A telegram from Israel

Published date03 October 2022
Publication titleIsrael National News (Israel)
She had given birth to my father at a very late age, in the tradition of our matriarchs -- and what was she -- if not a matriarch? My father had spoken of her as of a saint

I thought the news would be unbearable for my father, so I decided not to show him the telegram. I thought it best that he never know about his mother's death. What good would it do him to know?

I hesitate to call her my grandmother because I never met her and, as far as I knew, she never knew I existed. We were not a close family. My father seldom wrote to her, if ever.

But she was a legend, in the vein of Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel.

She had been a woman of Biblical beauty and virtue. There was a picture of her, seated on a bench, next to her husband, somewhere in the depths of Poland. He, long gray beard and lively eyes, had the appearance of a prophet, and she, yes, she was the image of a Jewish saint. She was truly a woman of another world, a world that existed no more.

I thought by withholding word of her death I would be preserving that world for my father. Enough of his past had collapsed. Why pain him even further?

So I kept it a secret for days and weeks and thought to go on like this forever. He'd never know, I thought. I was doing a great mitzvah, so nobly keeping the grief to myself.

Then, somewhere in my clothes, my mother found the telegram.

She asked, "What is this?"

She could not read English, so I told her. I told her everything, and as I explained my reasoning it occurred to me that I had done something terrible. I had performed no mitzvah. I had committed a sin.

I was overtaken by guilt and fear. This thing that I had done could not be undone. Upon such news, shiva had to be sat, kaddish had to be said, all at prescribed times. That time was lost.

For an instant I thought to enlist my mother in my...

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