An Erev Yom Kippur Thought
A nearby colleague wrote about what she discovered when she went through her father’s special metal file box after he passed away. There were birth certificates, death certificates, cemetery plot deeds, a brown notebook containing poems his wife wrote to him while he was away fighting in World War II, elementary school class photos of all of the kids (including my colleague.) And then there were two receipts next to each other: a receipt for a monthly payment towards The World Book Encyclopedia (remember the days when there were no computers and no wikipedia and the library wasn’t so close?) and a receipt for an Israel Bond.
My colleague pondered these receipts a long time. Why only those two retained for posterity? On the World Book first: neither of her parents attended college as young people. They both went right to work after high school. They were hard working and self-sacrificing. They wanted their kids, she thinks, to have every opportunity they didn’t have. In purchasing this encyclopedia, they were obviously investing in their kids’ future.
As for the Israel Bond, it must have meant more than the U.S. Savings Bonds that they also collected for the kids’ college costs; there were no receipts for those. Her parents were first generation Americans. Their parents had immigrated to America to escape anti-Semitic persecution in Europe before WWII. The relatives they left behind all died in the Holocaust. They knew what it was like for Jews in a world without a Jewish State. Israel for them was a great hope and a great consolation.
Of all the possible receipts, just those two in a file in his special metal box. Why? My colleague thinks that they were saved because they made her father proud: proud he could provide for his kids’ future, proud he could nurture their young and inquiring minds, and proud that he could be part of the inspiring undertaking of reestablishing and sustaining the then new Jewish State of Israel. And perhaps he saved them together to leave her and her brothers a message about what was most important to him: being a proud modern American and a proud Jew, caring for one’s family, expanding one’s knowledge, and identifying with, and supporting, the Jewish people and our homeland, Israel.
When the time comes, please God, not for many many years, I hope that when our kids sort through our things, they will also be reminded of the values that we hoped to instill in them. For me and I think many of you, those values would mirror those we saw above: a love of learning, pride in being American and Jewish, and a love for and commitment to the people and land of Israel. Maybe that values legacy is already assured, or maybe we resolve at this holiday season to do what we can to make it so. It is never too late for that.
Wishing you an easy fast and a great new year. Bill Rudolph