What can I say about my papa? About a man who was more to me than a grandfather. He was a friend, supporter, mentor, teacher and as so many of you know, my publicist. My papa always had the biggest grin on his face, from ear to ear and a twinkle in his eye. I often wondered what he was thinking about, but after listening to so many stories about his life, I know he was thinking about me, my sister, his sons, his family. My papa grounded me, connected me to my past, taught me about who I am, and helped me discover who I can be. Last Monday evening, papa and I had a quick conversation. I was on my way to a dinner for work, and he was just finishing up something in the hospital. As I said I LOVE YOU and hung up the phone, I went to this dinner where the theme comes from the Talmud, tractate Taanit 23a. It states: “As our ancestors planted for us, so will we plant for our children.”
What a perfect verse for my papa, it fits for so many reasons. It fits because as a child I remember helping him and nana plant their gardens, physically planting the bulbs so the roots could set in, watering them, watching them, and enjoying the fruits of our labors. Just was we watered the garden, my papa watered my soul. He encouraged me to learn more about Judaism, he enlightened me with new divrei torah and sermons, he pushed me to think about texts in a new light. Furthermore, he planted the seeds for his children. He taught his sons about Judaism, honor, respect and ethics, and I am so lucky to have my uncles and father pass on these core values. My papa instilled in me a love for Judaism that flourishes and sprouts in new ways each day.
Another of my favorite memories of my papa is sitting with him in Shul. When I was younger, we would sit together and sing, as I got older, he would be my biggest fan in the pews as I led services, chanted torah or haftorah and gave a drash. After nana died, papa became my shul buddy, each week during the sermon, he’d close his eyes and take a little snooze, and his smile only got bigger when I would place my kepe on his shoulder to do the same.
My papa opened a sense of wonder and excitement within me. He was always good for an adventure on our bicycle built for two, a long car ride to places like Holland Michigan where we would go to meet up with my nana and papa’s friends the Schultz’s and their granddaughter for the weekend. We would laugh and enjoy life together. And I knew, that as much as I looked forward to these weekends, my papa enjoyed them more. This was his chance to watch me enjoy life. This was his opportunity of passing on a legacy of friendship and loyalty. My papa showed me the value of a true friend. So many times he would jump in the car with nana and run off ot an out of town family event, or tell me about cousins I had never met. Papa was my link to the world.
As many of you know, my grandparents had a thing for rabbis. So, when I decided to become one, I don’t’ think they could have been any happier. But, this decision did not come out of the blue. It came from years of being shown the beauty of family and tradition from the Jewish perspective. It came from the love I feel for the liturgy and the memories I have of sitting with nana and papa, learning the service, joking about silly words, and being together. Each time I lead a service, read torah or haftorah, give a drash, I smile, because I know how proud of me my nana and papa are. I am often told that when I lead services, the best part is that my voice is loud and clear, each word is heard. And I always answer that this is because of my papa, who sat in the back of the shul, and he needed to hear me. I guess I’ll need to be a bit louder now.
About a year ago, my papa sent me an email it reads: Dearest EVE
I just opened my e-mail and WOW what a beautiful Update. I had tears in my eyes just thinking
how much Nana would have enjoyed reading it. I somehow feel that she is looking down and
“kleibing nachas” from it all. If it is raining in LA, just think of it as Nana’s tears of joy raining down on you.
I went back and looked at your last two Updates to compare them to this one.Your joy of learning has certainly not deminished. It seems to grow stronger each time you write. I get
a feeling that I am witnessing the metamorphosis of a young woman who left here with some
trepidation about where she was going to a much more mature young woman with an insatiable
appetite to learn more. I am so happy for you. I can’t wait to see you and hug you in three weeks.
I’ve gotta go print out copies of your latest update for distribution!
All my love,
His encouragement and love have helped me to grow and experience the world anew. This one email makes me smile so much because it embodies my papa, and his love for me, for family. And of course, for sharing all his nachas with you. Oh, and have no fear, while Papa wont’ be sending out the updates, I will be, and you can always find them at http://rabbieve.blogspot.com!
So, what can I say to a person who gave me so much in my life? To someone who was so kind and caring, and who took such good care of me and my family. To a man who treated me like a daughter, but with only the fun to be had. How can I honor my papa, who instilled in me the love of Judaism that has become my life, my love of family and knowing my roots because he showed them to me. What will I do without my publicist, my number one fan? I know he’ll be cheering me on, listening and watching me. I know he and nana will be front and center on my ordination night, with grins from ear to ear. I know his memory will live on as a blessing through me, and my family and the way in which we live our lives because of his gentle guidance and care. At the end of each phone call with papa, each meeting, I’d say I love you and he’d give me a tight squeeze, tell me he loved me, and then I’d tell him to stay healthy, and he’d respond with, I have to. He did it for me, for my sister, for his family. My papa was a fighter.
And so, on this day, where we gather to honor the memory of my papa, I feel his presence, the warmth of his smile, and I know he’s with nana now. I know he is at peace, and I will carry a piece of him always in my heart. Here I am living out my dreams, and growing from the seed planted by my papa. What better way to honor my papa, than to keep on living! I LOVE YOU PAPA!