I recently acquired a curious and intriguing ethical will by Rivka Lipa Anikster, who died in Jerusalem in 1893. The will, titled Kuntres Zechor Olam, was printed in Jerusalem in 1882. Her father, R. Moshe Mischel Luria, was an av bet din.
After losing seven children at a young age, she and her husband decided in 1862 to move to Eretz Yisrael as a segulah for the longevity of her remaining children (young adults at the time) despite the treacherous and impoverishing journey involved.
Leaving their children with family members, they left their small town in Eastern Europe and made their way to Eretz Yisrael where they both devoted their remaining lives to the community. He became a pillar of the Yishuv, managing the Kollel Vilna and Yeshivat Etz Chaim, and she founded and ran a large community kitchen that served free meals to the needy.
The reputation of the quality and care given to the meals was such that Moses Montefiore in his memoirs recalls that he thoroughly enjoyed them and requested that his meals be brought from there to his hotel.
Kuntres Zechor Olam was the first sefer to be published by a woman in Eretz Yisrael as far as we know. Published in Jerusalem in 1882, it was well-received and republished two additional times in her lifetime and has been republished several times since.
In her will, she compares her immigration to Palestine to a sacrifice – similar to Akedat Yitzchak: “You should know, my beloved children, that our journey to the Holy City of Jerusalem was very difficult. It was a test like the binding of the Patriarch Isaac, as written in the Torah, ‘Go forth from your native land,’ and this test was equivalent to the test of the binding [of Yitzchak], all the more so as you were fledglings whose feathers had not yet grown. And when I came away so far from you, I was overcome with compassion and I thought how had I abandoned maternal compassion and left you little ones.”
The will was intended to serve as a memory for her children and a way for her to guide them despite having lost communication with them and the great distance separating them. She writes: “Your reward for having allowed us to immigrate to the Holy Land is equivalent to you yourselves being here. Similarly, the merit of all people from abroad who sustain the people of the Holy Land…is equivalent to our merit, the people of the Holy Land.”