Dvora’s Grandmother

Friday, 17 January, 2020 - 4:38 am

This time I want to tell you about a woman who passed away this week: Mrs. Tzippora Barkhan, zichrona livracha, my wife’s grandmother and my children’s great-grandmother. We are in the habit of extolling the special people, the dreamers who have made their dreams come true, those who have unusual aspirations that they actually implement, the successful entrepreneurs.

But not today.

Today I want to tell you about a chassidic woman, who was born to an illustrious Chabad family in one of the centers of Chabad Chassidism and was raised there: the city Kremenchug in the Ukraine. She met her future husband in Samarkand during the war and afterwards lived in Riga, Latvia, until coming on Aliyah in 5729 (1969).

She was a simple and honest woman whose wishes were “only” that her children would be chassidim and G-d fearing. Her husband, the famous Rabbi Notke Barkhan and his friends kept the embers of Riga’s Judaism alive devotedly during the terrible years of Stalin’s terror regime. But not she – all she did was establish and maintain a strong Jewish and chassidic home – simply, without Messirut Nefesh, just with the plain knowledge that this is the only way.

For twenty years they lived in the Holy Land after years of waiting and hoping to be redeemed and to leave the Soviet nightmare, and were an inseparable part of the Chabad community in Lod. In 5749 (1989), only two years after the Soviet Union crumbled as part of Gorbachev’s Perestroika, she left with her husband to become the Rebbe’s emissaries in Riga, Latvia. She was sixty-three years old at the time. Her children had their own families in Israel, and she packed up her life and went back to the “nightmare” she had left just twenty years earlier. If you would have asked her, she would have said that here too there was no self-sacrificing in her deeds – it was just the way to go, and she’s a Chabadnik who does what has to be done, what the Rebbe requests.

She was so simple and standard that in every meeting with her grandchildren she asked them mainly about how they were making a living. She asked that they buy themselves apartments, because every person needs an apartment and financial security, because one must work and one needs money.

Tzippora Barkhan passed away at the venerable age of 94, with more than one hundred and thirty descendants mourning her. She merited to see her “standard” wishes come true. All her descendants are chassidim and G-d fearing Jews and this is a blessing, of course, and a merit that is not to be taken for granted, certainly not then, in Soviet Russia. And between us, not today either. And yes, she lived to see that they are all working and earning a nice living, and that too is not an insignificant thing.

May we all merit such a life!


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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