Levaya (Funeral): March 24, 2017 / 26 Adar 5777, Montreal, Canada
Esther Pollard's words of farewell to her father, Jonathan Pollard's father-in-law, appear below:
Our sages caution us to be mindful of our words when we eulogize the deceased because the soul of the departed one is always present at the funeral. It can see everyone who is there and it hears every word that is spoken.
Similarly, according to our tradition, when a Jewish body is prepared for burial, the "Chevra Kedisha" which has the holy task of preparing it, must ask the soul for mechila (forgiveness) three times, each time assuring the soul that no slight nor untoward action was ever intended, and that all actions taken during the process of Tahara (purification) were taken only for its own honor, only for its own benefit.
So, Dad, let me assure you that we know you are here, and that you are listening carefully to every word spoken in your honor and in your memory. We hope you will be pleased and comforted by our words.
Nevertheless, let me begin, first of all by asking for mechila (forgiveness) if anything I have written or presented here should be not to your liking, please know that any slight was unintentional, and that all that I have attempted to do was intended for your honor and for your benefit.
When you began your journey, Dad, to leave the world of the here and now, to go to the world beyond, someone asked me, "In a word, what do you think was your father's greatest accomplishment?" And without even thinking for a second, I responded, "His five children."
Surprised by my response, I was asked to expand.
I explained: When my father leaves this world and he crosses over to the other side, he is leaving behind 5 decent, honest, upstanding children. Five out of five are kind, caring, honorable and trustworthy. Five out of five have strong healthy marriages and worthy marriage partners. Five out of five are the kind of honorable decent people that everyone wishes their own children to be. So if this is what he is leaving behind, as a tribute to his memory, he has accomplished the most important thing in life. In Hebrew we call it "Hem-shech-ee-oot", or continuance. That means continuance in this world, even once one has gone over to the other side.
My father's children are also my mother's a"h children. Both my father and my mother were inordinately proud of their children and deeply grateful to HaShem for their children and for the new generations that have issued from them. Both my mother Rayzl Bracha bat Lipa and my father Yechiel Avraham ben Yehoshua devoted the best of their years, resources, and talents to raising their children. This was their focus and their life's work. Their efforts have clearly born fruit.
Indeed, my fondest memories of my father were as a young child. I remember when my sister Laura and I were very young, and every night my father would tell us bedtime stories. Those stories were didactic. They were intended to teach us many lessons. The two constant heroines in my father's bedtime tales were two young girls named Ellen and Lorraine. These names were thinly veiled references to our own names Elaine and Laura, and even at a very tender age Laura and I knew this. Ellen and Lorraine got into all kinds of predicaments and had lots of adventures (many of them borrowed from classic mythological tales) but the young heroines always managed to save themselves and their people before lights out. These stories delighted my sister and I and taught us very much. We so loved hearing our father's bedtime tales that we never minded being told that it was time to wash up and get our pajamas on! We looked forward to bedtime.
Every summer, for many years, our family spent the summer in my grandfather's rough-and-tumble summer cottages in Plage Laval. We shared the "big house" with another family, my mother's sister usually and her husband and kids. While a third family (also my mother's sister and her husband and kids) had the "small house" next door.
In the "country" as we called it, there were numerous educational opportunities and my father was the main teacher. He taught all of the kids to do gymnastics. He taught us to ride bicycles. He taught us all about safety, and about how to light fire crackers and do other neat stuff safely. He taught us how to hang from the monkey bars and do other kinds of somersaults and flips. Because he worked shifts, he was the most available of all the fathers for teaching us all these skills, and he was just as happy teaching the nieces and nephews as he was teaching us.
Perhaps the most important thing my father ever taught us in the country was how to swim. I remember very clearly, how he took us out in the water at the beach, and one by one taught us to swim, by first teaching us how to float. To teach us how to float, he first taught us trust. He taught us by supporting us. He had each of us lie back in the water and he put his hands underneath the water and held us up. He explained that he was holding us, but that the water could do the same. He accustomed us to floating "in his hands" and then gradually he withdrew his hands until we were floating in the water unassisted. In the process we learned to relax and allow the water to support us. The next step, after mastering floating, was to learn to swim. Once we were calm and confident, trusting and assured of the water's support, learning to swim was a breeze.
These are amongst my treasured memories of my father, Yechiel Avraham ben Yehoshua. I remember how on rainy days, when we couldn't go to the beach to go swimming, my father always came up with other neat activities. My favorite was called "running away from home". We would "run away from home" just far enough and just long enough to get to the penny candy store at the corner, or at the beach. There my father would buy us an ice cream cone or a popsicle which we thoroughly enjoyed on our way home!
My father's inner life was never simple or easy. He had his own challenges and fought his own battles. But wherever he fell short, it was never for lack of trying. He did his very best. He tried his very best. And he gave his very best to us.
The side of him that was a good citizen and a caring contributing member of society might have been the least well known side of him, to those who only knew him superficially. So it may come as a surprise to some now, that Dad devoted chunks of his time later in life to visiting the sick, to doing acts of charity, and to visiting prisoners. People related well to him and he was also a very effective lay counsellor. In his visits to hopeless prisoners in Montreal's prisons - prisoners who had no one else to visit them or to care about them - he brought light and warmth and happiness to depressed and hopeless lives.
Dad was always there to lend a helping hand to anyone who needed it. He had a set of jumper cables in his car and he was the first to come forward even under the most adverse circumstances when someone needed help starting their car in the cold Montreal weather. He was friendly and gregarious and always offering people lifts, even if he was going in the opposite direction. And he was generous to a fault, often lending money, and possessions even in cases where it was awfully unlikely that he would ever get them back.
Dad loved to garden, and he loved to grow flowers. He grew hollyhocks and morning glory lilies, mums and roses and lilacs. I can't look at hollyhocks today without being thrown back to childhood memories of the hollyhocks that grew in our garden on Coolbrooke in Montreal. Dad not only loved to grow flowers, he loved to share them, and he was forever harvesting flowers from his garden which he and my mother shared with family and friends.
When Dad wasn't raising flowers, he was planting vegetable gardens. This was long before it became popular to do so. We learned some pretty important life lessons from helping Dad to tend his gardens, to weed them, and water them and to harvest fruit and vegetables. Dad grew tomatoes and cucumbers and zucchini and peppers and he grew apples and pears and all kinds of berries, including strawberries and raspberries, and also lots and lots of mint. The fruit trees were in our back yard on Coolbrooke, and the vegetables grew in our backyard on MacDonald.
A lifetime goes by in the wink of an eye. Dad always said so. He always said that it was important to live life to the fullest, every day, since no one knew how many days were allotted to them. Even when sick, and old and worn out and tired, Dad fought for life, he fought to live, he fought to take one more breathe, to see one more dawn, to live one more day, and in doing so he gave honor to life itself and thanks and praise to the Creator of the World.
Yechiel Avraham ben Yehoshua, Bala HaMavet LaNetzach. Go in peace. And may your soul be eternally bound up in the Bundle of Life. Amain! Sela!
SHIVA NOTICE: Jonathan and Esther Pollard are sitting shiva privately. Those wishing to leave a condolence message for them may do so by logging in to the Melvin Zeitz funeral Page on the Paperman & Sons website.