More than 40 years later, I still miss him. It’s my grandfather’s yahrtzeit this week, always a time for reflection and introspection on my grandfather’s life, and as his descendant, on my own. There’s an invisible love linking my children to the great-grandfather whose face they never had a chance to see, but whose heart and soul they have come to know through the stories I have told.

The stories we tell possess great power. TheThe stories we tell possess great power stories we tell about our legacy and history are the generation connectors that become the form through which our children view their lives and identities.

I feel the power of the Biblical command: “Remember.”

There are many mitzvot that require remembrance: Shabbat, Egyptian slavery, Amalek, Zion, Torah. As Moses our teacher implores in his majestic farewell poem: “Remember the days of old, understand the years of every generation.”1 Our heritage is a continued process that will never come to an end.

And I, too, must remember and recount ...

It was Sunday, Rosh Hashanah eve exactly a year ago. I was standing in the slow-moving checkout line at Sobey’s grocery store musing about how comforting it was to come home to Toronto for the holidays when suddenly a voice excitedly calling my name broke through my reverie. I looked up to see an old friend of the family who I had not seen in years approaching me.

Batya, welcome home! How nice to see you,” he greeted me warmly. After exchanging abridged versions of the last decade of our lives, we waved a quick good-bye as it was finally my turn at the register. Concentrating on maneuvering my shopping cart through the throngs of holiday shoppers, I was surprised to see him waiting at the exit.

“I waited for you,” he said, “because I forgot to tell you something that I know you will want to hear.” He continued, “a few months ago, I was at an international business conference and was introduced to two brothers from Toronto. I was surprised at the dichotomy between them. The younger brother was a renowned activist and revolutionary in Jewish education, an observant Jew. The older brother made no secret of the fact that he was completely absent from the Jewish scene. Some time later, I found myself seated at a luncheon next to the younger brother. I asked him how it was that two brothers from the same home turned out so differently. He replied, ‘It’s very simple. I had Rabbi Schochet as my teacher in junior high, my brother did not.’ ”

I thanked him warmly for sharing the heartwarming story about my grandfather’s impact and took my leave. In the privacy of my car, driving the familiar streets of my native town, I ruminated. I now had an unexpected treasure, a new anecdote to share with my children later this week on my grandfather’s yahrtzeit.

My grandfather—a tall, handsome, articulate, scholarly intellect who was at ease in the company of the greatest minds of his generation—had come to America with the expectation that he would assume a position befitting his stature as a rosh yeshivah (dean of a Talmudic academy). Somehow, life did not go according to plan, and he ended up in Toronto teaching in Associated Hebrew Day Schools, where he was able to switch gears and delve deep for something that would awaken the faith within his students and inspire and uplift them.

A number of yearsHe chose to remain a day-school educator later, he was indeed inundated with offers of prestigious positions. He declined, explaining that those who sought a serious yeshivah education would remain involved Jewish adults with him or without him—teaching them yet another difficult passage of Talmud or explaining a discourse would not determine their life’s path. He chose instead to remain a day-school educator to make a real difference in his students’ journeys—in who they would become and how they would impact those around them.

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; a wise man acquires souls.”2

I pulled into the driveway at my parent’s house ready for Yom Tov to begin and for the world to slow down as I was enveloped in my parents’ warmth, replenishing the treasure house of my memories.