Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Windows: Journey of a Machzor

Gila Arnold

Bubby looked at the inscription. “That machzor’s a lot older than 1931,” she declared. “It actually belonged to Bubby Ethel’s mother — my grandmother”

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

 Mishpacha image


I t’s Kol Nidrei night, my younger children are finally asleep, and I sit in my silent apartment and take out my machzor. 

It’s a thin volume, brown and crusty, and today is my first time using it. I carefully turn the pages. They shed slivers of cracked paper onto my skirt with the merest whisper of a touch. 

I acquired it just a few weeks earlier, on a trip to the US to visit my grandmother. Walking into my grandmother’s house is like passing through a portal into my childhood, and every painting, every photograph — of generations past and current — and every curio form the familiar backdrop of warm childhood memories.

Over the years, I’ve been treated to several tours of the gallery of paintings throughout the house, painted by my artist grandmother. As a child, I enjoyed playing with the less delicate trinkets collected from my grandparents’ extensive travels around the world. But oddly enough, one treasure trove eluded me. I never thought to look at the bookshelves.

They are a few shelves in the living room, behind glass doors, and the old, but not intriguingly-ancient-looking seforim never piqued my interest when I was younger. But on this summer visit, I brought along my 16-year-old son, and he automatically gravitated to that cabinet.

By that point, his grandmother shared his interest. Bubby, bli ayin hara in her mid-nineties, started learning Torah a few years ago, soon after my grandfather passed away. She, who never had the benefit of a Jewish education, began by learning The Midrash Says on Sefer Bereishis. By the time Zeidy’s first yahrtzeit rolled around, she was ready to make a siyum on the Chamishah Chumshei Torah.

Since then, she has completed the entire Chumash numerous times and is now working on portions of Neviim and Kesuvim as well. In every phone conversation, she brings up questions or insights from her learning. And she particularly delights in hearing divrei Torah from her great-grandsons.

So when my son began combing through her bookshelves, she encouraged him to look and take what he wanted, and joined us in the search. Artifacts from generations past were unearthed: a set of Chumashim from the turn of the last century, which had belonged to her uncle (why it ended up in her house, she couldn’t say for sure, though it likely had to do with the fact that all of his descendants sadly went the way of most American Jews of that time); the Megillah that my grandfather would read from on Purim, which had originally belonged to his grandfather, and was written back in Europe, then brought over to the US when they immigrated over a hundred years ago.

And then, we found it — the slim volume hidden behind other aged seforim. It was a Yom Kippur machzor, obviously the first of a set — it contained the Erev Yom Kippur Minchah, Kol Nidrei, and Maariv. The inside cover was inscribed with my great-grandmother’s name and the year — 1931.

“Hey!” I cried. “Was this Bubby Ethel’s machzor?” I had known my great-grandmother as a young child; she passed away when I was six.

Bubby looked at the inscription. “That machzor’s a lot older than 1931,” she declared. “It actually belonged to Bubby Ethel’s mother — my grandmother. She brought it over from Europe.”

My eyes opened wide as I looked at the title page, written in Yiddish and a bit of Polish. Printed in Lodz, Poland. There was no year listed, but I knew that Bubby’s grandparents had come to America, together with their young daughter, Bubby’s mother, in the 1890s. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 561)

Related Stories

Taking Parenting to Heart

Chana Klein

Could The Nurtured Heart approach — focusing on what is right in each moment — stop the negativity a...

Sacrifice and Joy

Rifka Junger

Daughter of Rav Yitzchok Zilber ztz”l, known as the Father of Russian Jewry, Rebbetzin Chava Kuperma...

Step Out: 15 Accounts

Mishpacha Contributors

We step out of our comfort zones, leave the familiar behind — and discover inner strengths

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.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"