Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
More than 4,000 passed away in Israel due to the pandemic. It would be fitting to mourn every one of them, to learn from each of them, but that’s impossible. Here is a little something about one of them and may these words assist in the ascent of all their souls:
Dr. Nehora Amar-Gavrilman wrote me about her grandfather, 93-year-old Yehonatan Mazuz. He immigrated to Israel from the Tunisian island of Djerba, lived in Safed, and raised a glorious family, including an adopted daughter, with his wife Sarah. He was a teacher and administrator in area schools, received an outstanding educator award from the Ministry of Education, and after retirement wrote many books. The last photograph of him was taken a week ago during a Zoom lesson that he broadcast enthusiastically to his offspring throughout Israel.
Many family members of those who died from the pandemic speak of having missed out where their departed loved one is concerned. Nehora did not miss out. Two years ago she noticed two recurring thoughts: it’s a shame that I am not sufficiently in touch with grandpa and don’t hear everything he has to say, and it’s a shame that I do not manage to regularly study the weekly Torah portion. So she decided to set a weekly meeting with her grandfather as a study partner. In the course of their study together, Nehora learned about and perpetuated the customs and traditions of the Jews of Djerba. They managed to study every weekly Torah portion but lingered over parashat Bo. The Exodus from Egypt is our most important story, her grandfather told her, the most important story in all of human history. “And you shall tell your child” is a mitzvah, he explained, and we have an enormous responsibility to pass along the Exodus story.
This week, during the Shiva mourning period, Nehora pored over photographs, recordings, and notes with a feeling that she had not missed out since they had fullfilled the mitzvah of “And you shall tell your grandchild” together.
In his memory. In their memory.