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September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
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Frogs Were Jumping Everywhere


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There are many ways one can commemorate the loss of a loved one. The route I chose is undoubtedly unusual, but it nevertheless keeps my mother alive for my family and me.

It was the day before Chanukah 2013. My husband and I were to host our annual family get-together right after lighting the first Chanukah light. We had everything under control. The table was set, the grandchildren’s gifts were wrapped, and most of the food was already prepared. I had even found time to hang up the Chanukah decorations.

Then the phone rang.

My mother, Florence Garfinkel, a”h, had just passed away in the U.S. The funeral would take place in Israel the following evening, after the first Chanukah light was lit. Slowly, my family dismantled all signs of the Chanukah party that now would not be held.

I insisted that one decoration, a dancing sevivon (dreidel) man, remain hanging in recognition of the chag. Some in my family questioned the appropriateness of this decision. Was it proper to have decorations hanging in what would soon become a house of shiva? I felt it was what my mother would have wanted me to do. I also felt it would be a source of comfort for me to see it hanging on the wall.

Time went by, and it was the day of shloshim for my mother. Our family sat around the table, sharing our memories of her. One of my nieces spoke of the common thread running through her young children’s recollections of their bubbie. Each one gleefully spoke about Bubbie and the frogs.

The children had remembered my mother tossing toy frogs onto the Seder table when the ten makkot were mentioned.

At first, my niece felt that it seemed wrong for the children to just focus on a yearly event when there was so much more they had learned from their bubbie. She then thought about it some more, and realized that my mother had left the children with a wonderful legacy: being able to look at the chagim with a sense of joy.

And so I do something unusual to honor my mother’s memory. I sit amid a table full of hopping origami frogs that I patiently created. I plan to put them in a container along with my Pesach supplies and have them ready to be thrown during our family Seder.

One need not look far for inspiration in order to commemorate a loved one. Just remember more of the words from the children’s Pesach song I used in my title, “There were frogs here, frogs there…”

You simply have to open your eyes and look around – and you will find what you seek.

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One Response to “Frogs Were Jumping Everywhere”

  1. We forget the ways little things can be linked to much greater things. Now when they see frogs of any kind, they'll be reminded of their grandmother and their heritage. In their personal moments of reflection, those paper frogs will bring so much to life for them in their lives. Not a bad legacy to leave behind.

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A few seats away, I noticed a man with a Mishnah in hand, talking intently into a cell phone. I soon realized the man was participating in a Daf Yomi shiur, utilizing his traveling time well.

I insisted that one decoration, a dancing sevivon (dreidel) man, remain hanging in recognition of the chag. Some in my family questioned the appropriateness of this decision. Was it proper to have decorations hanging in what would soon become a house of shiva?

Shimon’s early years were not easy ones. His mother struggled to support both of them. She never acquired the knowledge needed to help her son through school years filled with homework and tests.

Chaim (not his real name) was walking down the street, feeling very discouraged. It seemed that lately, the news was filled with stories depicting the disparities, distrust and dislike between the different streams of Jews living in Israel. Much of it revolved around the different religious affiliations or non-affiliations that people adhered to. There were times when Chaim felt the situation was hopeless, with no way to bring people together as a cohesive group – despite their differences.

Like many religious Jews, our bookshelves contain a variety of sefarim. Among the sifrei Mishnah, the Gemara, the Chumashim, among others, there is one sefer that has special meaning to my family and me.

The rav was not a wealthy man, but earned enough to live comfortably. He earned his money by serving as the rav of a religious community in Yerushalayim. He also received some royalties from sefarim he had written over the years. He was well known, and many people approached him for a berachah, advice and help. They were not turned away.

Like many children, some of my grandchildren tended to rush through the berachot they recited each day. Somehow, the first few words were inclined to run together. The last few words often got swallowed up, especially those that were part of berachot made before eating something they really liked.

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