My speech at my Zaidy’s 19th yortzeit

I have not had a Zaidy in my life for 19 years (of course I had a Grandpa but that’s a different category). That’s a long time and a large majority of my life.

I think that most of us grandchildren feel sad about not having Zaidy in our lives as we grew up. And I always wish I could have known him as an adult. Because I didn’t, my memories of him are short, simple and I don’t know if maybe some of them are only imagined.

I have some sweet little memories like how I always loved to sit on his lap and pet the back of his hair which was really soft. I remember his study full of books. I remember I felt so cool because my Zaidy was the rabbi of the shul in Kitchener. I think we felt like we owned the place because of it. I’m sure I loved walking with him from Shul. I’m sure I wanted to try to understand everything he said. I remember him sitting at the head of the table, leading our wonderful Friday night dinners. I respected him and thought he was such a great person. I felt lucky he was my Zaidy.

It’s interesting, after 19 years, to hear what different people say about Zaidy.

Bubby just said to me on Shabbos that she never thought that Zaidy had any faults. What an amazing thing to say when obviously there is no such thing as a person without faults. And yet Bubby and Zaidy had a relationship where obviously they just focused on the good in each other. What a beautiful thing to behold.

I have also heard the thought that if Zaidy hadn’t died so long ago, a lot of the bad things that happened in our family wouldn’t have happened.

Well, it is an interesting question. What would things have been like if Zaidy was still around?

Would he have “saved” us from a lot of our struggles? Maybe especially our spiritual ones? Would he have been able to mentor us so that we would have suffered less?

I wonder what would my relationship with him be like? Would we be close? Would I have felt that he could help me with my problems?

I have no idea. It’s nice to imagine that he could have but who knows.

I think that the best thing we can do in order to honour his life is to learn from him and live like him. And we need to think about who Zaidy was to us and try to emulate that, each in our own way.

Besides the things I already mentioned, to me, there are two main things I remember about him very vividly.

One is his smile.

In my mind I can still clearly see him smiling. He didn’t scrimp on his smile. It lit up his face and his eyes, I think, actually twinkled. It didn’t look fake and it was probably contagious. (The proof is to look at all our smiles.)

Another thing about him was how hard he worked. He had such passion for his work that he could do it day and night. He was so committed to the cause.

In a video on the Aish website, Rabbi Yaakov Salomon says that he believes that when you’re trying to figure out what you should be doing in order to fill your life’s purpose (and this, I believe, is something we should all be thinking about to some extent all the time), if the following three things exist, then you are probably on the right path:
1. It should be something you’re good at,
2. Something you enjoy and
3. It shouldn’t be too easy.

I think it’s quite obvious that Zaidy was in the line of work that, for him, filled his potential. Being a rabbi was something that he loved doing, he was obviously amazing at it and it was undoubtedly no easy job.

He believed in his job so much. He knew deep inside that he was doing the most important thing he could do.

I think it’s a great honour for him if, in merit of his life, we each made sure to be working towards fulfilling out purposes in this world. This is obviously no easy task.

It means (oy) taking responsibility of our lives and doing what we think we need to be doing. It means overcoming the obstacles. And it also means that each of us needs to figure out what will feed our souls and give ourselves energy to go out and repair the world with the fervour we saw in him. Each of us has our own unique jobs and we have to figure them out so that we can be as gung ho in our lives as he was in his.

In order to honour Zaidy’s life and keep him alive, I want to share his smile and the root of it. I also want to share his drive towards filling his purpose in this world through his hard work and dedication.

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