"I got you a gift for your birthday" Moshe whispered to me, as we were going to sleep Monday night, reminding me that my birthday had arrived (according to the Jewish calendar, each new day actually begins during the night before the new date).
"That's sweet," I answered, as I drifted off to sleep.
"I'll give it to you tomorrow," he said, "on the day of your birthday."
"OK," I answered, only briefly wondering what he could possible get for me. (I am not into Jewelry or other traditional gifts)
But the next morning, we rushed off to the Brit (ceremony of circumcision, marking the entrance of a Jewish boy into the covenant of Abraham) of Moshe's sister's 8 day old son. The morning was spent in joyous celebration of someone else's birthday. I didn't even remember my own.
Later in the afternoon, we were all home, in anticipation of the snow storm. I went into my room, to rest, and surprised my husband and daughter, who asked me to leave the room. As I left the room, I suggested that my room isn't the best place to prepare surprises for me. My merry elves, agreed, but did not move their workshop.
A few minutes later, Moshe gathered the kids together to sing "Happy Birthday" to me. Y presented me with a "Happy Birthday" sign, and was a bit insulted when I noted that everything was spelled correctly. (I thought I was complimenting her....)
Then Moshe handed me the gift (which Y proudly announced that she had wrapped). I could tell it was a book. And, once again, I wondered what kind of present Moshe would choose for me.
As I opened the wrapping paper, I saw that it was actually two books. Then I noticed the gold covers, and knew what books they were.
Every year, shortly after Pesach, for one full week, ALL books in Israel are on Sale. This week is called Shavua HaSefer (Book Week) and it is a wonderful Israeli tradition. In Jerusalem, there is a large, outdoor fair, open from morning until late at night. Each publisher has a small stand and it's possible to wander for hours, from stand to stand, examining hundreds (thousands!) of books)
Moshe and I wanted to purchase updated map books and siddurim (prayer books), so we waited for Shavua HaSefer, when we'd be able to get everything in one place, and on sale. I thought Moshe would go by himself, but he thought it would be fun to go together. So we made a "date."
When we arrived at the fair, I thought we'd kind of walk around, look at a few book stands and absorb the atmosphere. Even if we had the funds to buy more books, we were out of space on our bookshelves. Nevertheless, Moshe wanted to visit every single publisher's stand (and there are a lot!). I could have skipped most of them, but Moshe found books that interested him in almost every stand.
There were a few stands that interested me, mostly the stands of publishers who publish Israeli history books and books for tour guides (I had hoped, before I got cancer again, to resume my work as an educational tour guide). Ariel Publishers had many interesting books, including a book by Prof. Eilat Mazar, about her archaeological discoveries at Ir David (the City of David). But the book that really caught my eye was a gold covered book with pictures of Jerusalem at the turn of the century (late 1800's to early 1900's). "There is another volume," pointed out the salesman, "one is of the Old City, and the other is of the New City."
Moshe and I stood there, flipping through the pictures. "Look at this one," I kept saying to Moshe, transported back in time to the places that I know so well. I knew Moshe wouldn't object if I wanted to purchase them, but I was acutely aware of our budget. Reluctantly, I put the books down. We moved on.
As we moved from stand to stand, it became clear that the fair was going to close before we had time to visit every stand. "I want to come back tomorrow," Moshe declared. "That's fine with me," I responded, "but you're coming on your own. I don't have the patience to do this again." It worked out well, because the store with the siddurim (prayer books) didn't have enough of the kind we wanted, and would bring more the next day.
Over the loudspeakers, we heard the announcement that the fair was ending for the day. On our way out, we passed the Yad Yitzchak Ben Tzvi stand. It was huge, and had many books that interested me. I almost bought one of the Jerusalem tour books, but I couldn't decide if I should get it in Hebrew or English. The Hebrew version is a bit more comprehensive, but the English is easier for me. I hate decisions, so I put it off (until next year...).
Not surprisingly, we were among the last to leave the fair.
Back to the Present:
As I pulled the books out, I was touched that Moshe had remembered how much I loved those books.
"But we didn't get them on sale," I blurted out, without thinking.
"We didn't?" Moshe asked, with a sly grin.
"You bought them during Shavua HaSefer?" I asked in disbelief.
Moshe just smiled.
He had bought them, and hid them for 6 months, so that he could give them to me for my birthday.
"Thank you," I said, as the tears rolled down my cheeks, "thank you."
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,
The Lessons of Roy H. Porter Jr.
8 hours ago