First, avid blog readers will be happy to note that we got Oma’s shabbos lamp up and running before Rosh Hashana and, in my humble, but somewhat partial opinion, it is AWESOME.
My dad wrote the story of the lamp in his own words and I think his description is also pretty awesome so I’m reprinting it here.
My Mother had this old, ugly Shabbos Lamp hanging in her dining room. It had been an oil lamp that my Father had acquired on the boat coming here from Germany from a poor Jew who needed the money. They electrified it, put in Christmas bulbs and coated it with some kind of anti-corrosive lacquer that hid the sheen of the original brass underneath. Stacy and Eli tore out the wiring, restored it to its original oil-burning configuration and had it professionally polished. The result is the beautiful lamp you see in the picture. It now hangs in their home and will be lovingly used every week
I know my Mother would be extremely pleased that a piece of our family heritage has been preserved. However, on a deeper level, I see it as a metaphor for stripping away all the unnecessary embellishments of life to reveal the true beauty underneath.
Separately, and unrelated to the lamp other than the possible proximity to Yom Kippur, is recently I realized that my relatives who were murdered in the Holocaust no longer haunt me.
For a long time they did. The pictures of the men women and one child who perished stayed with me. I could put faces to the names of people that perished due to an extensive family photo album we have. In moments of solitude I could close my eyes and hear them scream.
They were haunting me like Halloween type western ghosts. People who met an untimely end hanging around to protest their suffering in this world.
This is particularly strange because Oma never expressed this sentiment nor did anyone else in my immediate family. This seemed to be a burden that I bore alone and recently it was lifted.
Then, due to a series of unforeseen events I found myself at slichot this year.
At the end of a prayer that begins El Rachoom, Compassionate G-d. I found this:
. . . Act for the sake of those killed in sanctification of Your name. Act for the sake of those slaughtered over Your unity, Act for the sake of those who have gone through fire and water in sanctification of Your name. . .
I later noticed the same words are found in Aveniu Malkenu.
This year I read these prayers with new eyes. Jews have a tradition of bargaining with G-d. Avraham, the first Jew did it with the destruction of Sodom. The message I internalized from the tephillah this year is to use my personal family martyrs, as well as the general concept of millions of Jewish martyrs to extract divine blessing. It seems somehow selfish.
And yet . . .
When someone dies we say “may their memory be for a blessing”. Any generation would naturally want blessings to rain down on their descendants. This tephillah is a mechanism to to transform their suffering into an blessing. This year this tephillah released me from my American style ghosts, it was the true manifestation of a compassionate G-d, El Rachum. This year I will implore G-d in their name to rain down blessings on His people.
I hope that this year all of our prayers will be answered.