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The notebook

הסבא הירש והמחברת שכתב

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

It is a privilege of mine to be able to pass along stories such as the following, which was sent to me by Yechezkel Lifshitz.

"A neighbor of mine here in Mitzpeh Yericho (20 kilometers east of Jerusalem in the Judean Desert), Yosef Perl, passed away this week. I went to console his wife and son, and they showed me a special notebook.

Yosef's grandfather, Hirsch Libovitch, lived near Moscow at the height of the communist regime. Before he passed away, he took six notebooks and, in identical fashion, wrote down on their pages everything he knew about Judaism. Each of his children received one of the notebooks with the stipulation that it be passed down to the next generation. The family scattered. Yosef eventually made aliyah, learned in a yeshivah, and guarded his grandfather's notebook with his life since he did not know if any other copy still existed.

This week, the highly charged notebook, written in Russian and Yiddish, was perused by those who came to console the family. The notebook reads like the last will and testament of someone who, with great pain, writes that he is surely the last Jew on earth. He hopes that perhaps one of his descendants will at least want to hear something about the history of the Jewish people, and will find meaning in his words, but understands there is not much chance that this will happen. He writes that if someone will read this notebook, it will give repose to his soul in the next world.

He begins with the holiday of Pesach, goes through all the other holidays and, in essence, teaches all of Jewish history to his grandchildren by means of the Hebrew calendar year, adding family customs he observed at the home of his own grandparents.

He writes about the Torah and how it is more valuable than gold and revives the soul. Finally, he writes much about the hardships of exile and about the redemption that he awaits with constant expectation."

It's doubtful that Hirsch, the grandfather of Yosef, could have imagined a reality in which he would not be the last Jew, Russia's communist regime would disappear, and his grandson would make aliyah to the Jewish state. The notebook he exerted himself to write would remain to guide the life of his grandson, and would even be written about here today.


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