Sunday, March 16, 2008

One Last Story on Uncovering Hidden Jewish Sparks

Here's one last aspect of my Grandmother's funeral, which showed me a Jewish spark in someone in whom one might not expect it.

Between my granmother's two sons, my father was the more Jewishly affiliated. My uncle, my Grandmother's other son, is/was totally unaffiliated. So I was somewhat worried that some of the things that we did at the funeral might make him uncomfortable. For instance, we did not merely shovel a few shovel-fulls of soil into the kever as a token gesture, as is done in some of the more assimilated funerals. Rather, I announced that we would be filling the entire kever, to the top. This was no small feat. After the dirt by the graveside ran out, the staff had to bring two more digger fulls of soil from another location for us to have enough. It was a lot of work and it took a long time.

Before we began this final mitzvah of escorting the vessel that contained my grandmother's neshoma, soul, to its final resting place, I spoke about the concept of the respect we have for the body, the vessel which contained the soul during the person's lifetime. We don't let the cemetary workers escort the body of the person we love to its place of rest. Rather, we want to escort the vessel for the pure soul of the person we love, ourselves.

I was quite amazed by this, but the one person who worked and sweated more than anyone else, with that shovel for the entire time till we were finished was my "Jewishly unaffiliated" uncle. It was so touching to see how he put everything he had and all of his focus into that mitzva. It was a true chesed shel emes, a true act of kindness. And it shows me that there is a great Jewish soul inside every Jew and that you cannot look at the external side of people.

Although it's not related to this post, I want to share a story that my uncle told about his parents, my grandparents:

My grandfather was an attorney and served, for his entire working life, in the JAG Corps. When he retired, he held the rank of Full Colonel. In the early 1950s, my grandparents were stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, while the country was still occuppied by the United States after the Second World War. There were many homes in Heidelberg that were still vacant after the war, and the American Army used those homes to house many of the officers and their families. When my grandparents moved into one of these homes with their children (my father and uncle), they had a major surprise their first night there. Late at night there was a hard knock at the door, and when they opened it, the German police were standing there. My grandparents first thought (less than 10 years after the Holocaust), was one of absolute terror, that these policemen were coming to haul them away to some terrible fate.

It turned out that they were there looking for the housekeeper of the previous officer family that had lived in the house, who was suspected of stealing something. But that first moment of the German police knocking on their door at night never left them.

May Hashem have mercy on us, that we may never experience anything like that again!

-Dixie Yid

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