By Larry Gordon
Moshe Hirsch, a’h

With the arrival of the month of Adar, the Talmud says, we are mandated to increase the amount of joy in our lives. The primary motivation is that Adar features the observance and celebration of Purim.

At the same time, next week, on the 7th of Adar we will mark the yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu, inarguably the greatest personality to ever grace the earth. That’s what the Torah says about Moshe.

At the same time we know that the 7th of Adar was also the birthday of Moshe, so it was a joyous day of celebration as well. In fact, the Gemara tells us that the evil miscreant, Haman, thought that since Moshe passed away in Adar, Haman’s genocidal expression of hostility for the Jews of ancient Persia was assured success. The Talmud also tells us that part of Haman’s ultimate failure was his ignorance of the fact that the very same day was also Moshe Rabbeinu’s birthday—a day of good fortune for Am Yisrael.

Reb Nison and Rosalind Gordon, a’h
Reb Ahron Zvi, a’h and Chana, ybclc, Nudel

For our family, Adar also features the joy and merriment of Purim, but at the same time there are the yahrzeits of our loved ones—our son-in-law Moshe Hirsch, a’h, my mom, Sarah Rosa Gordon, a’h, followed a few days later at the beginning of Nissan, by the yahrzeit of my father-in-law, Ahron Zvi Nudel, a’h.

In the case of our Moshe, Malkie’s husband, the 20th of Adar will be his fourth yahrzeit. These four years have been a challenge and extreme hardship for Malkie, the children, and indeed all of us who loved him and cherished the fact that Moshe was in our lives.

In the aftermath of his petirah, we decided to write a sefer Torah and dedicate it in Moshe’s memory. The funds for the project were raised almost immediately after we announced our intentions. But then COVID hit and holding any kind of rightful ceremony, including writing the last few lines of the Torah, became impossible and had to be delayed.

But as the fourth yahrzeit approaches, everything is finally in place to finish the sefer Torah, appropriately celebrate its completion, and dance with bittersweet emotion—with joy at the dedication combined with the tears for our immense loss.

It’s now four years later and it feels like only a brief amount of time passed but also seems like it occurred so very long ago. His physical absence from our lives is life-altering and shattering. Losing Moshe wasn’t in the lifetime playbook. The concern, of course, at the time was Malkie and her children who ranged in age then from 11 years old to one year old.

Over these last few years Malkie has done a remarkable job, and it is rewarding to see how these children—all in their own way—have developed into such fine young children after losing their father.

Two years before that, on the 28th of Adar, I lost my mother. I was so happy to have her as part of my life for so many years after my father passed away back in 1989. I admired how she had evolved and lived mostly on her own at her choice for most of the 27 years after my father passed away.

For many years the four of us rotated spending Shabbos with my mom. We either went to her home—our family home—in Crown Heights, or she would come to one of her children. Whatever choice was exercised it involved some kind of imposition on someone. There was the matter of packing into the house with our children, or, if my mom was coming to us, it involved going to Crown Heights on Friday afternoon to pick her up and bring her here.

As I’ve recounted in this space in the past, my mother passed away on the Saturday night following the aufruf of our son Nison. My two brothers and sister traveled to Israel for the kevurah in Beit Shemesh next to my father. I stayed back and began sitting shivah as soon as they departed; I had to get ready for a wedding and mourn the loss of my mom.

My rabbinical advisers told me that it was incumbent upon me despite the circumstances not to detract in any way from the simcha of the chassan and kallah. Frankly, I was intrigued by it all and have always considered the circumstances a Divine gift.

That meant, on Wednesday, the day of the wedding, getting up from shivah at about 2 p.m., taking the shivah notice down, locking the front door, and going upstairs to shave, shower, and get dressed in a new white shirt, suit, and tie. We left to the wedding hall to take family photos with bright smiles in pictures that would be looked at and wondered about for years to come.

Writing these words six years later forces me to pause. Holding my head in my hands, I begin to weep as I poignantly recall living through the joy and the sadness rolled into a series of unforgettable moments.

The next morning I put on my torn white shirt and Crocs and reassumed my position in our living room for the next two and a half days as people came to be menachem avel and also took the opportunity to say mazal tov.

I got up from shivah on Friday, and the folks who provided us with the chairs and other shiva-related accoutrements from the Misaskim organization said they would pick up the equipment on Sunday.

That Saturday night, the 4th of Nissan, after Shabbos sheva berachos, we found out that late that afternoon, my father-in-law, Ahron Zvi Nudel, was niftar. The levayah would be the next morning and the kevurah also in Beit Shemesh. On Sunday morning when Misaskim came to pick up their items, we told the man who came with his truck, “Not so fast.” We would need those things for another week. I’m not sure this guy ever witnessed a circumstance like that before.

My father-in-law was a Holocaust survivor, the lone survivor of a large family. He was from a Polish town called Tishevetz and was part of the Bais Yosef Yeshiva in Bialystok which ended up in Siberia for several years before making their way to freedom in the U.S.

It was a difficult struggle once he and his wife, my mother-in-law (may she be well) worked to establish themselves and raise their children here. Though he was in a new world he was always attached to his yeshiva and a yeshiva way of life. His family continues to expand in that same direction as time goes by, baruch Hashem.

So with the arrival of Adar, punctuating our lives with simcha presents us with a conundrum, a combination of situations that are upbeat as well as downbeat, if there is such a thing.

The dynamics of these three situations are significantly different from one another. My mom and my father-in-law were in their nineties; our son-in law Moshe was barely 40. This will be Moshe’s fourth yahrzeit, as mentioned above, and the older boys, both over bar mitzvah now, will say Kaddish just the way they did for the year after his passing in their soft young voices.

There were many times during that year when they weren’t in school when I took them to shul and said Kaddish along with them. Sometimes they were the only two in shul saying Kaddish and I preferred that their tiny voices not be heard in an isolated fashion so I recited Kaddish in a way to kind of drown out the sound of their voices.

This year, after we dance with the new sefer Torah it will be time for Ma’ariv. One of the boys will daven for the amud and then they will both say Kaddish together. We will all answer “Amen.”


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