Editor’s note: The Distenfeld family is observing the 28th yahrzeit of their mother this Shabbat. Gershon has often thought of his mother’s letter to her sons, that she sent them several weeks before her passing.
He shares it with us here.
In last week’s parsha, Moshe was enjoined to introduce the Torah to the People of Israel in two different ways: Ko tomar l’veit Yaakov, v’tageid l’vnei Yisrael. Rashi invokes the rabbinic dictum that teaches that Beit Yaakov refers to the women, and the rabbis offer a number of reasons for the women were being spoken to first. Among them is the acknowledgment that it is specifically the women who would lead and inspire their children to lives of Torah.
It is in the spirit of this unique power of women that we share the following letter written by our dear mother, Rose Distenfeld, less than two months before she passed away. Her 28th yahrzeit is being commemorated this Shabbos (27 Shevat). Her words continue to guide and inspire us and we pray that our families and our lives provide her with much nachat.
Gershon, Akiva and Eric Distenfeld
To My Dearest Yingis
A few weeks ago I learned that further surgery is absolutely necessary for me. Although the operation is a dangerous one and I admit that I am very scared, I trust that Hashem knows how much I am needed here and that He will, בְּרַחֲמָיו הָרַבִּים, send me a רְפוּאָה שְׁלֵמָה וּמְהִירָה.
The purpose of this letter is to console you for when I will not be with you anymore. I pray all the time to הקב»ה that it will be many years before you read this. But the fact remains that a person never knows when his/her time will be up; and the day will come when I will no longer be here for you.
When a child loses a parent (or any close relative), he often feels that his world has ended. Unfortunately, I “speak” from experience. The fears, the hurt, the depression and the anger that follow are real; but it is okay, and even important, to have these feelings. Take as much time as you need to cry, to be angry—it’s all right. Hashem understands that you are human.
What you must understand is the importance of אֶמוּנָה in הקב’ה. I trust that I have raised you to have this faith. You have learned that עוֹלָם הַזֶה is only a passageway to עוֹלָם הַבָּא. As it is said, הַתְקֵן עַצְמְךָ בַּפְּרוֹזְדוֹר כְּדֵי שֶׁתִּכָּנֵס לַטְרַקְלִין—prepare yourself in the vestibule to enter the parlor. We believe that the dead do not really die; they only move to a better place—the עוֹלָם הָאֶמֶת.
Nevertheless you will, of course, miss me. I won’t be there to help you, to advise you, to ease your pain.
But, Yingis, think it over. If you really loved me when I was with you, and if your love was not just superficial, you can always picture me in front of your eye. You will know what I would have said and how I would have advised you. We learned just a few weeks ago (פ’ וַיֵשֶב:ל”ט:י”א) what the גמרא says about יוֹסֵף הֲצַדִיק—that he held himself back from sinning with Potiphar’s wife because he saw a vision of his father Yaakov before his eyes. Try to use your vision of me to give you strength and encouragement.
Another thing. When a person loses someone close, he tends to come closer to Hashem. Why? Our חַכָמִים teach us that there are three partners to every human being: his father, mother, and הקב’ה. And although I have left you, and one day your father (may Hashem give him אֲרִיכוּת יָמִים) will too, the truth is that אבא and I are only שְׁלִיחִים (messengers) from Hashem. Remember that הקב’ה—the third partner—will always be there for you.
Gershi, Kivi, Eric: I ask you to become closer to each other, help each other, and encourage one another. Respect and confide in Daddy - he loves you all very much. Be strong in your אמונה and in Torah. Try always to learn and to improve. Live your lives with the aim of fulfilling Hashem’s mitzvos. By doing so you will be benefiting me as well because our חכמים said that when one’s children observe the mitzvos it is considered as if the parent has not passed away. This is my advice and my last request of you.
May הקב’ה grant you healthy, happy, successful lives and אֲרִיכוּת יָמִים עַד מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה.
All my love,
Submitted by Gershon Distenfeld