snowfall in January 1968 was the calm that followed a wild, windy rainstorm that had thrashed Jerusalem for two days and nights. Electricity was suspended for a week, and Jerusalem was painted white. Old giant trees, uprooted, lay dead across major thoroughfares and side streets, forcing closure. (The huge logs, a pedestrian menace, were finally hauled away to make room for new saplings.)
Damage to the city was far greater than anything inflicted by man-made artillery shells during the lightning war half a year earlier. My mother, my aunt, and one visiting uncle sat down to shiva in a cold, dark apartment. Snowed in, we were unable to get to the shiva house until two days later, and then only by foot.
“Hashem natan, Hashem lakach, yehi shem Hashem mevorach” were the only words of consolation offered on that wintry day 40 years ago when a small part of Zaida’s family was comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.