What’s in a name?
Parents possess divine inspiration (ruach haKodesh) when naming their children. In instances wherein a child is named after a departed loved one, we take great care in our choice – in the belief that the best character traits of the person we are honoring will be reflected in our precious progeny’s actions.
The seventh yahrzeit of my beloved mother, Mrs. Rose Tunis (Raizel Mirel bas Elchanan Mordechai), a”h, was approaching and naturally my thoughts about and longing for her were more intense – if that were possible.
Baruch Hashem, since her passing I have been blessed with three precious princesses who carry her name. But my youngest daughter-in-law, Ariella, never met Mommy, and having named her little one for Grama Raizel, as my kids referred to her, Ariella asked me if I could please write down some stories about her to be shared with little Roza Chaya.
First, I found some photos of Mommy that I hoped would reflect her personality. The first one I found accomplished that goal. Although frail at that point, Mommy’s hands were outstretched in a loving gesture towards her great-granddaughters, Chaya and Miriam. The photo brought to mind the portion of Eishet Chayil, wherein our husbands praise their women of valor who open their hands to the poor.
Mommy’s raison d’etre (atzmus) during her lifetime was opening both her heart and both hands to anyone who needed help. Grandstanding was never her way. Everything had to be done quietly. Like the loving mother that she was to her family, she even took the challenges of her children’s friends to heart, offering assistance with a kind word or with financial assistance. In addition, she was secretary of our yeshiva’s simcha and memorial funds. What could be more beneficial than marking life-cycle events by making a donation that would benefit a mosad of learning while simultaneously honoring a ba’alat simcha or providing a zechut for one’s dearly departed?
(One can certainly apply her example today, when so many of us are financially challenged. Smachot, Baruch Hashem, are plentiful. It is very difficult to gift every person who wants our presence but not our presents when we participate in numerous smachot. A donation to a worthwhile charity is a lovely way to celebrate as well as to benefit others.)
Family mattered so much to my mother. From the tender age of 11, she cared for her mother, “Mama” Chaya Ita, a”h.
And our home was the address to which all members of our extended family were drawn. One could say without exaggeration that Mommy was the yesod (foundation) of her entire extended family.
Recently, we marked the yahrzeit of my paternal cousin, Billy, a”h. During his last weeks he got it into his head that he had to eat one final time at his Aunt Rose’s table. Against better judgment, he drove cross-country – on painkillers – to accomplish his goal. And he succeeded.
Not only did his Aunt Rose nourish his body, she also offered his soul the ultimate comfort. She delicately explained to Billy, who was non-observant, how important it was to make certain that Kaddish would be said for him. Having no survivors of his own, Mommy asked him if she could arrange the Kaddish. He readily agreed. He passed away three weeks later.
While sitting shiva for Mommy, my childhood friend came to visit and reminisced about Mommy’s famous chocolate chip cookies. My daughter’s friends used to refer to Grama Raizel as the “Cookie Bubby.” If one were fortunate he or she would be the recipient of her amazing cookies that she stored in those Quaker Oats cardboard containers.
One of my boys, now a father, was reminiscing the other day about the ringing of the front doorbell signaling Grama’s arrival. A modern-day savta simcha (children’s book), she arrived schlepping her trusty large blue overnight bag containing all sorts of goodies, including ShopRite Orange Juice. You never saw kids so excited to see a container of juice.
If it was Chanukah, Mommy brought her dreidel cookies. If it was Purim, her hamantashen could not be beat. Later on she learned to make homemade chocolates in different holiday molds, which she added to her repertoire.
A birthday celebration was never complete without the birthday boy or girl receiving one of Mommy’s famous chocolate/marble cakes, iced and covered in multicolored sprinkles spelling out the recipient’s name. This treat was anticipated with much excitement, but once Mommy was weakened by chemo, I assumed that these cakes would be relegated to a memory box.
I should have known better.
When I arrived kind of misty-eyed to visit Mommy on my 50th birthday, I tried mightily to plaster a smile on my face. It wasn’t difficult. Mommy asked me to open the oven – and there was the last cake that Mommy would bake for me.
I was overcome with emotion and ran to call her oncologist to blurt over and over again: “My mother baked me a birthday cake!”
In later years arthritis made it difficult for Mommy to knit her lovely baby blankets and sweaters. So she switched to needlepoint, many of which depicted Jewish themes. Nearly every vinkel (corner) of my children’s homes showcases another “Grama Raizel Creation.”
Recently, my Avremel arranged for me to hear the naming of his little one in shul. When the name Roza Chaya was uttered, I cried. Roza lives on!
Little Roza carries not only the name of her dearly missed great-grandmother, but also the illustrious name of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s rebbetzin, Chaya Mushka, zy”a. This is because Roza was born on the yarhzeit of the Rebbe, zy”a (gimmel Tammuz).
The Rebbetzin was the dugmah chayah (living example) of kevudah bas melech penimah (the glory of the king’s daughter is within), for the Rebbetzin, the daughter and wife of Rebbes, carried herself with dignity and malchus by preferring to stay in the Rebbe’s court’s background. Likewise, my mother carried herself with dignity and with devotion to Hashem in the most eidel, refined manner possible.
Little Roza Chaya, as well as my Raizel Mirel and Shoshana Rosa, have a lot to live up to. But I have no doubt that, with Hashem’s help, what’s in their names will carry them in good stead in the years ahead.
L’iulei nishmat haImi morati, Raizel Mirel bas Elchanan Mordechai, a”h.
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