This week Mussie's extended family got up from Shiva for her maternal grandmother, Devorah Greenberg.
Mussie's Bubby, or Savta, as she is fondly called amongst her many international grandchildren that speak several different languages, lived a full life of 85 years. She spent her childhood and much of her young adult years in Communist Russia, where together with her parents and later her husband, fought to keep their Jewish learning and practices under the KGB’s watchful eye.
In the early 1960s, together with her family, she was granted the freedom to leave the Iron Curtain and immigrated to Israel by the grace of G-d. There, she and her husband continued to raise their beautiful family, all of whom went on to lead successful and meaningful lives, becoming Jewish community leaders and educators around the world.
Amazingly, a portrait with 7 different clocks hangs in her home, so she would be able to keep tabs on the time zones of her children that live on different parts of the globe, including places like Shanghai, Anchorage, Austin, San Diego, New York, Paris, Hannover and Odessa, and I haven't even listed them all. It's a big family. We were happy for her that some of her children and grandchildren settled close to her, in Israel, as well.
What always striked me as a “married in” grandson, was her ability to be content with little materialism. To feel and act wealthy, when in fact the opposite was the case. What Mussie's Bubby accomplished in the most beautiful and meaningful way possible, was to live and bring to reality the value described in Ethics of the Fathers as, "Eizehu ashir hasameach bechelko - Who is wealthy, one who is happy with their lot.”
Mussie’s Bubby and Zeidy lived in Israel as immigrants, with hardly enough to scrape together for the very basic necessities of life, but somehow you would never know it. Mussie's Bubby and her home shone with love and happiness, always plenty of delicious food, and although the apartment was smaller than tiny, it was always in perfect shape, and they always seemed to have everything they needed to share with others as well.
To paraphrase the wise words of Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, who said you often hear the question being asked about someone “What are they worth?” when all that is meant is “What is their net worth.” A person may not always have a high net worth, but living honestly and happily, raising a large and wholesome family, who all went on to live a life of service to others, and doing acts of goodness and kindness as taught by the Torah, are a person’s true worth.
There is so much more to be said about Devorah Greenberg, but I'll leave you with this for now as Mussie and I hope to learn from her and practice this in our life as well.
Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz Blog
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.