Fifteen years ago, today was the 3rd of Cheshvan on the Hebrew calendar. It was my grandfather's 84th birthday. The third of Cheshvan was also the day that he died. Following the Jewish tradition, we lit a yahrzeit candle this evening to commemorate the anniversary of his death. Earlier today, I looked at the pictures in my bat mitzvah album. My bat mitzvah took place on October 29, 1988, three days Grandpa's 77th birthday. I love this picture of us: When I think aout it - as I have been doing a lot in the past few years and particularly last twelve months - it is amazing for so many reasons. He was raised in a Hasidic household in Warsaw, a place where it would have been inconceivable for a girl to be called to the Torah. At some point he broke with tradition enough to have been able to flee Warsaw in 1939. He was still traditional enough to be horrified by the Reform temple that my parents, sister, and I belonged to (he said it reminded him of a Catholic Church), but he sat proudly in the front row while I mumbled and stammered my way through my Torah portion (about Sodom and Gemorrah) and my Haftorah, which I should have chanted but didn't.
I have shed many tears of frustration lately for the things that I wish I could have done differently, and looking at this picture of us reminds me that this was really the turning point in my life. Like the average American pre-teen, friends became more important than family and precious time that I could have spent with my grandparents I instead wasted worrying about how to impress many people that I haven't spoken with in decades. It is a common lament, I know, but since I'm so weird in other ways, I wish that I had been an oddball in this respect as well.
As we said when we kindled the yahrzeit candle, Zecher tsaddik leevrachah - The memory of the upright is a source of blessing. I just miss him.