Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Pieces of History

Abby Delouya

"We are the story keepers…” Five family heirlooms from distant lands and the tales they tell

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

 Mishpacha image

WOVEN TOGETHER For my children, the kos is ancient. It has graced four generations of Seder tables and delighted four generations of children with its charm. For some, a flea market of 75 years ago is just as exotic as Russia of the 1930s, and to them, all that matters is that Zeidy’s kos is part of the intricate weaving of our family fabric

A bris pillow, a wine goblet, a dress passed down from mother to daughter, items treasured for their beauty and history. Family heirlooms whisper untold stories and testify to generations of family, and a chain of mesorah…

Alight with Prayers

Shabbos Lamp│Origin: Germany│Date: Mid-1800s

Erev Shabbos. Father has left for shul and our home, though always tidy, takes on a special gleam. My sisters and I have changed into our Shabbos frocks and we eagerly clamor around Mother as she lowers the brass lamp with the lever.

Mother wraps her sheitel with a white, delicate kerchief and she lights our Judenstern, our Shabbos lamp, with reverence and concentration. It holds special significance, as my grandmother’s family received it from mechutanim of the Wurzburger Rav. The brass sparkles as the wicks catch the flames. Mother holds her graceful hands over her face for a long time, swaying in prayer, asking that our family be protected and healthy. She davens that my father and brothers be successful in their learning, and that my sisters and I merit to marry bnei Torah. The lamp hangs, taking on central significance as the sun drops below charcoal clouds and our house descends into shadows. But our table is resplendent, draped in a snowy tablecloth, and the heady, yeasty smell from the challos tickles my nose.

I take my worn Tehillim, a bas mitzvah gift from my grandmother, and go to the window to wait for Father. The lamp sways above my head. Shabbos Kodesh fills the room, and I smile in the goodness of it all.

The generations pass in a cacophony of soaked Tehillim pages, broken glass, yearning, laughter, new beginnings, and multifarious endings, and the brass lamp is witness to it all. Though it becomes obsolete in function, it takes on greater significance as a tangible bond with one family’s yekkishe mesorah of avodas Hashem.

One evening, a granddaughter sits in the middle of her room, surrounded by overflowing suitcases, though her flight leaves in a few hours. Her heart soars as she imagines her upcoming seminary year — save for one part that’s exclusively reserved for Oma. She will miss her grandmother fiercely and in a flash, she thinks of the perfect surprise.

I was transported to El Jadida, Morocco, and I felt the loving presence of generations of women who had donned my dress. I fingered the spun gold, and as I traced along the delicate thread, I felt a part of my soul trace back those hundreds of years

She walks into the humid East Coast summer night air. A creamy moon hangs low. In a few blocks she reaches Oma’s home, punches in the code, and tiptoes into the elegant room. She takes out her supplies and spends the next hour meticulously shining the precious Judenstern that hangs near the dark wooden Shabbos table.

As she buffs the rounded holders, she envisions months ahead, when the family will light the lamp on Seder Night. As she polishes the pointed tips, she thinks of all the righteous women who have touched the lamp and she murmurs tefillos for her own future home, her family, for her grandmother and all the neshamos of women whose lives were illuminated by the cherished lamp.

When she finishes, the lamp gleams. She leaves a note for Oma. She can still feel the heaviness of the brass in her hands, and as she walks toward her future, she smiles in the goodness of it all.

Related Stories

Coloring Out of the Lines

Esther Kurtz

At least Debby is entertaining when she harasses me. But Paint Nite? Seriously? I’d send a donation,...

Look for the Pink

F. Jakabovits

Granddaughter of the previous Amshinover Rebbe and mother of the present Rebbe, Rebbetzin Chaya Nech...

Tichel Tales: Chapter 2

Gabriella Roth

My 15-year-old actually wants to talk? I try not to let on how exciting this is. I nod slightly, me...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

Drink to Eternity
Rabbi Moshe Grylak Redemption doesn’t simply mean being let out of jail
Klal Yisrael Is Always Free
Yonoson Rosenblum "In that merit will Klal Yisrael continue to exist”
Home Free
Eytan Kobre My baseline for comparison is admittedly weak
Believe in Your Own Seder
Rabbi Judah Mischel Hashem is satisfied when we do our best
Picture Perfect
Yisroel Besser Take a picture — and this time, send it to yourself
Flying Solo
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman As Pesach loomed closer, his resentment was growing
Hanging on by a Hair
Jacob L. Freedman MD “Do you still think that I’m not completely crazy?”
A Song for Every Season
Riki Goldstein Influencers map out their personal musical soundtracks
Subliminal Speech
Faigy Peritzman The deeper the recognition, the deeper the effect
The Big Change
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Spelling things out clears clouds of resentment
The Count-Up
Mrs. Shani Mendlowitz Tap the middos of Sefirah to recreate yourself
The Baker: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP with Zivia Reischer "She can't get married if she can't build a relationship...
Know This: Infertility
As Told to Bracha Stein There was no place for me. I didn’t belong
Dear Shadchan
The Girl Here's the thing: I need time