By Zalmy Berkowitz – ZalmyB.com
In certain circles I am considered to be special. The circles are quite small, but they exist.
Now I’m sure you’re scratching your head trying to figure out why in the world anyone would consider me special. Let me debefuddle you.
My mother (happy mothers day!) is a Carlebach. The Carlebach family is an old and pretty well known name in the Jewish world. Historically they had many great Rabbis in Germany and surrounding countries. My grandfather was quite the scholar and was twins with one of the most famous Jewish composers of all time, Shlomo Carlebach. “Uncle Shlomo”, as we call him, was also a tremendous scholar and brought an excitement about Judasim to thousands of Jews. They even made a broadway musical about him “Souldoctor” (which I have not yet seen).
My mother’s mother (happy mothers day!) is a Schneerson. The Schneerson family comes from Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (his son was called Schneur-son) also known as the first Lubavitch Rebbe. He started and was the first “Rebbe” (grand Rabbi) of the Chabad movement, which now has thousands of communities around the world. We come directly from the third Chabad Rebbe (known as the Tzemach Tzedek), as well as from another great Chassidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitchak of Berditchov.
Also, my great grandparents ran an orphanage during world war two which was very instrumental in saving the lives of many many young Jews. I’ll stop there…
My mother (may she live to be well over a thousand) raised us to be aware of where we came from, but not think it made us in any way better than anyone else. A bit special, but no better. I fact I wasn’t even aware of how awesome it was until some people found out about it in Yeshiva and were like totally in awe.
I have a point, I promise.
For the holiday of Purim, my Bubby (mother’s mother, may she live a long and healthy life) came to California and brought a Megillah (a handwritten Book of Esther, which we read on Purim) which was written by the fourth Chabad Rebbe, known as the Rebbe MaHarash (Rabbi Shmuel). He only wrote three or four megillahs, one of which is in the Library in New York and the other, by Bubby has. It’s a beautiful scroll, in remarkable condition for its age (around two hundred years old) with really wonderful handwriting. The Rebbe wasn’t a scribe, but his doctor told him he should do detailed work with his hands. So he wrote one Megillah for each of his children.
One of his grandchildren had epilepsy, which in those days caused one to be shunned by most of the community. People tend to fear what they don’t understand. Especially epilepsy, as it could look like you’re possessed. My great grandparents (especially my great grandmother) took him under their wings, even as an adult. They fed him, bathed him, and treated him as one of their family. In gratitude he gave them his fathers Megillah (which he got from his father). Which made its way down the family and now belongs to my Bubby
Now, my Bubby is very protective of this Megillah. She does not publicize its whereabouts, or if she’s going to travel with it or not. Unfortunately there are those who covet these types of objects (do they not read the ten commandments?!). And would go through great lengths to get their hands on it.
Before Purim, we went to the local Chabad Cheder (chassidic boys school) to let the kids see the Megillah and hear my Bubby speak about the Megillah and her family.
Zalmy Berkowitz is a natural light photographer based out of Long Beach, California. Zalmyb.com