Who will be the Zaidys of our children?
There is a visceral correlation between the seasons of the year and the seasons of the Jewish calendar.
Lighting Chanukah candles is in the frost and ice, stamping the snow off your boots as you blow into the warm home of wherever your Chanukah party is. You wipe the fog off your glasses, blow your nose, shrug off your coat and help yourself to the doughnuts and latkes. The small, hot candles burn brightly at the darkest time of year, reminding us to shine our own lights when everything seems black.
Rosh Hashanah comes upon us at the start of the school year, amidst fresh pencils and the changing leaves, cooler nights and sweaters. There’s change afoot, there’s a subtle but definite shift, and it moves us to start over as well, to breathe fresh new air into old, stale habits. The wind blows in the evening, whispering that time is finite, that we need to renew a sense of urgency in the purpose of life.
And Passover season means melting snow, warm spring sunshine inviting us outdoors to shake out our chometz, to welcome a new season, to free ourselves from coats, boots, car brushes, snow plows; from old, gray walls of slush to a newer and brighter future.
Every year as Passover approaches I am assailed by memories of my grandfather. Zaidy Heimowitz was the undisputed leader of Passover. His beautiful voice guided us through the Haggadah and with his gentle, benevolent smile he engaged the youngest members of the family with his warm and inviting questions. Back in the day we’d go to the Bronx to have Seders at my grandparents, and my Zaidy would help bake Pesach cakes if my grandmother let him separate the eggs. My uncle would grate the maror on the back porch and we all filed to the backyard under the apple tree to burn the chometz in the metal garbage can.
It’s a little scary to consider that I will be the subject of my descendants’ memories for Passover, and for all the holidays. We each start the chain of memories for future generations, and they will only know what we give them. Will they see a grandparent lighting Shabbat candles? Will they experience a fun and enjoyable Seder that they might want to perpetuate? Have they ever seen us pray? Would they know what a tzedaka box is?
It reminds me of a song from my childhood:
But Zaidy made us laugh
Zaidy made us sing
And Zaidy made a Seder Pesach Night
And Zaidy, oh my Zaidy – how I loved him so
And Zaidy used to teach me wrong from right.
And many winters went by
And many summers came along
And now my children sit in front of me
And who will be the Zaidy of my children
Who will be their Zaidy – if not me?
Who will be the Zaidys of our children
Who will be their Zaidys – if not we?
–Moshe Yess, 1980