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ב"ה

The Holocaust Survivor & the Story of my Esrog Box

Friday, 2 October, 2020 - 3:22 pm

20201002_134635.jpgEvery year at this time of year I take out a very beautiful velvet red Esrog box and gently place my new Esrog inside it for the times we are not using it during Sukkos. As I look at the Esrog box, besides loving how it looks and it making me appreciate the Mitzvah of Lulav and Esrog, I am also reminded of how it was gifted to me and the story of the special person who gave it.

You see each Sukkot I visit the local nursing homes and help the residents celebrate the holiday. About nine years ago, I became close with a very special resident at the Wingate at Sudbury, Elizabeth Stern. Elizabeth was a Holocaust survivor from Hungary who had experienced a lot of pain and loss in the Holocaust, and used to often speak of these experiences with me.

Yet as deep as the pain was, her love for Judaism, G-d, Mitzvot and family was infinitely more powerful. Each week we would sing moving Jewish melodies that she remembered from her childhood and that she knew from her many years of Jewish involvement, and we would chat about Jewish memories and ideas that she loved to discuss.

Torah Elizabeth.jpgAs I left her each week, I always marveled at her strength, faith and love for her Judaism, even as the pain of her past ran so deep inside her veins. It seemed as though this indomitable lady would let no one and no event ever diminish her love for Yiddishkiet and Judaism.

Occasionally I got a gentle and loving rebuke from Elizabeth and two particular incidents stand out when I got those loving rebukes.

In one instance I came on Chanukah to light the Menorah with Elizabeth and I brought with me one of the little disposable tin Menorahs. Elizabeth said to me that she had never heard of lighting the Menorah and celebrating such a special holiday with such a piece of junk and next time we need to do it right and in a dignified way. I knew that Elizabeth meant that all the way, so sure enough from that point on, every time I brought a Menorah to light with Elizabeth, I brought my large silver Menorah.

Another time, I came to shake the Lulav with Elizabeth and when she saw the white cardboard box that the Esrog was in, she was not in the slightest bit thrilled and she told me that that is not a dignified way to carry around such a beautiful and precious Mitzvah. What do I know when a few weeks later, I came to visit Elizabeth and she handed me a present that she had her daughter buy for me, a beautiful velvet Esrog box. In her words, this is what the Mitzvah of the Esrog and its beautiful message deserves.

So yes, each year when I prepare my Lulav and Esrog and place it inside the red velvet box, I think of Elizabeth who is no longer among us, yet her passion and her love for life and Judaism along with her determination to live and breathe these messages until her last breaths, are something I will always remember.

Besides the special Esrog Box, in her later years Elizabeth gifted our center with a beautiful Torah Scroll that we use each Shabbat and Holiday. Elizabeth donated the Torah in memory of her grandfather and the Torah that he had donated before the war in Hungary, which was lost and destroyed. When you join us for a service and see the beautiful Torah which has her grandfather's name on it or if you see my red Esrog box this Sukkos, remember Elizabeth "Golda" and think of her powerful spirit of determination, and her love and joy for Judaism that nothing could take away.

Chag Sameach and a joyous Sukkos to all!

 

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