On Succos, we gather our crops, reflect on our harvest. In life, we gather our experiences, appreciate what we’ve gained
It begins like an old joke: a rebbetzin, preschool teacher, and PhD in Victorian Literature walk into a bar.
Okay, it’s never a bar, but it could be a pizza shop, Marshall’s, or Bed Bath & Beyond, and trust me, it’s no joke.
My grandmother had three daughters, and they couldn’t be more different. From their political alignments to their lifestyle choices to their shul affiliation and the recipes they favor, it makes no sense that these three sisters are the BFFs they are.
It’s not real life; in real life they’d call once in a while and see one another at family simchahs. They wouldn’t drive across New York to have weekly Sister Day, they wouldn’t shop for guest room linen, shoes, or Gourmet Glatt specials together. They wouldn’t sound like this when they shop:
“You saw it first, you take it.”
“No, honey, it matches your bathroom, you take it.”
“No, no, you pointed it out, and you never treat yourself; you have to buy it!”
“Oh, let’s just buy it for Mommy, she’ll love it!”
It sounds like a sappy novel at which you roll your eyes and say, Just stop, that would never happen in real life...
But this is absolutely real life and it’s the way these sisters roll.
The relationship between my mother and her sisters was probably my grandmother’s biggest nachas until her petirah exactly a year ago. She knew it was unique, and she cherished it.
She was also very emotional about the fact that her family and the family of her one surviving relative from der heim stayed unbelievably close. Her brother had two children, and the five cousins grew up with the message that they were the most important people in the world to each other. Baba loved that people assumed her brother’s wife was her sister — they were that close.
When my niece got married, her new husband sat down to chat with Baba.
“What’s your secret, Baba?” he asked her. “What did you do so your family is so close?”
My grandmother thought for a few moments, then told her new great-grandson that it had nothing to do with her. It was no doubt the zechus of her father. Baba might not have known the term “maaseh avos siman labanim,” but she knew the concept well.
During the First World War, shortly after Baba’s parents married, her mother’s sister and brother-in-law died in an epidemic, leaving behind three children. Friends and family stepped in to take the children, with three families offering to take a child each.
When Baba’s father heard that the orphans would be split up, he insisted all three come to live with him and his new wife, feeling strongly that the siblings must remain together after suffering so terribly.
There they were, a newlywed couple raising three orphans, because he was adamant that, as Baba put it, “Siblings need to stay together!”
The cry of siblings need to stay together apparently went deep enough for him to have etched it into the genes of his descendants — none of whom he lived long enough to meet. He married off his stepdaughter and was murdered in the Warsaw Ghetto before his own children married.
My grandmother knew she was blessed with a unique gift other families don’t dream of. But she didn’t take any credit for it. She attributed this brachah to the seeds that her father planted when he ensured that three orphaned siblings stay together.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 712)
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