My dear maternal grandmother, Meme Rachel returned her precious soul to Hashem on 7 Shevat. She was 93 years old. My sister in law, Leah told me that when she notified her family, they immediately asked, “Is that the Grandmother who danced at your wedding and was the life of the party?” She rejoiced and danced at all of our family weddings way into her 80’s!
In this week’s Torah reading we read, (Exodus 15:20-21). “And Miriam the Prophetess, the sister of Aharon, took the timbrel in her hand: and all the women followed her with timbrels and dances…” Accompanied by musical instruments, Miriam, who was 80 years old by the redemption from Egypt, led the women to express thanksgiving and praise to Hashem for the miracles, He bestowed upon them.
How was it possible that all the women had tambourines in the desert?” Rashi (Exodus 15:20) answers: “The righteous women of that generation were confident that the Holy One Blessed be He would perform miracles for them, so they prepared tambourines and dances.”
This verse encapsulates Meme Rachel’s life. Despite the hardships she encountered in her life, each day was filled with joy, laughter and dancing too!! She was always ready to sing and dance in the living room or later on in life from her wheelchair. She rejoiced in our Simchos and cried with us in our sorrows. She was the regal matriarch of our family and helped raise her grandchildren and great-children with love and laughter each day.
Chana Laber added, “My great-grandmother returned her special soul to Hashem. Although Meme spoke French, we communicated with love and song, transcending all barriers. We miss you Meme ♥”
Here I was in Troy, NY while my mother and family were sitting Shiva in Jerusalem. I was feeling very sad and my eyes filled with tears. Baby Baruch was crying more than usual and Schneur kept asking me, “What happened Mommy?” I thought to myself, “What would Meme do to cheer us up right now?” So, I offered a tambourine to Baruch and Schneur; we danced with Meme in our hearts and we sang some of her favorite songs. Baruch and Schneur smiled and laughed and I knew Meme was smiling and laughing too.
On Thursday, 9th Shevat, Meme Rachel Emily Bat Shalom was buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. She left a handwritten request saying that her children should bury her in Israel. She was buried opposite her illustrious Great Grandfather, Sidi Bahi Eliyahu Allouche, Chief Rabbi of Constantine, Algeria, and his wife Sara Allouche. Sidi Bahi and his wife Sara made Aliya later in their lives by foot. Meme Rachel’s life was a journey from Constantine to Paris to Montreal and to her final resting place in Jerusalem.
Her wish to be buried in Jerusalem for eternity was fulfilled thanks to the tremendous efforts of her wonderful children, my Mother: Daniella Katzenberg, from Montreal and my Uncle Pierre Bouskila and Aunt Martine Atuille from Paris.
“May the Almighty comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem!”
Meme was buried a few rows from the Ben Ish Chai and the Or Hachaim Hakadosh and 50 ft from the Rashish, In the evening following her Levaya, thousands of people gathered at the grave of the Rashish – Rabbi Shalom Sharabi to commemorate his Yarzeit on 10 Shevat. He is considered the father of all contemporary Kabbalists. Meme was always ready for a Simchah and the “party” was waiting for her on Har Hazeitim. She truly deserves this holy burial spot and it demonstrates her great merit for being a true woman of valor.
Meme’s legacy lives on. We will keep singing, dancing and spreading joy just like Meme. We yearn for the day when “Those who lie in the dust will arise and sing with joy” and Meme and Miriam will lead us all in song and dance forevermore. May it be speedily in our days!
With all my Heart & Soul,
Nechama (Nechama = Comfort)