Text: A Rose in The Garden of Eden
Justice4JP Release - July 21, 2005 - [Please feel free to reprint and recirculate.]
The following text is a hesped (eulogy) for Rose Zeitz z"l, beloved mother and mother -in-law of Esther and Jonathan Pollard who passed away July 18, 2005, in Montreal, Canada.
Written by Esther Pollard and posted to the web at the request of Jonathan:
"So that others may know not only who Rose was, but who she was to us."
A great light has dimmed in this world, but in the world-to-come the light is increasing.
All the Avot and Emaoht, our holy ancestors: Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov; Sarah, Rifka, Rachel and Leah, come forth to greet the pure neshama of our mother, Rayzl Bracha.
The holy soul of Rayzl Bracha bat Lipe v'Frima entered the world pure, lived a life of righteousness and kindness, and left the world in holiness and righteousness, as pure a soul as when she first arrived. This is a very great feat which few accomplish. Today, we who have lost the blessing of her presence in our midst are weeping. In Shomayim, the angels are rejoicing as they welcome this precious soul home.
We are hard pressed to understand why someone so good, so pure, so kind and so noble, should be torn from the life she so loved, and taken from us this way. Why did she have to suffer so? And why did a soul who generated and emanated so much love have to leave us? Only the Almighty knows, but we can venture to guess.
These are especially troubled times for the Jewish People. As a nation we are fighting for our very soul. We are taught that everything that occurs on earth has its counterpart in Heaven. The Almighty is calling all of his best soldiers home to fight the war above, so that the battle below may be won. The strongest soldiers in Heaven are the ones with the purest souls and the most powerful teffilot. Hashem, it seems, needs the pure soul of Rayzl Bracha bat Frima for His army, more than we need her here on earth. She earned her stripes on Earth. Now she is in Heaven where she will fight for her loved ones and for the Jewish people, just as she always did for them here on Earth.
Though her field of operations is now in a realm we cannot reach physically, spiritually she remains with us, and her holy soul is here today, comforting the mourners and giving us the strength to go on.
I have had the honor in my lifetime of being closely associated with 2 living Jewish heroes - my husband, Jonathan Pollard, and my mother Rose Caron Zeitz. My husband is the kind of larger-than-life hero that books are written about and movies are made of --- he is the stuff of legend. My mother was a different kind of Jewish hero. She was the quiet unsung hero, whose very presence in the world changes it forever. She was the epitome of Jewish courage, wisdom, strength, and endless kindness and bountiful love. She lit up the world, one person at a time, with each person she came into contact with, with each soul she touched in her lifetime. She leaves behind a legacy of love and light that will only continue to grow and increase in all who had the honor to know her.
Mom, I know you are here with us today. Even at a time that is so sad for us, we all feel your light and love and warmth enveloping us, tempering our mourning and helping us to sustain the incredible burden of the loss of your physical presence in our lives. How can we honor such a great and pure soul. What words could ever explain who she was and what she meant to each and every one of us?
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught that it is possible to know everything there is to know about a person just by observing the way the person makes a single dot on a piece of paper. Similarly, the beauty of a flower is observable in a single petal, and the complexity of life is demonstrated in a single living cell. Mom, if I can succeed in explaining to you what you mean to Jonathan and me, then perhaps everything that needs to be said, will be said.
For Jonathan and me, you have been a model of unconditional love and a source of boundless inspiration. Because our own situation, for so very many years, has been so unique, we have had the honor and the privilege of knowing you in a way that is far more intimate and far more complex than one would ever believe possible of a parent and children so separated by time and distance but so thoroughly joined at the heart.
Jewish tradition teaches that the value of life is supreme. Any amount of life, no matter how difficult, no matter how painful, no matter how fleeting, is a gift. Life is so valuable that our tradition enjoins us not to waste a second of it, nor to hasten its end in any way, even if only by seconds. Your entire life has been a living lesson to others in how to cherish life. We have watched you embrace life, and cling to every second as if it were the most precious gift there were. We never once heard you complain - about anything!
Even in the early years of your life, when health was less of an issue, there were other difficulties and hardships - growing pains, parnusseh issues, the ups and downs of marriage, the roller coaster ride of raising five strong-minded, strong-willed children and then the joys and issues of grandparenthood. No matter what challenges you were given, you never complained. Throughout the years, whenever we have asked you about some trying times you have lived through, or some particularly difficult period in your life, you always seemed surprised. When we asked how you got through it, you always replied "I always trusted in G-d, and He showed me the way. I have been very lucky. I have had a good life."
