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Growing Greatness

Leah Gebber

Planted, tended, nurtured — tendrils appear; new buds stretch for the sunlight. A rain of exquisite white blossoms bursts forth. Deep within the human soul, growth is planted, tended, nurtured. Blossoms give way to the breathtaking fruits of greatness: connection, courage, breadth of vision, loftiness of spirit. Family First traces the growth and greatness of Mrs. Ettel Salomon a”h.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

“My mother was zocheh to children who followed in her footsteps because of two things. The first was her tefillah — she davened every day for our hatzlachah and yiras Shamayim. And the second was her personal example.” Thus Harav Ezriel Salomon shlita reflects on his mother’s unparalleled ability to inspire greatness. She passed away in Shevat 5741, January 1981, and the family she left behind, including world-revered talmidei chachamim and mechanchim, testifies to the fortitude, wisdom, emunah, and tefillah of this unique woman.

Born to a family steeped in Torah and yiras Shamayim, Ettel Ucko was raised in Nuremberg, Bavaria. The rising anti-Semitism whispered that she had no future in Germany and so in 1933, on the cusp of adulthood, she moved to London; there she met her husband Rav Yaakov Salomon, son of Rav Moshe and Miriam. In 1935, the couple got engaged. They traveled to Germany for the aufruf, but returned to London for the chasunah.

Before they left, they received a brachah from Rabbi Dr. Abraham Arnold Klein, the rav of Nuremberg, whose shiurim and hashkafos had been a seminal influence on both chassan and kallah. His words not only eerily predicted the future, they also provided a beautifully crafted shield to wield against future misfortune. He quoted the brachah bestowed upon Rivkah Imeinu: “And your children will inherit the gates of your enemies…” (Bereishis 24:60). Rav Klein pointed out that the pasuk does not promise that Rivkah will be free of enemies. It does, however, highlight a unique strength that Rivkah — and all her descendants — would possess: strong Yiddishe families.

Churban indeed devastated Europe. Its ripples reached England where Reb Yaakov and Ettel embarked on a single-handed rescue operation. And tragedy also struck the Salomons’ lives, as RavYaakov— giant of Torah, tefillah, and emes — was taken in his prime. Yet through the tumultuous events of their lives, Rav Klein’s words rang true. Ettel Salomon built up a family who, in their dissemination of Torah and chesed, became the ultimate triumph.

HaravMattisyahuSalomon, mashgiach of Beth Medrash Govoha, Lakewood, emphasizes that even after Rav Yaakov’s passing, his mother brought up the family exactly in accordance with his wishes. Rav Mattisyahu told his family: “One must not forget that her life as a widow was just a continuation of her life together with my father. In fact it is obvious that most of her hashkafos and good deeds were what she understood to be ratzon baalah, for she was a true ishah kesheirah.

“In the lifetime of my father, they did everything together. Everything was discussed together and carried out with that very special harmony and understanding that we saw and felt in the short time that, as children, we were zocheh to have both parents with us.… Her husband was her mentor and guide throughout her lifetime.”

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