Friday, December 4, 2009

My Grandma, the Dove (part II)

In continuation from my previous blog:


But you know, it couldn’t have been easy growing up as the only daughter of a fugitive Rabbi on the run from war-torn Communist Russia, or as an immigrant daughter of the first Orthodox Rabbi of Los Angeles, or as a housewife in the Valley of the forties and fifties trying to raise her kids Jewish, losing her house to misfortune, and especially losing her husband and two young grandchildren so tragically.

No, my Grandma did not have an easy life.

Many of you may know the most tragic part of my Grandma’s childhood, the loss of her birth parents due to a murderous pogrom targeting Jews at which she, my Grandma at age three, was present; her blind Grandmother’s inability to take care of her, and her ultimate adoption by the Marcus family, and subsequent flight from the Soviet Union.

My friends, my Grandma’s tragic story is not new or unique to the Jewish people. We have been singled out for slaughter and persecution for millennia.

Just one year ago, a young colleague of mine, Rabbi Gavriel Noach and his wife Rebbetzin Rivky Holtzberg, were cruelly murdered by Muslim terrorists, along with four of their helpless guests. Why? Simply because they were Jews who publicly celebrated their Jewishness.

But the miracle, perhaps the only consolation, is that their two year old, Moishele, survived the destruction. She was miraculously and heroically saved by his nanny, Sandra.

Moishele has become somewhat of a cause celebre in Israel today. The whole country is watching him grow up in the home of his loving grandparents, Rivkie’s mom and dad.. He just celebrated his 3 yr old birthday. Every media outlet in Israel covered the event, which was attended by thousands of wellwishers.

What is so captivating to the Israeli public about little Moishele?
It is because he is an אוד מוצל מאש, a firebrand plucked from the fire, the young survivor who survived the slaughter and will live to continue his parents’ legacy.
My friends, Grandma Toby is a Moishele, but ninety years later. Today we do not celebrate her third birthday, but mourn her passing. But at the same time, we celebrate her life, her accomplishments, the lessons she has taught us, all that she accomplished in the ninety years since the time she survived the pogrom at the age of three.
And just like Moishele had his nanny to save him and his grandparents to raise him as their own, so too our Taibeleh had the Marcuses, who lovingly cared for her and raised her as their own. And I’d also like to gratefully acknowledge the loving care and devotion with which her loving son, my dear uncle Randy, took care of her for the last number of years, during the difficult period in which she needed to be cared for, just like she did when she was three.
* * *

My grandma’s name is Chaya Toiba. Toiba means a “dove,” “Yonah” in Hebrew.
Why did Noah send a dove to find out if the world had survived the devastating flood?

Our sages tell us that the dove is the symbol of the Jewish people. The dove is one of the only species in the animal kingdom that stays loyal to its mate for its entire life.

So too, the Jews have stayed loyal to G-d since our humble beginnings, over 3800 years ago.

Noah sent the dove because he was symbolically showing that the world could never recover from the devastation of the flood until the Yonah found peace, a peaceful resting place to call its own.

The Yonah is the Jewish people. The Land of Israel is the spiritual baramoter of the cosmos. The world will not and cannot be at peace until Israel is at peace, until a Jewish child can walk freely and safely in our Promised Land.

Until that time, the world will be in chaos, beset by a deluge of hate and violence.

When the Yonah finds peace, the whole world will be at peace.

But sadly, at first, the dove did not find peace. Instead, she returned with an olive branch snatched in her mouth.

Most people erroneously believe that the olive branch is a symbol of peace. However, in Jewish tradition, it is just the opposite. The olive is the most bitter fruit. The only way to make use of it (short of pickling it) is by crushing it to get oil.

Said the Yonah to Noach (and by the way, my grandma has one great grandson named Yonah and one named Noach ;-)

No, the world is not ready for peace. Instead, my lot will be that of a wanderer, bitter and crushed in the long exile. I will not find solace, not even a resting place for my weary feet.

This is the story of the Jew in exile.

But the bright part of the story is, ironically, in that same olive branch.

Yes, we experienced the bitterness of exile, the crushing horrors of the Holocaust, pogroms, terrorist attacks, Inquisition, etc. etc.

But what happens as a result of all this crushing? What do you have? Pure olive oil that can be kindled to make a beautiful light, to illuminate the darkness of the world around us. This represents the sacrifice made by Jews throughout the ages to persevere, and even to flourish, even in the face of the greatest persecution and darkness.

Yes, it is the wandering Yonah, the dove who tasted the crushing bitterness of exile, who ultimately survives, flourishes, and ushers in the coming of our long awaited Moshiach.

My Grandma is the Toiba, the dove, the ultimate survivor.

Ninety years later. The White Russians are gone. The Soviet communists who tried to destroy Judaism, are no more, but rather a relic of the past.
But our Yonah has flown for ninety years, weathered the turmoil and storm of life, raised her Jewish kinderlach, produced three generations, has propelled Judaism into the 21st Century.

And now, the Yonah has flown away to her eternal home to be with her parents, Sarah and Reuven Levita, may Hashem avenge their blood, and with her beloved foster parents, Zaida Binyomin and Bubbe Ettel Marcus, and most of all, to be with Hashem.

Yes, our dove, our Taibeleh has finally found peace.

But the world still has not.

This will be accomplished by us, each of us in his or her own way, increasing in acts of goodness and kindness, Torah and Mitzvos, to bear aloft the banner of our people Israel (that was for you, Grandma) with pride and conviction. It’s time to throw the foolish Marku out of the marketplace once and for all, and rise above all our hindrances that are holding us back from doing Mitzvot and letting our true Jewish pride shine forth. And most of all, to get ready to greet Moshiach,

It’s time to find peace in our daily lives by increasing in Torat Shalom and Torat Emmet, “…and all its ways are peace.” Study Chassidic philosophy, the inner wisdom of the Torah, that makes peace between spirituality and physicality, between Heaven and Earth, between the storm struggles of our daily life with the inner light of our soul, which is a veritable part of G-d from above...
It’s time to bring Moshiach NOW. Thank you.

1 comment:

Jim Wells said...

Rabbi Green,

Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful tribute to your grandmother. It has touched my family and me in a very special way as we read it aloud after dinner tonight. So poignant for me are the images of the searching Yonah and the olive branch transformed into light-giving olive oil only by having been crushed.

May we all ultimately be surviors like your grandmother and the dove; and like the olive branch, may we have our crushing life experiences transformed in such a way, through our openess to the transforming power of G-d, that the light we have been given will shine brightly enough, between the cracks of our brokeness, that in time, all the world will be illumined and at peace.

b' Shalom,

Yaakov Maoz Eliad ben Abraham and Sarah
www.peacetalking.org