We all have memories of people who greatly influenced our lives. Many people did influence my life, but I'd like to mention today some stories about my Great Grandmother, Sarah Stotland (nee Malamud).
When I was about 14 years old, my Great Grandmother was living with one of my mother's aunts not far from where we used to live. Every now and then, I would go and pick her up and we would walk to our house. On one of those occassions, seeing as my "Bobbe Sarah" looked kind of tired, I decided to take her through a shortcut which made the walk about 1 block shorter.
In the middle of the walk, my Bobbe turned around and yelled at me "Why are you taking me on the long way". Of course I explained to her that this was the short way, not the long one. Her answer? "How can it be the short way - don't you see there are no people?"
My Bobbe Sarah defined space (and sometimes time) through her interaction with people. Objective, scientific measurement were not for her - subjective, human interaction defined her space and time.
I remember another time, in 1969, when she showed her sense of humor. We were at home, watching the first Moon landing. She was very quiet, and out of the blue she said "Maschiach is coming" (of course, in Yiddish). I asked her "Why do you say that?"... "Because they always say that when the world will be upside-down and people will walk on the moon, Maschiach will come"
And there was also the time I went to visit her in old age home when I returned from my frist trip to Israel. She had asked me to bring her a "little of Eretz Israel dirt" because according to Jewish lore, if you have some of Eretz Israel dirt in your coffin, you will be spared the long trip to Jerusalem when Maschiach come, and you'll be able to stand judgement where you are. When I gave her the little bag of dirt, she said "make sure they only put a little in my coffin and the rest they give it to people who do not have it"
I have many more stories of my Bobbe Sarah, and many times when I read the paper or watch the news or surf the news in the Internet, I remember her. She always found the positive in whatever she saw; she was always thinking of others and what she could do to help -and she impressed those values in her children (among them, my grandfather). A woman who arrived in Buenos Aires in 1915 without speaking the language and with two children (one of them my grandfather); a woman who lost her husband a few years (and three children later) after arriving in Argentina, but she never let anything get her down. Today, we would call her "irrepressible". She always looked over the next hill, the next horizon, and faced the future with hope and good humor.
When I read the paper, or watch the news, or surf the Internet, and I learn of the rise of Antisemitism and the growing threats to the Jewish State, and the worsening conditions in Argentina where most of my family still lives, I remember my Bobbe Sarah - and suddenly, nothing looks so bleak and there seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel... Her memory, for me, has been a blessing. I cherish the luck I had to know her and to learn from her.