Children will often ask, when
they’ve gotten old enough, “Who am I named after? If a grand parent is within earshot, they
will answer, perhaps with a lump in their throats, “You’re named after your great grandfather or great grandmother. Sometimes you will see a grandmother or grandfather at a bris
weeping openly, thanking Hashem that their beloved parent finally has a name.
Then there are Jews whose parents and even grand parents, had through no fault
of their own, drifted so far from their Jewish roots that they don’t realize
any significance in giving their children Jewish names. This is the true story of one such child and how the facts of his Jewish name unfolded after he grew up.
Jerry even as a very young child always knew he was Jewish but he didn’t
know what it meant or how to relate to it. His memories were mixed with him
eagerly awaiting to hearing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, Pesach he excitingly
recalls crawling under the table to try to be the first to swap the matzah and
Chanukah he happily remembers lighting the candles, playing dradle and
receiving many gifts. However, all the other days of the year were without any
remnant of Jewish heritage or consciousness. Throughout his teenage years, he felt
restless somehow realizing that there was much more to life than just material
goals, therefore in the late sixties Jerry put on his backpack filled with
empty “containers of hope” and started to search for a way of life that would
be more meaningful and purposeful. After almost a full year of wandering and
exploration in cultures foreign to the West, Jerry fortunately, in a “last” ditch
effort to explore his Jewish ness flew to Eretz Israel and, B.H. began learning
in a yeshiva for ba’alei teshuvah.
One day the Rav of the Yeshiva asked Jerry what his Jewish name was, to
which he shyly replied that he, among most of his peers in his temple, was only
given English name, whereupon the Rav compassionately and sensitively suggested
to him that he would be greatly spiritually enhanced if he would choose a
After thoughtful deliberation, Jerry chose the combined names of Yosef
Dovid and at the very next reading of the Sefer Torah he was proudly called up,
at the age of twenty-fours years old, for his first aliya and the official
giving of his Jewish name.
Twenty years later Yosef Dovid’s brother became
interested in genealogy and decided to trace the family’s
roots. This brother is a research scientist
and approached this task with all of the same energy and discipline of detail
that he has poured into his other projects.
He began by researching their mother’s side of the family-tree being
able to only go back three generations. One day he called Yosef Dovid to inform
him of his progress, telling over the names a number of relatives that he had
discovered. Upon hearing the name Dovid in the list, Josef Dovid asked him
again which relative he was? His brother answered that he was their mother’s
grandfather. Yosef Dovid realized that if he had been given a Jewish name at
birth, he could not have been named after his grandfathers since they were both
alive at the time and his parents would have had naturally looked to one of the
great grandfathers for a name. This was an exciting revelation and helped Yosef
Dovid feel even more connected, because of one of the names he had chosen, to
the unbroken chain of his Jewish lineage.
A few months later Yosef Dovid’s brother, still in pursuit of genealogical information,
called to share his latest discovery
which was the name of the small town near Strasburg, Germany named Dimerringen,
that had been home to their father’s side
of the family for a number of generations. Located on the French boarder,
Dimmerengen’s cemetery and historical records including statistical lineage
were somehow amazingly preserved through two world wars and territorial
disputes between Germany and France over the last few hundred years.
On a subsequent trip from Eretz Israel to America, Yosef Dovid arranged
for a one day stop over in Strasburg. Immediately upon landing, he took a taxi
from the airport to the train station in Strasbourg. As he entered the huge
station with its vaulting ceilings, pre-conscious memories stirred. Then like
in a dream he was momentarily transported in time, watching wraithlike,
tattered remnants of a once proud nation filling the crowded platforms trying
to make an exodus to safety on trains bound for a very different destination.
He shook his head and the vision dissolved. The present day noise and bustle of
this busy station took its place. As he bought a ticket for the last train for
Dimerringen, the ticket agent told him to hurry because the train would be leaving
in just a few minutes.
With heavy suitcases in hand, Yosef Dovid
moved briskly up a flight of stairs and as he approached the platform, the
train waiting there blew its whistle and started to pull ever so slowly out of
the terminal. Realizing that this might
be his only opportunity in the near future to visit his ancestral home, he
began running toward the departing train that was still creeping along the
tracks. As he got closer and closer to the last car, he began to sweat and
could barely catch his breath. His legs
wobbled and his knees nearly buckled under the heavy weight of his suitcases.
Just inches from the steps of the last car, with a last desperate surge of energy,
he reached out to grab the hand rail and haul himself aboard. But, just at that moment, the train picked up
speed and moved out of his reach, leaving a sad and exhausted Yosef Dovid
standing helplessly at the edge of the platform.
He sat down on a nearby bench to catch his
breath, rest his weary body and quiet his emotions. After a few difficult moments,
he tried to resolve to not feel disappointed, coming to the realization of
everything that happens is decreed from on High and therefore even if not
understood is good and even beneficial.
As Yosef Dovid was in the middle of reframing his disappointment to submissive
acceptance of Divine will, another train pulled up on the same track. The loud
speaker announced in German some message which included the name Dimerringen.
He found an employee who spoke some English and this employee informed him that
this was the right train and added that the other train was going in a
completely different direction. Yosef Dovid then whispered a prayer of thanks
to the Creator as he happily and now unhurriedly boarded the train.
The entire ride was spent in praise of The Creator for allowing him to
miss the first train –what a switch of consciousness! Once in Dimerringen, he
took a taxi to the outskirts of the city where the Jewish cemetery was located.
As he brother had been told the entire Jewish cemetery had miraculously
remained intact. As he walked about looking for the family plot, his eyes fell
upon an entire section of about eighty monuments all bearing his family name. Based
upon some of the dates on the inscriptions, it was clear that the time line traveled
up the family tree for many generations.
He quickly jotted down the names and their dates of birth and death.
Time was short as he had to catch the last train back to Strasbourg before his
flight. Just as he was about to leave,
he spotted a small monument in the corner of the plot that was almost
completely covered with vines. He quickly walked towards it, bent down and
cleared the greenery away from the stone. This stone was clearly the oldest of
them all, dating back over two hundred years. When Yosef Dovid managed to
decipher the worn and faded engraving that spelled out the Hebrew name, he
stood speechless and in awe in front of it. The name on the monument was Yosef!
Later Yosef Dovid joyfully discovered through his brother’s research that he was a
direct lineal eighth generation descendent of the Yosef whose resting place he
Those two great grandfathers, Yosef from his father’s side and Dovid
from his mother side waited patiently under the Heavenly throne and only when
this sensitive soul many generations later, who would eventually return to his
Jewish heritage, was born that the Heavenly realm decreed their names be
rekindled and eventually revealed through this soul.
always knows who we are and why we are here, hopefully someday that knowledge
is also shared with us.
The ways of Hashem are wondrous!
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