The years pass, but my memories of you – my beloved mother – only get stronger. And in addition to my memories, Hindy and I have little girls named after you who daily bring you to mind.
The oldest one is Hindy’s very special granddaughter, Ayelet Yitta. She is such a delightful child and very loving and caring. Of course, with such characteristics, she makes one think of her great bubby. The other granddaughter is Hindy’s Avichayil Yitta. She lives in Israel, fulfilling one of your dreams.
I have some great-grandchildren named for you, Mom, but they are really little. The oldest is five-year-old Atara Yitta, and she is already very smart, which is a gift from you. Another is Yitta Rena, who will soon turn three. When she was only two, she was already singing and dancing, and that reminded all of us of you, too. (Note that the name “Rena” almost sounds like “Irene”.)
Meira Yitta also lives in Israel, and even though she is just two, I can see that she will be very smart. My newest great granddaughter with your name is Yitta Tamar. She just turned one. I asked my granddaughter Chani – Yitta Tamar’s mother – to allow me to share what she said upon naming her little girl (who was born after five boys). But before I do that, I would be remiss if I did not mention my son Dovid and daughter-in-law Julie, who named their youngest child – Noa Miriam – after you.
Noa Miriam is now six, and, no, “Noa Miriam” was not your name, of course. But Dovid said he had you in mind when he named her; in Israel, though, people tend to give Hebrew names rather than Yiddish names, so he picked two names that personified you: Noa, the daughter of Zelafchad, who with her sisters loved the land of Israel so much that she wanted an inheritance in the land, and Miriam, sister of Moshe Rabbeinu, who led the Jewish women in song and dance at the Yam Suf (I remember, Mom, that you even had a tambourine on display) and was a prophetess (and one of the wisest women Dovid ever knew was his bubby).
And now for the words of my granddaughter Chani (daughter of my daughter Shandee). I think that Chani’s description of you, Mom, is one of the best tributes I can pay you, especially as it comes from one of your great-granddaughters.
I am so honored to finally be able to name one of my children after my great-grandmother, my bubby. Not many girls that I ever knew had a great-grandmother. And if they did, she was an old lady who was too old to be involved in their life. Not me. I never knew her actual age, but my great-grandmother acted young and alive until just a few years before she passed away.
In the summers we used to visit her every Sunday in the Homowack Hotel, and I would proudly go with her to the Israeli dance classes where she would gracefully dance with all the younger women. Sometimes we even would dance together in the middle of the circle! I used to brag that my great-grandmother knew how to ride a bike! And that we had matching Jean skirts. One time she gave me her old Jean skirt and I would wear it and tell everyone it was a hand me down from my great-grandmother! Most people did not believe me.
Besides acting young, Bubby was different. She didn’t act for other people. She did what she knew was right. Bubby was full of chessed . There were always “strange people” who would hang around Bubby. She would make them feel like she needed help and that they were helping her. But I knew she didn’t really need help and that she was doing chessed to the highest level of giving these people dignity and allowing them to think that she is the one who needs help and that they have a purpose.
On top of that, she used to teach us about health and cleanliness. She had a list of all the most healthy foods that she, of course, knew by heart. And she always had bananas in her kitchen that were perfectly ripe. She taught me how to wash my hands properly to get rid of the maximum amount of germs. We all know how important that is to me!
My due date was last Friday. But as we all know, due dates come and go and only Hashem knows the right time and mazal for the baby’s birth. She was born on a very special day. Yud Tet Kislev. This is a yom tov for Chabad. On this date in 1798, the founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, was freed from his imprisonment in czarist Russia and continued to spread Torah to his followers. Although we are not Chabad, my paternal grandfather had many stories involving the Rebbe and I feel very connected to them through him. So, it is a real honor that she was born on such a holy day.
Now the connection between Bubby and this date, Yud Tet. Those are the first two letters in her name. Those are some of my reasons why I so desired to name my baby girl Yitta. Where does Tamar come in, besides being a beautiful name, of course? This week’s parshah we are introduced to Tamar. My due date was last week’s parshah. So, I feel there must be a significance of why she was not born in Parshas Vayishlach, but rather in Parshas Vayeshev.
There are not many women’s names mentioned in the Torah. Tamar is one of the few who make the cut. Like Bubby, Tamar is strong-willed and does what she knows to be right. Yemima Mizrachi teaches us about Tamar, that we always have to have a dream. Tamar says to herself, “Maybe if I sit here, Yehuda will come, maybe I will get pregnant, maybe I will give birth to Mashiach.” Really!?? We would raise our eyebrows and say keep dreaming. But she does!! – like my bubby who with my zaidy started the first Anglo Jewish newspaper, The Jewish Press.
I can imagine the same scene: Bubby saying to Zaidy, “Maybe we should start an English Jewish paper that will be able to spread Torah to thousands of Jewish people and influence political figures and help Jews in Israel and around the world.” In the late 1950’s-early ‘60s? Really!!? But yes, like Tamar, really, that is what they did.
And Hashem made Tamar the ultimate mother of Mashiach. And Hashem helped my great-grandparents succeed with their dream, as well, as we see to this day.
There is one more point that even brings the names together even more. In this week’s parshah of Yehuda and Tamar, there is a pasuk: “Vayet… – And Yehuda turned towards Tamar.” This word only appears twice in the Torah. Vayet is the same letters again as the name Yitta and my little girl’s birthday, Yud Tet.
There is so much more to say about both Yitta and Tamar, and this is the tip of the iceberg. This baby has a great name that will, G-d willing, become her essence. May she be able to acquire these and all the other characteristics of both these strong women as she continues the chain of an eim b’Yisrael, a mother in Israel.
Mom, you planted great seeds in your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And thankfully Hashem blessed you with long life so that the grandchildren could really get to know you. Hindy and I were blessed beyond words to have you for our mother.
May your neshama have an aliyah and may your memory be a blessing.