Our father, a"h, was niftar unexpectedly on a
motzei Shabbos in Adar, 2 1/2 years ago (2003). He was 71
When Daddy a"h turned 70, my sister and I were
wondering what gift we could send to our beloved father on
reaching this milestone in life. We came to the conclusion
that since he loved davening more than any other
activity in life, we would present him with an enlarged
edition of the Weekday as well as Shabbos ArtScroll
Siddurim, together with a shtender. Daddy did
not stop mentioning his delight with the new gifts and the
pleasure that he derived from them.
Our beloved mom and ourselves later sat shiva at very
dear friends in Johannesburg, accompanied by two
grandchildren. Daddy was buried there, as we come from a
small country town in South Africa called Kroonstad where
there is no Chevra Kadisha anymore and the community
has dwindled from 600 congregants at the time of our parents'
marriage 43 years ago, to approximately 6 congregants at
No matter how many grave tragedies one has heard in a
lifetime, nothing — but nothing — compares to
hearing of the loss of an immediate family member whom one
has bonded with so closely over time. The shock, disbelief,
and ache is immeasurable.
Having sat shiva in Johannesburg, then came the
dreaded moment of leaving the warm, loving cocoon of comfort
and care experienced at our friend's home. We now had to face
our new reality, the reality of accepting what is
bashert! We now had to travel back to the home of our
childhood memories, memories, memories and a huge, big void.
How were we going to face this transition? Seeing each
other's pain added a different dimension to one's already
We wept as we drove through the town and as we pulled up
outside our home. We're actually all familiar with not being
in each other's company, as I live in Manchester with my
family, and my sister lives in Passaic with her family.
However, the void of a person having departed from this world
is an emptiness that has to be lived in order to grasp it.
Our kind relation ushered us into our home, comforted us a
while and left.
Later that night we all sat in the living room, grieving
together in this quiet little town. I walked to Daddy's
shtender and, seeing the two siddurim, I picked
up the weekday one and said, "Mommy, if there ever comes a
time that you are willing to part with these, please may I
have the weekday siddur?"
Being the emotional type, I would have appreciated having the
siddur that was used more often. Holding the
siddur, I went to sit down on the couch and this is
how the conversation flowed.
We were all experiencing guilt and regret, very common
emotions after the parting of a dear one.
My sister said, "I work in the medical field. Why didn't I
realize that Dad was leaving, when we went to visit him in
the hospital on Shabbos? Why?"
We comforted her saying: "It's bashert! You weren't
meant to grasp that he was on his way. You weren't meant to
Then Mommy said, "I have learnt how to recognize the signs
that a person displays before dying, from the voluntary work
that I do with people in this state. Daddy had all the signs.
Why was I blinded?"
We answered Mom, "It's bashert. You weren't meant to
acknowledge what was happening. It was bashert that we
all weren't at Daddy's bedside."
Then it was my turn to speak between the sobs. "Do you know
how upset I am with myself? When I heard that Daddy's
operation failed and that he hadn't recovered properly from
the second one, I had feelings that Dad was slowly saying
good-bye. The day before Daddy was niftar, I felt
strange and kept wondering if this is the end of his time in
this world. Why did I not act upon my intuition? I missed the
opportunity to give to Daddy in his final moments, to say
good-bye and to be here with you at such a time."
Their response: "It's bashert. You weren't meant to
see Daddy in such a deteriorated state."
Feeling a host of emotions we wept, echoing the words: It's
All this time I was holding daddy's siddur. I looked
at it, then flipped through the pages imagining Daddy holding
it himself, davening with his sincere, good heart,
when suddenly, I discovered a crumpled, rolled up, faxed
document between the pages. I opened it carefully. How on
earth did a document dated Shevat 5756 (1996) end up in a
brand new siddur bought in 2002? Well, my mouth
dropped open as I read the title on the page:
"Understanding the True Meaning of Bashert!"
Was I imagining this?
Daddy always had the right words to encourage us at every
twist and turn on the journey of life. Whatever we
experienced or felt, Daddy always managed to zoom in on the
simplest, most practical, nurturing, encouraging words. And
now, when we experienced the death of a loved one, the most
overwhelming life occurrence, the appropriate
hadrochoh came our way. It's as if Daddy himself
comforted us and made sure that we would not just say the
words, "It's bashert!" but understand exactly what
they mean in order to remove all guilt and regret. And most
of all we would have a mindset showing us how to proceed
amidst the shock.
With disbelief and the glorious feeling of having HaKodosh
Boruch Hu provide a silver lining to our big cloud, I
read out the following from the crumpled page.
"A word which is used to explain away an unfortunate
situation is BASHERT. What happened was ordained from
Heaven and had to be, beyond our control. It was decreed, so
what else could be done!"
The above we knew, but what do we do with this knowledge?
The page continues:
"A woman went to listen to a great pianist. The woman, a
connoisseur of good music, praised the pianist after the
recital, `How could your two hands make such beautiful
"The pianist answered, `Madam, I just obey the great composer
who said, "Put your fingers on the right notes at the right
time and the piano will do the rest!" ' "
Daddy was saying: From your head down to your toes, obey the
instructions of your Great Composer — HaKodosh
Boruch Hu — according to the mitzvos of the Torah,
and Your Composer will guide you to make beautiful music out
of your lives!
This was Daddy's final message to all of us and which I now
share with all of you in his name: ovi morie Mordechai
Ben Avrohom Tzvi, a"h.
Thank you, HaKodosh Boruch Hu. Thank You Daddy for
this most poignant message.
The document was a dvar Torah written by Rabbi S.
Suchard. All the country communities in South Africa receive
a dvar Torah every week by fax which the men in the
kehilloh read together. My father had files of these
divrei Torah on a shelf in the living room.
HaKodosh Boruch Hu finds ways to comfort mourners and
that's why this particular dvar Torah from 1996 found
its way into Daddy's brand new siddur. I could almost
hear Daddy's voice reading these words to us. We are forever
comforted and encouraged.
It's quite astonishing that Daddy's final message was about
accepting an unchangeable fact whilst moving forward with the
knowledge that HaKodosh Boruch Hu will help. Daddy's
strength of character came from his ability to accept
difficult situations while still making the most of life,
bearing in mind that the Eibishter is always there to
help us along.