December 13, 2021, Judea, Israel
I find it amazing that whatever I need, whatever challenges I am going through, whatever I am experiencing at the moment, I can open the weekly Torah reading for that particular week and find answers, support and comfort.
"And Jacob/Yaakov live in the land of Egypt for seventeen years. The years of his life were a hundred and forty seven years. And when the days of Israel (Jacob) were approaching their end, he called his son Joseph, and said to him, 'Now if I have found favor in your eyes, I beg of you, place your hand under my thigh as a solemn vow that you will deal kindly and truthfully with me and will act as a faithful son, and not bury me in the land of Egypt even temporarily.
And when I join my fathers, you must carry me out of Egypt, and inter me in their burial grounds." (in Hebron) And he (Joseph) said, 'I will do as you have said'.
And he (Jacob) said 'swear to me' and he swore to him. Then Israel (Jacob) bowed to the Eternal God upon the headboard, with a prayer of thanksgiving that his wish had been granted."(Genesis/Bereshith, Chapter 47, Verses 28 - 31)
My dear mother has just passed away, and I feel as if her entire life can be summed up in these passages above.
I have a memory. It is 1974. After immigrating to Israel and fulfilling the prophets vision of the Return to Zion, we lived in Israel for 7 years good years. But economic hardship caused our family to make the decision to leave and return to the United States. It is 1974, and I am just a child. I am standing outside our home and my mother asks me sorrowfully if I have any plans or dreams to return to Israel. I answer her that of course I have every intention of returning to Israel as soon as I can. She smiles that beautiful smile and says, 'in that case we did not waste our time'.
Jacob/Israel is approaching the end of his days, and he knows it. He wants to make sure that his legacy is fulfilled. He wants to make sure that his loyal son Joseph will pass on his traditions and fulfill his last wishes. He is lying on his bed and he feels the presence of the Eternal God with him.
I am in the hospice in Jerusalem and my dear holy mother is lying in bed, so weak, barely able to speak. She wants to know if her knew granddaughter has arrived yet in this world, to start a new life. She wants to know if the clementine on her tree are ripe. I place a small piece of sweet clementine in her mouth, she enjoys it, the fruit of her tree in her home in the land of Israel.
She passes from this life peacefully and I tell the nurse, "My mother is a descendent of Don Isaac Abarbanel of Spain, and thus also a direct descendant of King David. Her ancestors died and buried in Jerusalem, and she has come full circle, she has merited to die with her ancestors in the holy city of Jerusalem. As Jacob said, "I will join my ancestors". My mother has joined her ancestors, she has fulfilled the wish of Father Jacob, she was not buried in Egypt or any other land, she was buried here in Israel, his wish, her wish, was fulfilled.
I am a very small child, and my mother is sitting by my bed and teaching me to recite the prayers before going to sleep...hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.
and I am sitting by her bed, and it is her final Sabbath on earth, and I hear her faint cry...I want, I want...and I lean over to my dear mother and I say, "What do you want Mom, just tell me", and she says, "I want to hear Kiddush"( the blessing on the Sabbath wine). I am filled with joy as I fulfill my dear mother's request.
And Jacob asked his son Joseph, fulfil my requests, carry on the traditions...deal kindly and truthfully with me. Fulfil our destiny.
Jacob bowed to God to thank God for fulfilling his wishes, that his son will bury him in his proper place, not in Egypt but in Israel. My mother too was buried in her proper place, next to my father, in the plot he purchased, just as Abraham purchased his plot, in the land of Israel.
There is a key phrase, "and he (Joseph) said, I will do as you say". I too tried to fulfill my mother's wishes throughout this difficult period and to do "as she said." She did not want a caregiver, she wanted only family and close friends. She did not want to be moved to a seniors residence, she wanted to be in her own home and live on her own terms. And she wanted to know that her children would carry on her legacy, just as she carried on the legacy of her parents and grandparents.
Even in her passing she is doing kindness as her personal belongings, her clothing, all are being given away to charity, just as she devoted 30 years to volunteer work on behalf of her community.
I hope we have fulfilled her last wishes, as she is resting with her ancestors, and her sisters and husband. May she rest in peace and may her life continue to inspire us.