Aunt Hench is a natural charmer. A people person, spunky and quick as only someone small as a light bulb can be, and wherever she is, she is a bright star.
At one of her many stays at the hospital for a procedure, the doctor asked if she had removed her teeth.
“But I can’t do that,” the spunky little lady said smiling.
“Do you want me to help you?”
“It can’t be done,” my aunt countered. “If you want my teeth, you’re going to need special pliers to remove them!”
My aunt sat shiva a total of 11 times. For her parents, 7 siblings, her husband Rabbi Harold Leiman, a well-known scholar and yeshiva principal, and six years ago for her eldest son, Rabbi Yehoshua Leiman, zt“l. Her friends are long gone – a touching slideshow produced by a granddaughter included countless members of the family and loved ones who are no longer present. Scores of pictures of smiling faces, of parents from an earlier century when black and white photographs were the rage, of Aunt Hench’s close attachment to her sister, my mother a“h who passed away a few months ago. Pictures of them dancing together nearly five years ago, rejoicing at my mother’s 100th birthday party. Each sister delighting in the other’s accomplishments.
Professor Shnayer Leiman, a world-renowned scholar, professor of Judaic studies, a prolific author who has taught in the most prestigious universities, and a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva in Brooklyn, is her only surviving son. The evening was arranged together with his Jerusalemite niece Deena Weingarten.
R’ Shnayer published a commemorative booklet for the occasion, a series of popular essays titled, Studies in Jewish Education, authored by his father Rabbi Dr. Harold I. Leiman. Dozens of offspring, all Torah-true Jews, participated in this magnificent happening. With all the heartache attached to the loss of her son, Aunt Hench spends her days smiling, in gratitude to Hashem for her life, “filled like a cup that runneth over.”
“Zara Chaya v’kayama” – a tefilla we say every Shabbat after reading the Torah. “May Hashem grant us living and surviving offspring, who will neither interrupt nor cease from the words of the Torah.” In this tefilla we ask Hashem that our lives be fruitful, our days increase, and that we be rescued from every serious ailment. Indeed, Baruch Hashem, my aunt has been blessed, and our family is blessed to have a 100-year-old matriarch.
May the blessing for “Zara chaya v’kayama” continue to shower future generations of Am Yisrael, for that is our protection against those who rise to destroy Jewish life.