My grandfather, my mother’s father, Reb Mendel Gottesfeld A’H, (see Rabbi Broyde’s article in Hakirah 3 http://hakirah.org/Vol%203%20Broyde.pdf ), was a Talmid muvhak of Reb Israel Hager of Viznitz. All his life he was a hard worker delivering bread by horse drawn carriage in
I was the first child in the family to be born after the war and was very much doted on. I got very close with my grandfather as my parents lived in
My grandfather’s day revolved around davening and learning. It took him from the wee hours of the morning until quite late, the last minyan for Shacharit at Pinter’s Shul, to get ready for Tefilah. It involved learning, Mikvah, Tehilim and bodily functions to have a Guf Naki for Tefillin. When I questioned him about the latter, he showed me the Gemara about Elisha Ba’al Kenafayim and the Tosafot there. As I grew older, we talked about some of his struggles with himself as they related to Avodat hashem. He feared an Aveirah like the plague but he also struggled with understanding the deeper issues of schar ve’onesh and what happens at death and the meaning of life. He chose Massechet Archin as the tractate to learn and know thoroughly so that when he comes up to the Olam Ha’emet and they ask him what he learned he should at least have one Massechet in his pocket.
My grandfather was a character and stood out among all the older people, his contemporaries, by his idiosyncrasies, simplicity and lack of any self-consciousness about doing the things he understood to be right. The older cousins who knew him during this period, before his stroke, Parkinson’s and the decline at the end of his life, were all very strongly influenced by him and when we meet we reminisce and share our experiences. We all have assimilated some of his ways and they live within us.
I can only talk from my personal experience. He is always in my mind and there is not a day that I do not find myself thinking about him. I always understood the Midrash about Yaakov appearing to Yosef when confronted with the temptation of Potiphar’s wife, not that it worked for me as well as it did for Yosef – unfortunately. I have assimilated him and internalized him and I believe that in a certain sense he is still active even after having died over 30 years ago. My son Alex met him as a child and I know he still remembers him and we both told his children, my grandchildren, about him the past Shabbat. I know I will tell them more about him as they grow up. I also know that some of his values are ingrained in me and I passed them along to my two sons, whether they know it or not.
Why do I write all this? The question that I pose to myself is whether my grandfather fulfilled his role in the world? I believe he did. He has brought a family into existence that has since branched out all over Europe,
I believe this is what the Rav was telling us in the quote in my previous post. It is not only the ignoramus per se but the ignoramus in us all, the emotional part that the intellect triggers, that focuses all of us on a common idea and feeling, that gives us all this collective Olam Haba, the Chelek Le’olam Haba.