As the years went by, and time took more and more of toll on your health, still your joy in life never diminished. No matter how much pain or difficulty or limitation was imposed upon the additional gifts of time that you were given, again we never once heard you complain. Even when the challenges of living your daily life became so enormous that most ordinary human beings would have given up, you woke up everyday thanking G-d for your life. Every day, you smiled, you laughed, you joked with others, you brought cheer and light to the lives of all of those around you, and you blessed G-d for each and every second that He gave you. Not long ago I remarked to you that we have never heard you complain, you replied, "Why should I complain? I am happy to be alive! If I am having a harder time these days, it has only made me all the more grateful for how good I have had it up until now!"
Your appreciation for the gift of life and the pleasure you take in every moment of life, so pleased your Creator, that He miraculously kept granting you more and more of life - in spite of all odds, and in contravention of all medical fact.
In the story of Job, the Sutan asks G-d to test Job to see if he will be as faithful to G-d in a time of suffering and pain, and love G-d as much in sorrow as in good times. G-d tries Job, over and over again, reducing him from a state of good health, marital, familial and economic fullness to a state of abject misery, loss, bereavement, ill health and poverty. No matter what hardship Job suffers, his love of G-d remains constant; his faith remains firm.
So too did your faith and love of G-d remain absolute and constant, in spite of the years of steadily increasing hardship, continuously decreasing health, and in spite of the daily challenges you faced. The story of Job is an inspiration; but to witness the same attitude and outlook in a real live person in every day life is simply overwhelming. You did not set out to teach love of life on the level of words, but through your actions and through the life you lived, you taught all around you to appreciate the gift of life, and to love our Creator unconditionally.
Speaking of unconditional love you were never one for talking, always one for doing. And in doing you made your life a model of unconditional love. I could write a book on how many different ways you have done this, and perhaps some day I will, but for now a few examples. Look around at the people nearest and dearest to you. What a collection of souls. Look at your friends and family. Again, quite a varied crew. Look at all the loves in your life. Such diversity, yet all share one thing in common. Everyone in your life, your family, friends, children and grandchildren feel close to you. People you hardly know take a liking to you and feel close to you. Everybody loves Rosie. Why? Because you listened. Because you cared. Because you never asked anyone to earn your love - you just gave it. You never conditioned your love on good behavior, kind treatment, money, gifts, intelligence, position or power in a relationship. You always accepted each person in your life, as is, warts and all; and loved each one and listened to each one as if they were the most important person in the world at that moment. This is the true meaning of love. It grows through the giving, not the taking. How few people know this, and how rich in love are those, like yourself, who do.
A very personal example of unconditional love is the love you extended to Jonathan and me right from the start, nearly 2 decades ago. Today, it is conventional wisdom that Jonathan is an Israeli national hero, and the injustice of his case is universally recognized. Today, the rank anti-Semitism which drove his life sentence is well known, and even his worst enemies bear him a grudging appreciation for his courage and his endurance.
But that's not the way it was when Jonathan came into my life or into yours. Back then, because of government lies and collusion with the media Jonathan's case was an object of derision and scorn; his motive suspect; and his legacy in doubt. But the government lies and the slander in the media did not deter you; nor did it stop you from accepting him as part of the family, without reservation.
You were the first one to welcome Jonathan into the family, and you were the only one who blessed our marriage right from the outset, even despite the knowledge that it might not be easy for us. You have been there for us from the start, and your faith, love, kindness, encouragement, and inspiration never wavered for even a second. Others may not understand, but Jonathan loves you as much as I do; and that is a tribute to the kind and quality of love you have always extended to him and to us. Unconditional love, pure and simple.
But that's not all you gave. What few people know is that you are one of the unsung heroes of the Pollard case. Whatever we have accomplished until now would not have been possible without your devotion and your hands-on help, over and over again throughout the years. The ways in which you contributed and participated are numerous and each example speaks volumes of praise. Here are some of our favorites:
You were our "living link" during a very, very difficult time in our life. Over the years, Jonathan needed me to go to Israel on numerous missions: to fight for his citizenship, to fight for his agent status, to go to court, to raise public consciousness and so on. I could not do the work there without being able to speak with him and consult with him. But, back in the bad old days, in the earlier years, he was not permitted to call me in Israel. So you came to the rescue. You became our living link.
Jonathan would call you, and you would take his calls in shorthand or on tape (a really confusing task for someone not used to taping phone calls). Later I would call and you would relay Jonathan's call by reading your notes or playing the recording. You would then take notes from me to Jonathan (no tapes since he was not allowed to hear them.) The most important thing you did was to keep reassuring each of us that the other was fine, and that our love was secure, and that we wished each other strength and success.
Even when we were not fine, you reassured us that we were fine and to keep going and be strong! Without you as our "living link," providing us with constant contact to each other and assuring our ability to communicate, we would have been unable to function. Thanks to you, we were able to accomplish amazing things under very harsh circumstances.
