Sometimes Hashem grants the gift of a single moment encapsulating a simple microcosm of pure perfection; etching every granted beat as a precious seal on one’s heart, sweeping past too swiftly in a world of the hidden time keeper’s making.
As we reached shfoch chamatcha in the Hagaddah, I made my annual trek through the living room of my youth to open the door for Eliyahu Hanavi… My immediate family was there, seder-side, enwrapped in songs of waiting – trembling tears streaming down our faces – mixed states of personal and collective gratitude weighted with the historical consciousness of our nation’s past and present predicaments.
The longing, heavy swollen laboring, colliding with the voices and cries of our predecessors reaching for that beseeching prayer that unites us all as we call upon our supreme compassionate Master of nature defying miracles to redeem us yet again from slavery to redemption; a tattered messiah in the shadows weighted and waiting too. The night of seder – no matter our status – we are engaged as His emissaries begging for a hastening of Mashiach‘s arrival and the binyan (building) of His Bayit Shlishi bimhera biyamenu; along with the lasting peace our hearts, souls and homeland long for.
V’af al pi sheyitmameah im kol zeh achakelo, achakelo bechol yom sheyavo (and though he may tarry, we wait for him everyday) with melody streaming into the night, it was my father who came beside me first at the opened door waiting in the darkness for Elyahu to arrive.
We stood wrapped in each others’ arms holding on to one another – comforted in our binding love- appreciating the warmth of its flow and wordless significance. As we embraced that timeless moment together, I felt the small benign hump on the back of his emaciated frail frame. I thought of the burdens that tired back had carried throughout the years. The annual draping of the matzo bag over his shoulder declaring, kinderlach – dus is der oremer broyt mein taire yidden hobn geschlepped fun Mitzrayim (this is the bread of affliction our dear Jews carried from Egypt), was just the tip of the remnant burdens my father had carried throughout his life…
Jumping with another teenager off a train bound for Auschwitz, disguised in a stolen German officer’s uniform as he smuggled medicine and food into the Budapest ghetto, he was saved by Raoul Wallenberg as he was about to be arrested. Burning his Talmudic scholar uncle’s Russian uniform as he slept dreaming of honors and glory that would never be his to collect, all of it redirected him back toward his yiddishe roots.
He convinced a general at the Tattersaal Death March that his oozing shrapnel wounds could infect everyone and that he should be sent to hospital; Dad’s countless acts of long forgotten bravery that will never be recorded… he assisted his father with a soup kitchen, after the war, for those returning to find family survivors, when nothing seemed to have meaning anymore… He drove the fateful wagon to retrieve his surviving family- a mother and 7 other children- who never came back, while his father waited in breathless anticipation – a pauper’s table set for kings that night, crestfallen when all who returned were an elderly bobbe and a few surviving cousins.
Never again could father and son look into each other’s eyes without re-experiencing that moment of pain and abysmal loss, burdens we should never know. An orphan teen swept floors here in the goldene medine, rebuilding a semblance of a life, a family, finding a reason to go on through toil and strife, scrounging scraping together pennies. Living on soup and bread, building a shem tov, doing chassadim benistar, keeping faith with the One that seemed to have turned His back on innocents and holy torah giants, yet… yet saved him – personally – countless times.
Breaking his back to provide a Jewish education and home for his children, Dad working together with his wife of many years to build a bayit neeman. Burdened anew with diagnoses of benign meningioma’s pressing that could be plucked right out by her cowboy top brain surgeon that left her a cerebelerless ragdoll – her balabusta high skill and zeal knocked right out from under her… down to wheel chair size. Dad’s fighting, simultaneously, a debilitating muscle condition didn’t stop him for a moment from rushing home and building bars throughout the house so his wife would have as much mobility as possible.
Doing more than any husband would to maintain order and normalcy in our lives and making mom feel like she is and will always remain his eshet chayil. Burdens on that back of his only grew in their complexity physically and emotionally, But he never stopped doing, he never stopped believing that Hashem would come save him again and again; for as long as it would take.
I want to hasten my redemption – there is so much I could, should be doing and yet my eyes are toward shamayim searching, hoping, waiting… when in truth, like my father, I should shoulder the burdens as he does hastening directionality of our movements in the bringing of mashiach tzidkeynu.