During my year of kaddish, as I wrote and prayed, I came upon the blog of a retired professor and rabbi on the Times of Israel. Rabbi Prof. Esor Ben-Sorek remains a prolific blogger on the TOI, and he has continued writing in memory of his beloved Rahel who encouraged him. It so happens that he and I agree on nearly everything related to American and Israeli politics, and I’ve very much enjoyed reading his writing over the last years. Still, the blog posts that most draw me are those in which he expresses his grief at losing his lifemate of fifty-six years.
Rabbi Ben-Sorek and I have corresponded and found a common language, sharing our writings and reflections with one another. I feel lucky to have met him, albeit only virtually.
Just today, unexpectedly to me, he wrote a moving piece about my ‘Kaddish Blog’ (the project that eventually seeded this website), in which I journaled my reflections about the experience of daily reciting the mourner’s kaddish for a year following Papa’s death. I am profoundly touched. Shabbat shalom to you, Rabbi.
Below is the text of his post in full:
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‘A father’s legacy’
by Rabbi Prof. Esor Ben-Sorek
Many of us often give thought how to best preserve the memory of a departed loved one.
My simple way is to fulfill my wife’s dying words to me “do not stop your writing. It will be good therapy for you”. I have continued my writing but I cannot recognize any therapy. My grieving continues after four years since her death.
I am inspired by the brilliant writing of one of our TOI bloggers, David Bogomolny in Jerusalem.
He set a goal for himself to preserve and to share with us treasured memories of his beloved father, Papa Alexander.
In fiction or in poetry he has brought his dear father to life and through David’s loving and sentimental words all of us who have read his legacy can feel that we too once knew him.
Some time ago I had been in correspondence with David and at one time I suggested that he compile his separate stories into a book to be submitted for publication. It would be remarkable reading for all of us, especially for those of us who have lost a dear one in our immediate family.
Precious words create precious memories and with those memories kept alive our departed loved ones continue to live on within us and can be passed along to our children as part of their very own legacy.
I have tried over the past four years to compile a book based upon the 103 love-letters that Rahel and I exchanged with one another prior to our marriage in Tel-Aviv in 1960. But as I re-read many of them I decided that they were too personal to be shared with strangers. Only one of my three children has read some of them and she too has found them filled with loving words, emotional words, which bring tears to the eyes.
I know that feeling only too well. I don’t have to re-read the letters to recall the memories. Each room in our home is filled with Rahel’s photos, some standing on tables, some hung on the walls. I have created, in my daughter’s words, “a shrine for Ima”.
A shrine, for me, represents a place for religious devotion. Her “shrine” is rather a place of constant memory which can be seen as I enter any and every room. I see her smiling at me and I try hard to smile back at her but the tears overflow and my eyes grow dim.
My son is a doctor and on more than one occasion he has suggested that I consult with a psychiatrist to overcome my depression which, in my son’s words, has lasted far too long. As a doctor he has dealt with death many times. But the death of his mother, my wife, he has learned to overcome with emotion and great love and respect for her. He makes a point of visiting her grave at the cemetery from time to time.
In the first year of her death I made a practice at first of visiting her grave once every week and then it became once a month and after four years of grieving and mourning the visits take place only before all Jewish holidays.
My legacy for her remains glued to my heart and cannot be separated from my body.
I envy David Bogomolny who is able so beautifully to remember his father and to transfer his grief and emotions into fitting words of a son’s eternal love.
You are able to read his love for his Papa and to share his emotions while my pain and repressed words remain more private and unknown to most of my readers.
I write what I can in fulfillment of the promise I made to Rahel. And I read aloud to her smiling portrait every article that is published. I wait for her response, her critique, her opinion. But there is only silence! I can expect no more.
But her legacy continues to inspire me with each word I put down on paper.
If you happen to read the work of David Bogomolny I hope you will find it inspirational as a son’s eternal legacy to his beloved father. Yehi zichro baruch. May his memory be a blessing.