In September of 1908 a ship sailing from London docked at Ellis Island. On it were my great-grandfather Tzvi Aryeh Tregor and his eldest daughter Alka. From there they made their way to East Boston. While the Ellis Island documents list my great-grandfather’s occupation as a “laborer” in his native Bessarabia, Russia, (his town was called Anchikrok) he became a tailor in America. By 1910 the rest of the family, including my grandfather, arrived. That same year the census taker changed Tregor to Traiger. My great-grandfather opened his own shop which was on the bottom floor of a three-family house; the family lived in the upper two stories. I have letters from several cousins who relate that he was a very kind man (apparently my great-grandmother was the more stern of the pair). He was a religious man who learned Chumash while he sewed. His becoming a tailor and opening his own store was to prevent him from having to work on Shabbat. I have in my possession his Kiddush cup. It is a small silver cup with the scene of a town etched into the side. I sometimes imagine that is his town.
The Talmud relates the story of Honi the Circle Maker. He was called such because during a drought he drew a circle around himself in the sand a declared to HaShem that he would not move from inside that circle until the rain would fall. Honi’s request was granted and rain did indeed fall. In another account of Honi, he encounters an elderly man planting a carob tree. Honi asked the man how long it would take for the carob tree to bear its fruit. The man replied that it would take 70 years. Honi then asked the man if he expected to enjoy the carob. The man’s response was poignant. He said, “Just as my ancestors planted for me, I am planting for my descendants.”
I find this passage very moving. The passage is told as a way to explain a verse from Psalms 126, “When HaShem will return the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers . . .”. The man planting the tree was a dreamer, he was looking into the future and dreaming of his descendants and leaving something behind for their benefit.
We just finished Pesach where we recalled our Biblical ancestor’s exodus from Egyptian tyranny. Now we are in the period known as Sefirat HaOmer, counting the days until Shavuot, the time when we commemorate the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Pesach only makes sense in this context for not only is a “Freedom from . . .” necessary, but it needs a “Freedom to . . .” It needs the future.
Perhaps this is our task. It is up to us to plant well for our children, to ensure that they receive the best carob possible. The carob is Jewish tradition. The carob is a quality Jewish education that will sustain them, strengthen them and strengthen the communityLittle did my great-grandfather know that one of the carobs that came from his tree, his Kiddush cup would be used by his great-great grandson (my son). Little did he know that the tree he planted in 1908 would bear wonderful fruit.
May we continue to plant here at GBDS and may we continue to make sure that the tree is nurtured and carob that is produced here is of the highest quality.
Rabbi Yaakov Traiger