The legacy of my father

Two days ago my family and I visited my father's grave, on the first anniversary of his passing, the 13th of Sivan. Afterwards we gathered in Jerusalem, eight of his grandchildren and four of his great grandchildren, in order to reminisce.

As a teenager my room reflected the eclectic and perhaps hectic world I grew up in. On one wall there were pictures of hockey players and on a different wall there were pictures of famous rabbis. Leaning against a third wall was a print of a painting that to this day I haven't a clue as to how it came to be there. It was entitled "My Father's Legacy", depicting a tallit (prayer shawl) and tefillin (phylacteries – which is a word I'm in doubt people know – unless they know what tefillin means anyway) left on a table in a synagogue. They are not carefully wrapped up, but rather laid out as if the owner, the wearer, will soon return. No people are depicted in the picture – the father is gone and no one has as yet taken his place – but the hint is that the legacy is waiting for the next link in a living chain to come and wrap their lives in the prayer shawl and fasten the laws of the Torah, the words of God, to their being and actions.

So we gathered to contemplate my father's legacy. My eldest remarked that my father had a tough life, that he wasn't "in the place" he wished to be, not only in the physical sense, but in every other sense as well. He had indeed been through hell during the Holocaust, he was severed from the Chassidic world he had grown up in and for most of his life wasn't in the Land of Israel of which he had always dreamed. In other ways he suffered, physically, psychologically and spiritually – but there is another side.

For years he worked in education – and was indeed a talented educator. He inculcated in me such a natural love for Israel that I "ran away" from home, after high school, with a clear feeling that I was running to my real home, Israel.

Upon retiring my father decided to realize his dream and moved to Israel. He left the community where he was known and respected, where he would be asked to lecture and teach, where many families owed their Jewish identity to his teaching efforts – in order to come to a land where he wasn't known and had less of a chance to realize his abilities. Yet he was courageously living the dream – his dream and the dream of the Jewish nation. In that sense he was where he wanted to be – seeing the land of Israel built as the modern Jewish state. He loved visiting, seeing the towns and villages, the valleys and the mountains of the Holy Land. He felt at home in Israel whether on an army base, in a Chassidic neighborhood or on a kibbutz. He took pride in his Israeli identity card and his Israeli grandchildren who didn't speak much English but with who he conversed freely in fluent Hebrew. He urged retirees to come live here instead of Florida – that way at least in retirement they could live here and contribute.

He taught me that the Arabs should realize that not every group and sub-group in the world has their own state. He compared the Arabs in the Holy Land to the Hungarians in Romania in the areas where he grew up. "They have cultural autonomy but they have to learn Romanian. It's clear to them that they won't have their own state and if someone insists on living under Hungarian rule – they can always move to neighboring Hungary". He didn't have a single bone of contention or hatred anywhere in him – only an incorrigibly optimistic love of humanity in general and of the Jewish nation in particular.

Ultimately, in spite of the suffering he endured, he was by choice and with courage in the place he wanted to be most: the Holy City of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), the Holy Land of Israel, living amongst his Holy brothers and sisters of the Jewish nation.

May his memory always be a blessing to all as it is to me.