12 Tishrei 5781 / Wednesday, September 30, 2020 | Torah Reading: Sukkot
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To Rock In The Sun    

To Rock In The Sun

There will be bad times, for you, Mirele, I know. But just think about me holding you, rocking you to sleep in the sunlight. Keep that sunlight in your heart always.


There will be bad times, for you, Mirele, I know. But just think about me holding you, rocking you to sleep in the sunlight. Keep that sunlight in your heart always.
I can't believe I have one night to stuff a lifetime of love into this letter.
Tomorrow morning - If 4 A.M. can be called morning - I am giving you up. I am taking you Mirele, to the back entrance of dear, brave Hermann's grocery, and the child-rescuers will be waiting there for you and the thirty-two other children under the age of three. They'll inject you with a sedative so you won't cry and then they'll slip off in the predawn with you, my life, my love, out of this horrible country, to safety.
We pushed it off and pushed it off, Mirele. We didn't want to believe we would have to give up our child, probably never to see her again. But this is the last child-rescue. After this, there will be no one left to rescue, because tomorrow, our informers tell us, is the last big round up. Tomorrow they come for men, women, and children, and I've been convinced by these words, spoken by our trusted informed Hermann, the brave Gentile grocer: "any child they take away, either dies immediately or dies on the way to the death camp." The word death, three times in one sentence! We were the last ones to be convinced to give up our child. He said, finally, with the deepest sadness in every exhausted wrinkle in his face, "I cannot force you. But if you keep her with you, she will be dead in a month. They have no use for babies; she cannot work for them. If you want to give her to us, bring her to the back entrance of my grocery at 4 A.M. No belongings. Whatever food you have. Good bye."
Mirele, do you see why I had to give you up? He said no belongings but I will beg. I will plead, that this letter be allowed to go, sewn into your undershirt. And then I will pray to Hashem that the letter stay with you until your are old enough to read it. You must know that we love you. You must know why you are alone, without parents. Not because they didn't love you…but because they did.
It's eerie to think that by the time you read this, I will probably be dead. That's what Hermann says is going on. People either die immediately, or on the way, or after a week or two of forced labor and no food. But I won't have lived in vain, Mirele, if I know that I brought you into the world and you will live and survive and grow big and strong and you will be happy. You can be happy, Mirele, because we loved you.
What makes a difference in the lives of adults, it seems, is if they had secure childhoods. Secure, with lots of love and acceptance, and needs fulfilled and predictable routines and the like. You've had that up to this minute. You'll have it up till 4 A.M. But then, you won't. Who knows who will end up taking care of you? Some family who will take you in for the money Hermann will pay them? They will surely be kinder to their own than to you. Here is where pain mixes with rage! I rage at the animals who are making it possible for you to cry, and I won't be there to comfort you!
But you will have this letter. And this letter will make you feel secure, if Hashem answers my prayers. You have us, Mirele, even though you can't see us. We're with you, we're watching you and praying for you. Every time you have troubles, we are pounding on the door to Hashem's very throne room, insisting on an audience, and demanding mercy for our Mirele, down on earth, alone without her parents. And Hashem WILL listen to us. We won't leave Hashem alone until He agrees that you deserve health, and love and happiness.
Mirele, you'll wonder what your first two years were like. You'll wish you could remember. Let me remember for you - right now, tenderly, on this piece of paper.
You like hot cereal in the morning, with lots of milk and sugar. Except that there is no milk and sugar now, none in the whole city. But I make your cereal anyway, and you eat it with big smiles between every bit. Then you become ready for your nap. So I rock you, after putting the rocker where the sunlight will fall on it. I rock you until you fall asleep and then I put you in my bed. You sleep well there, you like my smell. What will you smell tomorrow night? Surely nobody will rock you tomorrow morning, not even in the shade. Oh! Hashem, I cannot do it! I will do it. For you Mirele, so you will have at least a hope for life.
Mirele, do me a favor. After you're grown…after this dirty, nightmarish war is over… I know there will be those who will underplay the tragedies going on here every day. They will say, "A war is a war. It was just a war." Mirele, tell them about this agony! Tell them how you felt secure in my arms, rocking to sleep in the sunlight. Tell them how your father ran one night a year ago, when you were sick, to get you medicine, past sentries while breaking the curfew. He risked his life to ease your pain, Mirele, And now the three of us are being torn apart. "Just a war"…? Tell them, Mirele, that all the wars in the world don't add up to the agony in my heart right now as I write this.
It's 2 A.M. already. Only two more hours with my love, my baby, my life, my Mirele. I'm going to hold you now, Mirele, for two hours. Your father and I are going to wake you, feed you, and tell you over and over how much we love you. You're barely two years old but maybe, if ???? Is good, maybe, you'll remember it. And maybe, you'll keep this letter until you're old enough to read it.
There will be bad times, for you, Mirele, I know. But just think about me holding you, rocking you to sleep in the sunlight. Keep that sunlight in your heart always.
I love you. Your father loves you. May Hashem help us all.
* * *
Dear Readers:
Miracles do happen - my mother's letter stayed with me sewed into my undershirt, and now I am getting old myself and have decided to share it with you. After almost 50 years of keeping it private, why did I translate it from the Yiddish and decide to share it with you now? A few reasons…
Firstly, one doesn't hear much about the Holocaust anymore these days. There are even those who claim it was made up, not true, a brilliant Jewish ploy for sympathy. My mother asked me to remind you that it wasn't "just a war". It was a monstrosity.
Secondly, my mother's faith in Hashem, even at that dreadful hour, never ceases to amaze me. Even though she seems almost certain that she will soon die, as indeed she did, she believes firmly in To Whom she can turn, both before and after her earthly life ends. This strengthens my own faith, and perhaps it will strengthen yours.
And lastly…I know I'm from a different generation. Nowadays, I'm told, all mothers work. But sometimes I look out my window and see little children, just two years old. That's how old I was when my mother was forced to give me up to strangers. And I look out my window and see these two year-olds crying because they want to stay with their mothers, but their mothers are putting them on the bus because they want to be free of them… and something doesn't seem right.
I was at a Bar Mitzvah recently. A young mother was talking about her 3-year-old's adjustment to school. I'll never forget her words. "There's a choice. You can either send your child till noon or till 3. He'd be happier coming home at 12, but that's not enough for me". I thought about my mother…it would have been enough for her…then the young mother continues. "The first day I put him on the bus, he went without a word. The second day, oy, did he scream!" Of course! By the second day, he knew he was in for a whole day of separation from his mother from whom 3 hours of separation "isn't enough"
You mothers' who are lucky enough to have your babies…raise them, too. Don't' throw them out before they're ready. Go, now. Rock them in the sunlight. For my mother,
Miriam bas Leiba
(In my mother's letter, she didn't leave me her name. but I always think of her as Lieba, my love". I'm lucky. Many of the other children rescued together with me didn't know their own names.)
(from the anthology "Our Lives," edited by Sara Shapiro)

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