Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

17 Elul 5765 - September 21, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











The Last Tangible Lesson from Our Father, a"h, Soon after His Parting

by Mrs. Sara Devora Chrysler, Manchester

Our father, a"h, was niftar unexpectedly on a motzei Shabbos in Adar, 2 1/2 years ago (2003). He was 71 years old.

When Daddy a"h turned 70, my sister and I were wondering what gift we could send to our beloved father on reaching this milestone in life. We came to the conclusion that since he loved davening more than any other activity in life, we would present him with an enlarged edition of the Weekday as well as Shabbos ArtScroll Siddurim, together with a shtender. Daddy did not stop mentioning his delight with the new gifts and the pleasure that he derived from them.

Our beloved mom and ourselves later sat shiva at very dear friends in Johannesburg, accompanied by two grandchildren. Daddy was buried there, as we come from a small country town in South Africa called Kroonstad where there is no Chevra Kadisha anymore and the community has dwindled from 600 congregants at the time of our parents' marriage 43 years ago, to approximately 6 congregants at present.

No matter how many grave tragedies one has heard in a lifetime, nothing — but nothing — compares to hearing of the loss of an immediate family member whom one has bonded with so closely over time. The shock, disbelief, and ache is immeasurable.

Having sat shiva in Johannesburg, then came the dreaded moment of leaving the warm, loving cocoon of comfort and care experienced at our friend's home. We now had to face our new reality, the reality of accepting what is bashert! We now had to travel back to the home of our childhood memories, memories, memories and a huge, big void. How were we going to face this transition? Seeing each other's pain added a different dimension to one's already aching heart.

We wept as we drove through the town and as we pulled up outside our home. We're actually all familiar with not being in each other's company, as I live in Manchester with my family, and my sister lives in Passaic with her family. However, the void of a person having departed from this world is an emptiness that has to be lived in order to grasp it. Our kind relation ushered us into our home, comforted us a while and left.

Later that night we all sat in the living room, grieving together in this quiet little town. I walked to Daddy's shtender and, seeing the two siddurim, I picked up the weekday one and said, "Mommy, if there ever comes a time that you are willing to part with these, please may I have the weekday siddur?"

Being the emotional type, I would have appreciated having the siddur that was used more often. Holding the siddur, I went to sit down on the couch and this is how the conversation flowed.

We were all experiencing guilt and regret, very common emotions after the parting of a dear one.

My sister said, "I work in the medical field. Why didn't I realize that Dad was leaving, when we went to visit him in the hospital on Shabbos? Why?"

We comforted her saying: "It's bashert! You weren't meant to grasp that he was on his way. You weren't meant to be there."

Then Mommy said, "I have learnt how to recognize the signs that a person displays before dying, from the voluntary work that I do with people in this state. Daddy had all the signs. Why was I blinded?"

We answered Mom, "It's bashert. You weren't meant to acknowledge what was happening. It was bashert that we all weren't at Daddy's bedside."

Then it was my turn to speak between the sobs. "Do you know how upset I am with myself? When I heard that Daddy's operation failed and that he hadn't recovered properly from the second one, I had feelings that Dad was slowly saying good-bye. The day before Daddy was niftar, I felt strange and kept wondering if this is the end of his time in this world. Why did I not act upon my intuition? I missed the opportunity to give to Daddy in his final moments, to say good-bye and to be here with you at such a time."

Their response: "It's bashert. You weren't meant to see Daddy in such a deteriorated state."

Feeling a host of emotions we wept, echoing the words: It's bashert!

All this time I was holding daddy's siddur. I looked at it, then flipped through the pages imagining Daddy holding it himself, davening with his sincere, good heart, when suddenly, I discovered a crumpled, rolled up, faxed document between the pages. I opened it carefully. How on earth did a document dated Shevat 5756 (1996) end up in a brand new siddur bought in 2002? Well, my mouth dropped open as I read the title on the page:

"Understanding the True Meaning of Bashert!"

Was I imagining this?

Daddy always had the right words to encourage us at every twist and turn on the journey of life. Whatever we experienced or felt, Daddy always managed to zoom in on the simplest, most practical, nurturing, encouraging words. And now, when we experienced the death of a loved one, the most overwhelming life occurrence, the appropriate hadrochoh came our way. It's as if Daddy himself comforted us and made sure that we would not just say the words, "It's bashert!" but understand exactly what they mean in order to remove all guilt and regret. And most of all we would have a mindset showing us how to proceed amidst the shock.

With disbelief and the glorious feeling of having HaKodosh Boruch Hu provide a silver lining to our big cloud, I read out the following from the crumpled page.

"A word which is used to explain away an unfortunate situation is BASHERT. What happened was ordained from Heaven and had to be, beyond our control. It was decreed, so what else could be done!"

The above we knew, but what do we do with this knowledge?

The page continues:

"A woman went to listen to a great pianist. The woman, a connoisseur of good music, praised the pianist after the recital, `How could your two hands make such beautiful music?'

"The pianist answered, `Madam, I just obey the great composer who said, "Put your fingers on the right notes at the right time and the piano will do the rest!" ' "

Daddy was saying: From your head down to your toes, obey the instructions of your Great Composer — HaKodosh Boruch Hu — according to the mitzvos of the Torah, and Your Composer will guide you to make beautiful music out of your lives!

This was Daddy's final message to all of us and which I now share with all of you in his name: ovi morie Mordechai Ben Avrohom Tzvi, a"h.

Thank you, HaKodosh Boruch Hu. Thank You Daddy for this most poignant message.

The document was a dvar Torah written by Rabbi S. Suchard. All the country communities in South Africa receive a dvar Torah every week by fax which the men in the kehilloh read together. My father had files of these divrei Torah on a shelf in the living room.

HaKodosh Boruch Hu finds ways to comfort mourners and that's why this particular dvar Torah from 1996 found its way into Daddy's brand new siddur. I could almost hear Daddy's voice reading these words to us. We are forever comforted and encouraged.

It's quite astonishing that Daddy's final message was about accepting an unchangeable fact whilst moving forward with the knowledge that HaKodosh Boruch Hu will help. Daddy's strength of character came from his ability to accept difficult situations while still making the most of life, bearing in mind that the Eibishter is always there to help us along.


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