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I Miss Her

Friday, 15 July, 2011 - 9:07 am

Last week my grandmother, my father’s mother, passed away at the age of 98. She was a very interesting and special person, obviously to me as her grandson, but for many of her acquaintances as well. However, I will not write a eulogy here, I just wanted to share with you some thoughts I had during the Shivah.

I once had a conversation with an older man, whose mother had passed away and he told me: “She died at an old age and she was healthy, so we decided there is no need to mourn and therefore we are not sitting Shivah”.

I thought about his words, and though I did not accept it, since as a religious Jew I believe in following the halacha, which requires us to sit and mourn the person for seven days, regardless of the age or health prior to the passing. Despite this, I thought to myself, there is some logic in his words; when a young person passes away, G-d forbid, it is a tragedy and we ought to mourn the tragedy. Yet, when someone dies at an old age, after a nice long life, why should we mourn? Maybe we should even celebrate this great life which he or she led?

This week I flew to Israel to be with my father while he sat Shivah for his mother – my grandmother, who died at a very old age.

She really was an amazing woman. She was born in Jerusalem to parents, who were also born in Jerusalem and spoke Hebrew, Yiddish, English, German and Arabic. She was sharp as anything and very quick minded.

Up until about 3 weeks ago her mind was completely fine. She prayed three times daily, read various newspapers every day, and was always in midst of a lively discussion with those around her.

Even as she got older over the years, she retained her clarity of mind and amazing social contact. Whenever I would visit her in the last few years, she had many advices to me regarding my work and how to raise my children. She would always especially enjoy to speak with Rivky in German.

Yet suddenly, as is the way of the world, she passed away. This is when I recalled the conversation I had with my friend about the seven day mourning period...

Then I came to Israel and I learned a great lesson in Jewish psychology.

These seven days when we sit and people come to comfort you, are very special days. The custom is that there is no food served to the visitors at all. The visit is mainly a time to talk and bring up memories.

Besides for meeting all kinds of interesting, distant cousins, who you never knew that they were related to you, the most amazing thing is, that from all the stories you hear, you suddenly realize who your grandmother really was. It makes you understand your family even more, and most importantly, you actually become better acquainted with yourself.

You come to understand many things, which were not so clear to you beforehand.

I realized that the Shivah is not just the mourning and grief over the deceased, but nonetheless a one time opportunity for the family members to strengthen their identity and unity.

(In the picture: My grandparents with me at my Bar Mitzvah Celebration – winter 1992)

I miss you Savta!

Rivky and the children join me in wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Chaim



Comments on: I Miss Her

Ron wrote...


This a very interesting prospective. Thanks for sharing with us.
Your grandmother must be so proud of all that you and Rivky accomplish here!!
May her memory be a blessing to all of us.

Isaac wrote...

Very nice!

Valerie Gitter wrote...

Dear Chaim, life is full of surprises, positive and negative ones. This was sadly a negative one, since 3 weeks ago she was still so healthy... How sad. This week, we had a surprise in my family: my 94 year old grandfather is getting married to a woman he met at the bridge club... May we all have their (your grandmother's and my grandfather's) long and healthy lives. Shabbat shalom to everyone! Valerie Gitter

Marlies Sager wrote...

Dear Chaim
This photo of your barmizwa expresses more than many words - a very warm and open minded Savta you have lost - my deepest sympathy.