By Rob Goldberg
My beloved parents, Judy and Larry Goldberg, are buried in the Temple Beth Am section of White Chapel Cemetery. My wife Shira and I often ride our bikes there in the summer months to pay our respects to them and to visit her parents’ graves, located just south of my parents in the Temple Sinai section.
Earlier this year, my sister Susan and I ordered a new cemetery marker for our mother, one that would match the marker at our father’s gravesite. When I went to the office at White Chapel to confirm the Hebrew inscription for the new stone, I was struck that their Hebrew names are virtually identical: Yehuda and Yehudit respectively, the Hebrew name of Judah and its feminine equivalent.
This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tisa, (Exodus 30:11-34:35), introduces Betzalel, the artisan who was placed in charge of building the Ark of the Covenant and assisted by Oholiab (Exodus 31:1-6). Betzalel is singled out because God endowed him with a “divine spirit of skill, ability and knowledge….” It is also noted that he is a member of the tribe of Judah.
Judah was the fourth son of the patriarch Jacob and his first wife, Leah. The word “Jew” derives from Judah, ultimately an ancient kingdom centered south of Jerusalem. The tribe of Judah not only produced the great kings David and Solomon, but as prophesied, the Messiah would come from among its members.
And of particular importance to me, is that Yehudah has as its root, Hodaah, translated as “giving thanks.” The name Yehudah can be translated literally as “thanksgiving.”
Had they lived, my parents would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary today. Seventy is holy number in Judaism representing completeness and wisdom: there were 70 elders who assisted Moses in the desert (Exodus 24:1, Numbers 11:16) and the Sanhedrin (high court) in the Land of Israel would later consist of 70 judges.
In our tradition, we honor the life of an individual who has died by marking the anniversary of their death with a yahrzeit, an opportunity to remember the impact they made during their lifetime. Yet we don’t have anything built into our culture to do the same for anniversaries. Perhaps it should be something similar – a “yahrzeit” if you will – to commemorate a marriage and its legacy after the married couple is no longer alive.
So today, February 18, I remember my parents and all that they accomplished together: like Betzalel and Oholiab, building a life together, shaping careers (my father a CPA and my mother an elementary school teacher), fashioning a Jewish home and deep community connection through Temple Beth Am (now Congregation Shir Shalom), and most importantly, for bringing my sister and me into the world. And for that, as is reflective of their Hebrew names, I am thankful for their lives together and for their enduring legacy.
Happy 70 Anniversary, Mom and Dad. May you always be together in eternal rest.
Rob Goldberg is a Buffalo native and currently CEO of Buffalo Jewish Federation.