Eight children and their two parents huddled together by a ramshakle wood-burning stove on frigid nights in Lagow, Poland. Their tiny two-room home and dependence on crop farming for survival was a far cry from the world we live in today. But every Friday night, Mama Gittel would take out the shiny Kiddish Cup set to welcome in the Sabbath Queen. It was one thing the children could rely upon each and every week. That little silver set was the one constant in a world of rapid change.
Though the set was very plain and simple, the family must have known it was special. For it was the one nonessential item that was wrapped up and stuffed into my grandmother's small bag that arctic night in 1939 when she boarded a boat to Panama. As the fourth of the eight children to leave, she was the last one out.
For nearly three decades, as assimilation felt compulsory for my grandparents, the set remained wrapped up and stored away. The tiny cups hadn't experienced the coolness of the Shabbos wine, nor heard the kedusha of the Friday night blessing in far too long. Two generations void of Shabbos observance had allowed the silver set to fall by the wayside.
Though one of many grandaughters, as a young adult I was the only one to return to my Jewish roots. When I began to keep Shabbos, and then my grandmother passed away shortly after, I was the obvious choice to inherit the set. I longed to once again breathe life into the special cups. Though notably tarnished, I was determined to use the set on my own Shabbos table every week. Using an object for a Mitzvah which was given by a person who has passed away is a big merit. It is said this elevates their soul in heaven. My grandmother must be soaring high.
I want my children to feel the connection to the grandmother that escaped Jewish oppression and came to this country to give her family a better life. Most importantly, despite her hurried departure, she was blessed with the insight to grab something that held spiritual signifigance then, and still does to this day. Though the two families who used the set every Shabbos are world's apart, we are connected not only by blood, but by a tradition so strong, not even Hitler could keep us apart from it.