Translation by Yeshoshua Siskin
My beloved grandmother, savta Rachel Keshet, will be laid to rest this morning. She was 88 years old.
She was born in Givat Ada, between Netanya and Haifa. She was a daughter of the Gordon family, one of the first families to settle there. In her childhood, she was privileged to see with her own eyes the draining of swamps and the planting of vineyards in the Land of Israel after it had lain barren for two thousand years. Her stories about going to a well to fill a bucket with water and growing chickens in the family chicken coop gave me and all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren a sense of proportion in this era of abundance.
In this week's Torah portion we read: "And you shall tell your child on that day." Savta Rachel told us her story, passing it down to her progeny. She had a wonderful childhood while growing up without electricity or a car. She told us how every child knew how to climb up to the roof and broadcast in Morse code in the event that Arab troublemakers entered her village. She spoke of riding to school in a horse-drawn cart. And what about the school itself? It consisted of single room where first through fourth grade pupils studied together with the same teacher.
She possessed a wonderful quality best described as "expansion of self." The idea behind this quality, formulated by Rabbi Shimon Shkop, maintains that all of us are concerned primarily with our "ani" or self. Our task is to expand this concept of self so as to increase the scope of our caring and concern. An egoistic person is concerned solely with their own physical needs, a person somewhat more developed is concerned with satisfying personal spiritual needs too, while a refined individual expands their concern to include the needs of family members as well as the needs of those in their community at large. And then there are those whose concern for others encompasses the entire nation of Israel.
Savta Rachel demonstrated expansion of self with her constant concern: for a cavity in your tooth, for the grades on your report card, for the gift you wanted on your birthday. Being involved and caring about everything we did was a top priority for her. When we left on a mission to the United States, she amazed us with her equanimity. "I am not thinking about myself even though I will certainly miss you," she said, while showing enthusiasm for our trip and making sure we left with warm coats and gloves for the New York winter.
Savta was one of the first subscribers to "The Daily Portion." She read it every morning and sent me her reactions. She will not read it this morning and so I am dedicating it to her soul's ascent.