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True Beauty

True Beauty

My Bubby's Life


I had always loved visiting my grandmother's home. For me, it was beauty as it was meant to be. Every item had been carefully chosen and thoughtfully placed. The silver and crystal in her china closet shone in perfect arrangement, as if in symphonic harmony. Her inimitable collection of miniatures and souvenirs perched on the simple wooden ledge above her kitchen sink seemed to dance in affirmation to the love and respect of the children and grandchildren who had offered her these gifts. And then there were her paintings. As I grew up, the characters and places depicted in the paintings on her wall became a part of my imagination. In my mind's eye, each of these paintings delineated a perspective of reality that evolved as I learned to see the world through her wise eyes.

I learned to see the world through her wise eyesThen she was gone. On that morning, it was my mother's tear-stained face that greeted me at her door. And for the first time, through my own tears, I noticed the scarcity in my grandmother's home. Suddenly, I saw the simplicity of her furnishings and the improvisation of her decor. The paintings drooped in lifelessness, and the walls that had reverberated with singing and gatherings at Shabbat meals and during holiday meals stood in silent mourning. The beauty was gone. The warmth had evaporated. G‑d had taken my Bubby's soul, and we were left to grieve.

As I stood by her bedroom window overlooking Eastern Parkway, the sorrow of my heart overflowed through my eyes. I could not hold back the tears. I longed for one more late night conversation at the kitchen table, one more piece of advice from a woman who had shaped my character while I wasn't looking.

I wandered listlessly around the house searching for the splendor I had become accustomed to on visits to her home. It had departed, leaving behind a simple apartment and basic furnishings. There was no more grandeur; gone was the majesty. The emptiness engulfed me. I was devastated.

It was just a few years prior that I was swollen with pride when I had brought my husband-to-be to Bubby's beautiful home. But now I sat on her old, green sofa, and noticed for the first time the cracks in the paint on her walls. Was beauty a momentary illusion? An evanescent fantasy?

What, I wondered, was beauty? How could beauty be defined?

I realized it cannot, and its greatness lies in our inability to define it. It is so refined, so real, it transcends us. No words can do justice to its description. It is forever intangible, leaving us in awe; we are often hypnotized by its power- just as I was hypnotized by Bubby.

It is so refined, so real, it transcends us In a world where feminism has struggled to define the individuality of women and their place in society, the Jewish woman stands alone, perpetually undefined. G‑d, Himself, does not oblige women to define and express their connection to Him with time-bound commandments. He has given her the gifts of modesty and elevating her home through which she safeguards a beauty so brilliant, so radiant that our Creator has entrusted her alone to bring a precious soul, a part of G‑d Himself, down to this world. It is she who has been given the responsibility of raising the next generation of Jews.

The Jewish woman epitomizes the strength and triumph of Jewish continuity, the Jewish home. Furniture and décor form the vessels of the house in which she builds a Jewish home, yet it is she alone who infuses her home, her husband and her children, with enough warmth and joy to be proud Jews in the outside world. Bubby loved to talk about the lives of the truly "rich and famous"-- men and women who were known for their legendary self-sacrifice and love of their neighbor and whose riches followed them to the next world.

Bubby had succeeded in imparting the depth and beauty of a generation shaped by struggle and self-sacrifice to an American generation of children and grandchildren spoiled by abundance and comfort. Bubby had built a Jewish home, worthy of a word used when other words are not enough… Bubby's home was simply beautiful, but Bubby's "beautiful" was galaxies away from simple.

As I walked through her apartment one last time, I cried bitterly, envisioning the bags and boxes that would reduce her palace to a pile of neatly piled belongings. The cry of my six- month-old daughter snapped me out of my reverie, and I thought of the Jewish home that G‑d was giving me the opportunity to build, and through my tears I smiled. Bubby had managed to impart the greatest lesson without even saying a word.

Frayda Kaplan lives in Hampstead, QC, where she and her husband are program coordinators for the local Chabad House while taking care of their growing family. Frayda is also the Curriculum Coordinator of Judaic Studies In Beth Rivkah Elementary School in Montreal, QC.
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Laya Tzfat August 17, 2016

Beautiful Tribute to your Bubby! Her legacy lives in you in such beautiful ways. May her neshama have an aliya every time you shine your holy light into this world! Thanks for sharing. Reply

Sharon montreal July 21, 2013

Beautiful..both ladies, contnent and article!
Frayda, you never cease to impress me with your warmth, kindness , beauty and intelligence.
Yasher Koach! Reply

Y Cohen August 1, 2012

Really nice frayda Beautifully written. Because of our visits to ch and staying by your bubbys I had the merit to have met her. May her soul have an elevation. Reply

Laykie Donin Houston, TX July 31, 2012

thanks fraida thanks for sharing. i remember going to visit your bubby with my mother. she sure was an elegant, smart lady! Reply

Anonymous Meilen, CH June 25, 2009

True Beauty What a wonderful description.
This article is honouring any Grandmother and Mother in the world.
This kind of women is carrying the world everywhere, following and nursing the roots of life.
Well done... Reply

Chaya Springfield, MA June 23, 2009

Bubby Bubby Geisinsky was my great-grandmother. I didnt see Bubby's house after she passed away, but on the inside of my eyelids I can imagine the emptiness of the apartment without the woman behind all that beauty, my Bubby. Reply

Tamar Lawrence, NY June 22, 2009

Bubby Geisinsky Frayda, your Bubby was all the extended family's Bubby - her outer beauty reflecting the inner, though belying her tremendous strength. This lady, this queen, went through a lifetime of hardship yet forever had a smile on her face and words of quiet wisdom. I loved her, am so grateful to have known her and I miss her greatly... Reply

Malka Miami, Florida June 22, 2009

"home dec" I think that all those slick, new Jewish women's magazines that sometimes over-glorify the phyicality of our homes, our "decor," should read this story, & really take it to heart. The beauty of your Bubby's home, as you so poetically describe it, is 100% recession proof. No bank account, or lack thereof, can add or subtract from that type of regal elegance. At a time when the ranks of the "have-nots" have swellied painfullly amongst the frum community, we all need to rethink how we think about our homes. Re-modeling? Re-decorating? Fancier china? Fanciflul centerpieces? Let's get real, & I mean real in terms of our spiritual homes, & how that can be reflected in thier physical presentation. A warm heart, a warm soul, a chassidishe "varmkeit," a warm home (nah, the temperature & humidity level in Miami doesn't count here...) Let that be our goal. Then we can all have a home like your Bubby's home, and that should lead us speedily to our real home - Yerushelayim with Moshiach! Reply

Anonymous June 22, 2009

thanks thank you Frayda for sharing this with all of us.
May you will meet your grandmother soon with Moshiach . Reply

Katie Sydney, Australia June 22, 2009

Bubby Thank you for your article. You & your children & one day grandchildren are truly blessed to have your Grandmother in your life. You too will be as she was, loving, kind & oh so wise. Reply

D. Shanowitz June 21, 2009

Article on your Bubby Beautiful article. Touching, illuminating, inspiring and welll written.

The lessons offered are eternally relevant and true.

Thank you for sharing. Reply

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