Yizkor Sermon – Pesach
April 30, 2016 | 22 Nisan 5776
Delivered by Rabbi Neil Sandler
Our good friend Eva Iteld died a week ago.
Many of us sitting here this morning have wonderful memories of Eva.
She made a difference to a number of people in various places throughout our Jewish community because that’s what Eva did – she served people.
She made a difference.
Some of our most beautiful memories in that regard took place right here in our shul – at morning minyan and at Seudah Shlisheet on Saturday afternoons.
It was Eva’s greatest pleasure to serve us … and we will remember her here for many years to come.
But as I told those who had gathered for Eva’s funeral, I will miss Eva for other reasons – one of which is the fact that as the quintessential Baubie in every manner that term conjures up – I think Eva was a last link to my Baubies, of blessed memory, women who were Baubies just like Eva.
There are some women here today whose grandchildren call them “Baubie”, but none of you are quite the Baubie that Sadie Sandler, Rose Doren and Eva Iteld were.
As thoughts of Eva brought me to recollections of my Baubie Sandler and Baubie Doren, I was transported back to the world in which all three of these baubies lived … not back to Eastern Europe, but back to their worlds in Minneapolis, in Milwaukee and here in Atlanta.
None of these women saw life in complex ways.
They didn’t question the meaning of their lives or their purpose on this earth.
They lived simple lives imbued with beauty reflected in acts of loving goodness and kindness they offered to their family, friends and communities.
My Baubie Doren passed those same qualities and values on to exactly one of her children – my mother, of blessed memory.
On Monday, at Eva’s funeral, I heard Baubie Doren’s Bashkele, my mother Betty, speak to me.
When Rachel, Eva’s eldest granddaughter, shared the beautiful words of her eulogy, she reflected on what her Baubie who used to call her, “Shainkeit!”
That’s when I heard my mother speaking to me!
“Shainkeit” – That’s what she used to call me.
I haven’t heard that term of endearment in a long time.
I really am grateful to Eva, of blessed memory, and, yee’badale l’chaim, to Rachel, for helping me to make these cherished connections through time.
But as I reflect on what unexpectedly occurred to me at Eva’s funeral, I am troubled by a nagging question.
The four women I have named here this morning who no longer abide among the living lived in a different world than you and I inhabit today.
It was a world of simple and pure goodness which they and others like them created.
It was a world of “shainkeit” – of passionate love for us that only the Yiddish language could capture.
But today you and I recognize that that world – its simple goodness and its language that grabbed your kishkes – is gone.
I think I know what Eva Iteld gave to her daughters.
I think I know what she gave to her grandchildren.
I know what my baubies and my mother gave to me.
But neither Susan nor I can give that same thing to our children or, God-willing, to our grandchildren or perhaps even great grandchildren.
You can’t do so either because those beautiful gifts in their simplicity just don’t exist anymore in that fashion.
So now I think you know what the nagging question is – What can we give our children, grandchildren and possibly great grandchildren.
In this complex world that offers our succeeding generations myriad choices, what can we give our loved ones that will shape their nature and make a lasting difference?
What can we give them if we can’t give them the simple, loving goodness our baubies gave to us?
Yesterday, the seventh day of Pesach, is traditionally considered to be the day when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea.
In the Israelites’ case, for very understandable reasons, fear gripped the people – fear of the Egyptians pursuing them from behind and fear of the unknown ahead of them.
It took one Israelite, Nachshon ben Aminadav, to wade into the sea, and then and only then, the waters parted.
First Nachshon and then Moses. And then, on the other side of the sea, Miriam.
The Israelites had exemplars to reassure them that a journey rooted in faith was worth the effort.
At a very different time and place and under a very different set of circumstances, I think that is what we can give our children and especially our grandchildren, and God-willing, our great grandchildren.
We can give them the example of our spiritual journey – personally and collectively with the Jewish people.
We can tell then and, more importantly, show them why this journey is important in the 21st century.
The fear that seized our Israelite ancestors at the Red Sea no longer grips us.
It cannot motivate those who follow us.
Instead, in a world of so many choices that says, “Do whatever makes you happy” – we can still give our loved ones a sense of rootedness in a family and tradition that will encourage them to undertake the spiritual journey of our Jewish people.
We can buoy them as they inevitably reach some difficult moments on that journey.
In a few words, amidst a complex and sometimes confusing world, we can help to give our succeeding generations a sense of what ought to be their true, authentic selves.
That gift is not the same as the beautiful one our baubies gave us, but in today’s very different world it is an especially life – affirming one.
Today, as we approach this Yizkor portion of our service, I recognize the beautiful and sustaining gifts that Eva Iteld, my Baubies Sandler and Doren and my mother gave to me.
May God bless the memory of their good works.
Today all of us recognize the beautiful and sustaining gifts that our mothers and baubies no longer among the living gave to us.
May God bless the memory of their good works.
We may not be able to pass these same gifts on to succeeding generations in same form those who preceded us sought to pass them on to us.
But we can share life-affirming gifts with those who will follow us that will enable them to navigate life, enhance their own lives and the lives of their community and nurture the well-being of our people.
May we be mindful of our responsibility and carry out these ennobling tasks.