Taanis Esther (the fast of Esther). I was busy in the kitchen making the final preparations for our evening meal when the phone rang. I glanced down at the caller ID. It was my daughter calling from England.
“Hi, Sush,” I began. “How’s…”
A child's voice interrupted my monologue. “It’s Faigie,” began my eight-year-old granddaughter. “Bubby, what are you going to dress up as on Purim?”
“Me?” I was surprised at the question. I never get dressed up, at least not in a Purim costume. “Oh, I’ll just be me. Bubby.” And then I added under my breath, “Maybe I’ll even pretend to be a balabusta.”
“That’s what I’m going to be. You. I’m dressing up like you.” I assumed she wasn’t referring to a balabusta.
“Ah, so you’re going to be dressed up as a bubby?” It was more of a statement than a question.
“No,” she responded. “I’m going to be a very, very old lady, just like you. And Chaim’s going to be a very old man, just like Zeidy.”
For once, I was speechless. But right after Purim my daughter sent me the pictures and they really were an adorable couple, him with a long, grey beard leaning on his wooden cane and her with a short grey sheitel and enormous plastic glasses!
Children think of their parents as being old and wise. (When my children were little, my oldest daughter asked me, “Mommy, how old are you?” I blithely responded, “Thirty.” She shook her head in wonderment that a person was anyone could possibly reach such a ripe old age, as she repeated in an awe-filled voice, “k’neinah hara, k’neinah hara.”) And they view their grandparents as being ancient. But children are children, and young children, especially, have a very strange understanding of the concept of time, as shown in the following story (and yes, it’s a story about one of my grandchildren. But I’m a bubby, and bubbies are allowed to shep nachas).
My four-and-a-half-year-old very verbose grandson commented, “Bubby, when you were little, you must have had so much fun."
"Why do you say that, shefela?" I asked.
"Because when you were a little girl, you got to ride horses. And camels. And donkeys."
"I did? What makes you think that?"
"Because there were no cars then. Only horses, and camels, and donkeys."
I will let you in on a little secret. Beneath my matronly appearance runs a dark, mischievous streak. So I couldn't help but continue and say, "But shefela, it really wasn't fun in Mitzrayim (Egypt). It was terrible, and I was miserable! The Mitzrim (Egyptians) made us work very, very hard!"
My grandson laughed. "Oh, but Bubby," he countered. "You're not that old! You were born in the Midbar (desert), after the Yidden left Mitzrayim!"
It’s great to feel young! But the truth is, his words contained more than a kernel of emes. After all, all of us, every single one of us, were present at Har Sinai. We all accepted the Torah, unconditionally, as a moreshes kehillos Yaakov. (inheritance to the Jewish people)
And that’s really what being a bubby is about. It’s not just that we are (at least in the eyes of our einiklach) very, very old, but we are a living bridge to the past, creating a solid chain of mesorah leading back to even before yetzias Mitzrayim, (the Exodus) he prevailing idolatry to proclaim the truth of One Hashem.
When we tell our grandchildren stories of parents, teachers or neighbors who learned under prewar Gedolim, or were exiled to Shanghai, or were among the talmidos of Frau Sarah Schneirer, a”h, we are creating a very personal connection to the chain of kedushah extending all the way back to Har Sinai. We are providing them with real models to emulate.
It’s not an easy image to live up to. But like every other challenge that Hashem gives us, we have within us the capability to become worthy of emulation.
Yup, even very, very old ladies (and men) not only can, but must, continue to grow. After all, we wouldn't want to disappoint the einiklach, would we?