A Fire Destroyed the Home of my Family and the Heart of our Community by Breindy Klawanksy

A Fire Destroyed the Home of my Family and the Heart of our Community by Breindy Klawanksy

[This past Thursday, a gas-heater explosion burned down the family home of Johannesburg community rabbi and Rosh Kollel, Rabbi Yechezkel and Rebbetzin Hadassah Auerbach. B”H, there were no injuries. In this poem, daughter Breindy reminisces about what their home meant to the Auerbach’s 10 children and to their entire community].

I’m mourning for the walls.
The walls that watched 8 Julia Street East.
Watched my mother daven for her children, every Friday night. My mother knows how to daven for her children.
I’m mourning for the walls of 8 Julia Street that soaked in the chesed.
The endless, endless acts of kindness.
You see, my parent’s home, 8 Julia street, was never a normal house.
How could it have been?
Anyone who was ever there remembers the many, many photos on the walls.
Someone who wasn’t religious at all once came into our house and asked me whether Jewish law required pictures to be hung crooked.
All those photos, those crooked photos watched the kindness,
and the learning.
The very, very beautiful lilting tune of my father’s learning in the early morning.
And the smell of the coffee next to his sefer.
The walls of 8 Julia Street East would also tell you about that man who slept in the study every night and that woman who slept in the pink room every Friday night for years.
Those walls could tell you so many things,
But they couldn’t tell you how it felt to sit at that long Shabbos table.
Where the meals were short, simple, down-to-earth. Unglamorous yet so rich.
I don’t mean that the food was unglamorous, the delicious Hungarian dishes served on exquisite Wedgewood dishes,
I don’t mean that the atmosphere was down-to-earth. On the contrary, the singing, the warmth, the holiness were not of this world at all!
It was wonderfully down-to-earth and simple in that you didn’t have to do anything or be anything to sit at that long table. Everyone was welcome, whenever they showed up, come as you are.
There are ten of us children. And now we have our own children.
And I’m still too scared to tell my daughter, Rychel, and my son, Alex that 8 Julia is no longer there. If 8 Julia is gone, well then, what is there?
If the walls that watched all the magic are no longer there,
where is that magic and humility now?
Where is the charity box that held the tzedoka that my father dedicated so much time to collect? And who can find the smell of the airy spacious sukka?
Where is the study with hundreds of holy books lined up to the ceiling?

The author in her family’s study before the fire

But the story of our home was not a story about seforim.
Or tefilin or tsitsis, even though I watched the fireman hand my father his charred tsitsis and tefillin, which my father calmly placed inside a plastic bag.
It’s a story about a study that made people feel better just by walking into it!
Because the seforim within contained the learning, the kindness, the integrity which they had witnessed over the course of decades.
Oh, but the holy floor, that floor contained the countless footsteps of people
who had walked on it and experienced something unlike anything they’d ever experienced before. Maybe it was the familiar smell? Or the regal presence of Sa, who had seen us all grow up and was like a member of our family
Or it could have been the garden. Or maybe it was the dedication of my mom and dad giving.
Giving of themselves.
And the piano.
how many people did it uplift
when my mother’s hands played to my father’s and brothers’ singing?
All of our friends. All of our friends who wanted to just
be in the house because they knew it always had space for them.
They knew without anyone telling them, when they walked through the green gate of
8 Julia Street East.
This is a shortened version of this post. Read the full original post here.

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