I have a serving dish that is made of glass. Unusual in color, it is a mixture of yellow and green.
It is shaped like a cornucopia. It was my mother’s. Mommie liked to keep it on the sideboard in the dining room filled to the brim with ripening fruits.
Baruch Hashem, we never knew deprivation of any kind, but I must tell you that when I came home from school and noticed the dish overflowing with fruit I felt flush with a sense of well-being.
I guard this serving dish assiduously as if it were made of Tiffany glass and worth millions, yet in reality it was in all likelihood purchased for about one dollar when my parents were married in 1942.
In addition, I have a pushka also inherited from Mommie, which is affixed to my kitchen wall. It is so old that it no longer stays closed, but it commands one’s attention. It is charred because she kept it near the range. Just as the woman is the foundation of the home (the akeret habayit), my mother taught me that giving tzedaka b’seter (in secret so as not to embarrass the receiver) is the yesod, the founding principle of a Jewish home.
There are so many things that our Yiddisher Mamas and Tattas learned at the knee of their parents. These are the beautiful traditions that they passed on to their children and grandchildren. Oftentimes, they did not know the origin of these customs or practices but they were steeped in the Torah.
I have a memory of being about two years old. I had just awakened and Mommie came running to me to ask me if I had washed my hands: “Tzu Yideichem!” Daddy used to say “Krishma” with us at night and I didn’t realize for years that the proper pronunciation for the tefilla was “Kriat Shma.” In addition, when we took medicine Daddy used to bless us with: “Tzur Fuy!” which I later learned was his wish that we should have a “Refua Shleima!’
My parents knew so much but were never too proud to learn something from their children for whom they provided a proper Jewish education.
When my older sister was a student at Stern College she told my parents about the beautiful custom in which the father, upon his arrival home from shul on Friday night, blesses each one of his children. This is followed by the recitation of Eyshet Chayil, praising his wife, the “Woman of Valor.” A poet of some note, Daddy loved to recite Eyset Chayil in English. No matter how tired Mommie was from her Erev Shabbos preparations, she sat up a bit straighter feeling proud of her accomplishments for the past week.
Today, no matter where my children live, they call their Tatty so that he can bench them before Shabbos.
Yours truly does not need a Shabbos or Yom Tov to find a reason to grab my children/grandchildren in order to bentch them, for just as my mother used to plaster my face with 18 kisses (“Chai Tzumleiben”) for good luck before a test, or a fond good-bye, I bentch my family members with mazal and bracha for all of the challenges that they experience in their lives.
As for being bentched by my own parents, ob”m, I devised a measure of comfort for myself: I framed the photo of my father bentching me at my wedding, with Mommie at his side. I place the photo behind my tray of Shabbos candlesticks and feel encompassed by their love and blessings.
If each one of us takes stock of the brachot in our lives, we will have the strength to deal with whatever challenges come our way! For indeed each one of us has been gifted with a cornucopia of blessings.