Neil Harris asks:
As parents who’ve just started the road of Jewish education what things do you intend to teach at home that might not be taught during the school day to your children?
A Simple Jew answers:
Most importantly, I want to teach my children about their family’s history. In May 2003, I wrote a letter to my oldest daughter that I have included below. I am going to give this letter to her when she is old enough to understand. I also plan to write similar personalized letters to my son and youngest daughter.
My little one:
As I write this letter, you are only nine months-old and too young to comprehend these words. I want to share my thoughts and prayers for you, and to tell you about your important role in our family.
By the time you read this letter you will know about our family’s roots in the shtetl of Sudilkov. You will also know what happened to Sudilkov’s Jews after our family was safe in America.
Your mother and I decided to start our family while standing on a bridge over the Gouska stream in Sudilkov. Two days later, we visited the gravesite of the holy Baal Shem Tov and prayed that G-d bless us with a child. Our prayers were answered. On the third night of Hanukkah we found out that your mother was pregnant with you.
My visit to Sudilkov was one of the defining events in my life. I was haunted for days after visiting the site of the mass grave. It was so overwhelming that initially my mind could not fully process it.
Upon returning home, I found this story in a book in shul which provided an answer:
When the Maggid of Mezeritch was but five years old a fire consumed his parent’s home and its contents. Noting his mother’s grief the child asked her:
“Mother, is it right to grieve that much for the loss of our home?”
“Heaven forbid,” his mother answered, “I do not grieve over the loss of our home but over the document of our family-tree that was burned with it. For this document traced our descent to Rabbi Yochanan HaSandler who was direct descendent of King David!”
“If so,” said the young boy, “I shall start for you a new dynasty…”
For me, you are the answer. You are the “new dynasty”. You are the answer to all the darkness in this world and all the horrible things that happened in Sudilkov. You will ensure that the memory of Sudilkov continues to live on by bringing more Jewish children into this world and telling them of our family’s history.
Always remember that your holy and pure neshoma comes from a very high place. Let your neshoma shine brightly and illuminate the world around you.
May the Ribbono shel Olam always have nachas from you little one.
I love you with all of my heart and soul,
A Simple Jew, your search for a connection to your past has influenced your present and your future. I find it inspiring. -Neil