It was not just the time, energy and effort that you devoted to us at the time. It was the love that you poured into the job of keeping the lines of communication between Jonathan and me open. It was the fullness of heart with which you approached the task day in day out, with enthusiasm and joyfulness - never a complaint. Is it any wonder that Jonathan today feels so close to you, and loves you as much as I do?
How about the hundreds of times I woke you up at all hours of the night, calling from Israel, from the US, or even from Toronto to ask you to audit text and vet it. So many documents, so many essays, so many articles and letters on the Pollard case needed to be vetted by someone with a good ear and a keen understanding. You were always willing to listen, no matter how late the hour and no matter how tedious the subject. Based on your feedback, corrections, adjustments, deletions and additions were made until the material was just right. When you were through commenting, the text was clear and could be understood by all. If no changes were needed, having your stamp of approval was the ultimate confirmation.
Or how many times did we have to make split second decisions on difficult issues, and your wisdom made all the difference. As our good friends will tell you, whenever I needed to make a difficult decision and Jonathan was not available, I would call the only person I know whose ego does not get in the way of an honest opinion - my mother! Your advice to me, to this day, so clearly comes only from the heart and has our best interest at heart. That is what has made having your in-put on so many critical issues over the years, so valuable, to me and to Jonathan.
Indeed, in your selflessness, you set me free to be with Jonathan at a time when that was what was most needed. Even as your own health was diminishing and it would not have been unreasonable for you to insist on calling me home, you insisted that I should stay in North Carolina with Jonathan. You said that you were fortunate to have other people close by, but that Jonathan has only me and that I should remain with him until we could come to you together. You always knew and we knew that our hearts are permanently joined wherever we are. You blessed us and set us free of guilt or sorrow to enable us to continue to wage the battle for justice. Your merit in the mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim is beyond measure, and the love and appreciation we feel for you is beyond words.
Your model of selflessness and devotion is paralleled by the example you set in growing and changing with the times. One of the most inspirational things that you have done is to show us all how resilient the human spirit is, and how love is can blossom at any age. Your willingness to open yourself up to love and to fall in love again at age 76 is truly inspirational. Your relationship with Abe is a joy for all to behold. That you are precious to each other is obvious. That you extend such consideration and kindness to each other is a joy to behold and a model of caring and kindness for all.
In addition to your relationship with Abe, one has to marvel at how universally loved and respected you are by your friends and neighbors. When you first went to live at the Steger and I visited, all that the average eye could see were retired people, many were elderly and others were infirm. You did not see the elderly and infirm - you saw new opportunities for chessed - new friends, and people you could reach out to and assist.
Your life at the Steger became a model of chessed. You became the ombudsman for all the residents, running interference with management; handling complaints; writing letters; assisting residents with personal problems; organizing and running a knitting club to donate the products to local hospitals; collecting money for charitable causes; planning entertainment; collecting and distributing money for employee year-end tips; and on and on and on.
Even though your health issues were serious enough to have permitted you to remain on the sidelines, you were always front and center, helping others, giving, doing, sharing, caring and helping. Nothing has changed. Even when you were physically limited, the love, caring and concern that you freely shared, remained as abundant as ever.
I could continue for volumes, and there still would never be enough words to explain the kind of role model, teacher, and source of inspiration that you continue to be to all who knew you, and especially to those who knew you well. In the final months and weeks of your life, you taught us more about living than most people learn in a lifetime. You showed us that in order to leave this world well, one must live in it well. In the face of debilitating physical challenges which would have stymied and embittered any ordinary person, your courage, your dignity, your indomitable spirit, and your absolute faith in the Creator - that all that He sends us is for the good - was a powerful lesson to all.
Throughout your worst moments and in spite of excruciating physical pain, you maintained your sense of humor, your compassion and your generosity of soul. You went right on extending yourself to others, sharing light and laughter and love with everyone who entered your sphere - family, friends and strangers alike. This is Jewish greatness. True Jewish heroes, unlike Hollywood heroes, the closer you scrutinize them, the more their greatness is revealed. Our tradition teaches us that a wicked person is dead even in life; and a righteous person lives on even in death.
When we were very young, you used to reassure us that no matter what, you would always be with us. You said that in life and in death you would always live on in our lives and in our hearts. That if we listened to our hearts we would always hear you. Your model is powerful; the impression your words and deeds and actions have made in the lives of all who know you and so love you is indelible. Indeed you will live on in all of our hearts, and, you will continue to be as much with us in death as you were in life. Beloved and cherished mother, friend, confidante, teacher, model and our personal hero, Rayzl Bracha bat Lipe v'Frima, our loss is Heaven's gain. May G-d welcome a new Rose into the Garden of Eden and may you bask in His eternal light forever! Amain!