Saw you at Sinai
By HILLEL GOLDBERG IJN Executive Editor
am told that there is a Jewish singles online dating service called
unique moment of revelation at
— marked in this week’s Torah portion — connects every Jew, then, since, and in
the future, to G-d and to the Torah. By virtue of this Divine revelation, no
Jew is a stranger to any other. Every Jew is linked.
other words, the Jewish singles already met. They just need now to re-meet.
family tree, by identifying links in the chain stretching back to
Mount Sinai, intensifies one’s sense of
connection to G-d’s original revelation of the Torah and, by extension, to
every other Jew.
one hears this at a shiva house:
“There are gaps in our family history, but now that so-and-so has passed on, we
have no one else to ask. Why didn’t we ask when we had the chance?”
ago, instead of giving standard gifts to my children for Chanukah, I put in
months of research and presented each of them with a family tree; one year, for
my side of the family, the next year, for my wife’s side. On her side were many
gaps, since many were lost in the Holocaust. Still, I tracked down the names
and at least some of the dates of about 250 relatives previously unknown to us.
forward to January, 2006. Our eldest son arrives at
, only to learn that he has been given a faulty ticket by
the travel agent. Instead of flying to the
for a family wedding, he finds himself traveling back to
at 1 a.m. (and needing the travel agent to straighten things out for another
did this happen to him?
the taxi is a chasidic Jew from
. Navigating between Hebrew, Yiddish and English, he and
our son enjoy a nice conversation. Toward the end of the trip, our son asks,
“What’s your name?”
son says: “You mean, Yitzhak Zev, ha-levi!”
son reveals to this total stranger his tribal ancestry!
is stunned, and asks: “How did you know?”
son is not a psychic. He simply says: “Because we’re cousins.”
chasid thinks a few moments and then identifies my wife’s mother — maiden name
son had remembered the name, Yitzhak Zev ha-levi Marcus, his
great-great-grandfather, from the family tree.
missed flight brings together two total strangers in a taxi: related to each
other because their ancestors stood at Sinai.
the family wedding a week later, we learn that the distant cousin sitting
across from us at the table is none other than the
chasid’s father. Unbeknownst to us, he had also heard of the poignant encounter
in the taxi. Now we all put the pieces together.
at the wedding, the
chasid’s brother comes up to us with pictures from long-forgotten cemeteries in
, which he is active in restoring. As the wedding music
signals the joy of a new link in the chain from Sinai, this brother shows us
two pictures, “before” and “after.” The first picture is a gravestone, badly
deteriorated. None of the writing is clear. The “after” picture is this same
gravestone as he has restored it.
reads “Yitzhak Zev ha-levi.”
in 1920, remembered and reconnected in 2006 — alive in his descendants, who,
like him and like his own ancestors before him, celebrate, day by day, the
revelation at Sinai.