My sister Janice who lives in England has started to become a family archaeologist, that is to say, she is digging deeply into our family roots. She is a whiz at it, discovering documents long hidden and fairly revealing. (Yes, one skeleton or two that I would only share over a glass of wine if you are interested!) These finds included some Yiddish letters that were dusty and worn. Finding an expert Yiddishist to translate them was not as challenging as I had first thought. While not all that inexpensive it was worth it. Two of them resolved a debate over our Great Grandfather’s occupation. On his immigration paper he was listed as a Hebrew teacher. Memories fail and often become embellished. I remembered that he was not only a Hebraist but a Rabbi. Of course, my sister disagreed. As you can see from the two letters below, despite my aging memory, I was vindicated. The first letter, a poem from the student of my great grandfather. The second is Great Grandfather’s poem which was an acrostic. As is traditional, often poets would use the letters of their name to configure one verse or line after another. The Sabbath bride verses Lecha Dodi is an acrostic spelling out Shlomo Ha-Levi. (Solomon the Levite) Various psalms also employ acrostics as does the Book Lamentations in the Bible. Such was the case of the poem he wrote back to his student. It was signed Rabbi Binyamin Budafsky.
Rabbis start to think about the High Holy Days in July. The first poem from his student contains a High Holy blessing. From his time to ours. From the students of my Great Grandfather Binyamin to you and yours. A wonderful summer! A wonderful year to come!
Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz, D.D.