|My parents at their chuppah.|
There's a Hebrew expression,"Maasim Avot Simanim l'Banim " which translates as "deeds of the fathers are signs for the children." The concept refers to the idea that what one generation does has an impact on subsequent generations.
The day that just passed was Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on Har Sinai. Shavuot is one of the four times a year when we recite Yizkor, the memorial service for deceased parents, relatives, martyrs and members of the Israeli Defense Forces who died in service to the nation.
I didn't start saying Yizkor until my father passed away in 1994. But now I say it for my father, all four of my grandparents, an aunt and my friend Janis who died in the bombing at Hebrew University on July 31, 2002.
My mother tells me that I am named for her father. His Hebrew name was Reuven, which shares two letters in common with my name, including the initial resh. That was the custom of my parent's generation - to at least retain the initial letter of the family member after whom a child was named.
About eight years ago, a distant family member sent me a photograph of the headstone at the grave of the parents of my maternal grandfather, my great grandparents. From that picture, I learned that my grandfather's mother's name was Henna Rivka. And from that knowledge, I felt more connected to my name than ever.
After I finished saying Yizkor, I went looking for the photograph of their headstone among a box of very old family photos.
I didn't find it.
But I did find something else.
This is the original text from which my father delivered his bar mitzvah speech. And it reads, in part:
The history of my people teaches me moreover that only by loyalty to Israel and fidelity to Israel's ideals can I hope to achieve true and lasting happiness....
Above all I pray that our people scattered and dispersed throughout the world, tossed and afflicted beyond all other peoples, may speedily find grace and compassion in the eyes of God. I pray that the broken down walls of our people may soon be rebuilt, that the land of Israel may soon be ours and that once again Israel may flourish and play a leading part in the spiritual and religious life of mankind.
My father's speech was delivered on October 18, 1947. Barely a month later, on Novemember 29, 1947 the UN approved the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine with a vote of 33 countries for, 13 against and 10 abstentions. The birth of the State of Israel had begun.
Maasim Avot Simanim l'Banim. Sixty-five years after my father spoke a prayer that Israel be restored to its proper place among the Jewish people, his daughter and granddaughter would sit on a couch, seven kilometers from Jerusalem, and discover his words for the first time.
How did I come to merit a life in Israel?
My father sent me.