Rabbi Shimon Leib Eckstein, my beloved Saba, or grandfather, passed away last weekend at the age of 96.
I have never known life without him in it, and although this is a sad new reality to face, my family and I are also using his passing as a way to celebrate his amazing life. I don’t remember ever seeing Saba without a smile on his face, and words of thanks on his lips. His priority was always keeping the family together and worshipping God in joy and celebration.
The Shabbat (or Sabbath) melodies he sang every Saturday, which were passed down for generations by his ancestors in Jerusalem, felt like they were coming straight from heaven. Saba was born in Jerusalem, and I felt him smiling down as we buried him in the ancient soil of the Holy City while singing his favorite song.
There are so many things about Saba that will stay with me forever: the way he always held my hand and kissed it. The way he never ended a telephone conversation with saying “love you” in his most cheerful voice. The way he never stopped thanking God for the blessings in his life, and chose to focus on the good instead of the bad.
My Saba was a very accomplished man; he was once the chief rabbi of Ottawa, Canada, and united a once separated Jewish community there. He finished a prestigious degree after the age of 50, and started a new career when many people are retiring.
But if you asked him, he would always tell you that his greatest accomplishment and source of joy was being married to the love of his life – my grandmother, or Savta – being a father to four, a grandfather to 14, and great-grandfather to over 40.
I will miss you, Saba. May your memory always be for a blessing.
With blessings from the Holy Land,