Jean Morgenstern – Second Yahrzeit

Shayna Bas Sholem and Chana Feigel 

December 30, 2020 – 16 Teves 5781 

My grandparents Sholem and Chana Feigel Sklar came to America in late 1923.  My mother was born on April 27, 1924.  Shirley was already born back in Europe, Beverly came in 1929, and the last girl, Altie, was born in 1939.

It was an immigrant life.  The 1929 depression hit when my mother was five. The depression helped shape my mother’s life.  My mother married her first husband in 1943 and had two kids. Pesach in 1943 and Arela in 1946.  She divorced and married my father in 1948.  My older sister, Lisa, was born in 1950. I entered this world right before Kol Nidrei 1953. The baby of the family, Karen, was born in 1955.   My mother was a typical housewife who took care of the kids while my father worked.  She had no independence. She did not have a license, and had no money of her own.  It was not a good marriage and my parents divorced in 1966.    My mother got a divorce in a time when there was a stigma, and the emotional turmoil must have been draining. She was 42 and had to build up her life.  She had a job in the typing pool of Kemper Insurance, however, pay was low.  

Her first success was when she learned how to drive.  Our next-door neighbor, the Marrettis, helped teach Ma how to drive and she got her license.  This gave her independence.  She purchased their white car.  Pesach actually drove the car Chal Hamoad Succos from Chicago to Toronto to work.  I  remember Pesach saying, that to stay up, he would say “50 miles to Kalamaaazoo, Kalamaaazoo.  25 miles to Kalamaaazoo.”  Her next life success was when she bought a brand new green, 1971 Plymouth Duster.  One of the greatest smells in the world from Hashem is the new car smell.  My mother got to experience it in a car bought with her own money.   These two successes may seem small to most people but to my mother they were affirming that she is a success.

The green Duster became famous in Lakewood, and with the Chase boys driving it, sometimes in questionable circumstances.

In 1980  Ma was 56 years old and she moved to Lakewood to take care of her parents.  Uncle Yosef (Yasif) called and said that she has to come to Lakewood to take care of her parents, otherwise they would  end up in a nursing home.  I had a number of conversations with my mother.  I was very direct with her, but always told her during every conversation that it was her choice.   She decided to move to Lakewood.  Just by the mere mention that Ma was coming, Bubi and Zedi felt better.  My mother had an aura of competence, that she will take care of everything, everything will be fine.

In 1993 after my Bubi dies, Ma moves back to Chicago.  She was always there for everyone.  She took care of Naftali, gave him a quality of life that is unsurpassed.  She once told Sidney that God has to make her live a long life because she has to take care of Naftali. She took the boys to and from Yeshiva and took Hudi to  college every day. She  brought pizza to the boys in Telz and would let them go to Blockbuster Video to rent movies when their parents were out of town. She brought Challah and groceries for us, and so many other favors that are innumerable.   Every night as my mother laid down to sleep, she had to go over in her mind her schedule for the next day.  I admit I was a big beneficiary of Ma’s largesse and I make no excuses for it.   

This all changed in 2014 when my mother turned 90 and her health started to deteriorate,   לֹא־אוּכַ֥ל ע֖וֹד לָצֵ֣את וְלָב֑וֹא. 

Ma is the person referred to in the following Torah Temimah in this week’s Sedra.  What Siaatta Dismaya I had in finding the Torah Temimah.  The Torah Temimah decided to put in an obscure Avos D’Rav Noson on this week’s Torah portion.   I believe that this was put in by the Torah Temimah just for my mother.   The 11th Perek of Avos D’Rav Nosson states that Rabbi Tarfon says that people die because of idleness.  Even if someone does not have a job  because he or she  does not need it, they should still find any type of work and not be idle.  This was my mother; she had responsibility up until age 90.  It was amazing that my mother in her 80s was as active as someone in their 50s.  This kept her alive, relevant, young and integral to the family  She was needed and was always present.  Contrast this with people who retire and have nothing to do. They sit on a couch and just deteriorate.  I saw this happen to a close relative of mine.

ויגוע ויאסף. א”ר טרפון. אין אדם מת אלא מתוך הבטלה, שנאמר ויגוע ויאסף מזאין באור לזה, והמפרש עמל הרבה בדברים דחוקים, ונראה פשוט דסמך ארישא דקרא ויכל יעקב לצות את בניו ויגוע ויאסף, וכל זמן שהיה מצוה היה חי, ומכיון שפסק מלצוות גוע, ורמז הוא שאין אדם מת אלא מתוך הבטלה, ונ”מ בזה מבואר בפרק זה באדר”ן שישתדל כל אדם לתור לו איזו מלאכה להתעסק בה אף שא”צ לה רק שלא ישב בטל, ומסמיך זה אפסוקים שונים, יעו”ש. וע’ מש”כ השייך לענין זה לעיל בפ’ נח בפ’ ויום ולילה לא ישבתו. [אדר”נ פ’ י”א].

My mother was also a living example of a Rashbam in Shmos 22:6, cited below.

The Torah talks about two types of Shomrim – guardians in Parsha Mishpatim.  One is someone who watches a vessel and if it gets stolen the Shomer does not have to compensate the owner.  The second Shomer is someone who agrees to watch an animal.  If the animal is stolen the Shomer has to pay the owner for his loss.   The Gemora says the reason why the first Shomer is exempt from compensation is that he is an unpaid guardian while the second one is paid for his services therefore he has to accept more responsibility and if the animal is stolen,he must pay the owner for his loss.   The difference is whether or not the Shomer is paid for his services.

However, the Rashbam says that this is not the plain meaning for the text.  The Rashbam explains  that in the case of the guardian who agrees to watch a vessel, he just puts it on a shelf and only agrees to exert minimal effort and therefore less responsibility.    However, in the second case the Shomer has agreed to actually watch an animal.  

Since an animal takes much more effort, the Shomer has agreed that he will make an extra effort to properly watch the animal.   Therefore, he has to pay if the animal is stolen despite not being compensated.  The difference is in what the guardian agreed to do upfront.  Of course, in this world, the  Bais Din cannot force the guardian to pay unless he is being compensated, however, theologically he should have to pay.  In life we have to take on responsibility even if it may cost us.   We can never just wash our hands and say, “not my problem”.  We may lose sleep and become emotionally beat up, but we have to be counted.  In life we have to be engaged, and responsible for our family, for our world.   We do not want to be superficially connected, acting freely and not being bothered.  We cannot let life go by taking cruises, having one day fold into the next day just worried about ourselves or what to wear, what to eat, and where to vacation.  This is not true life. We have to be responsible. 

Perhaps you can say that this is also an interpretation in the Gemara in Shabbos 31A:  

אָמַר רָבָא: בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁמַּכְנִיסִין אָדָם לְדִין, אוֹמְרִים לוֹ: נָשָׂאתָ וְנָתַתָּ בָּאֱמוּנָה?

With regard to the same verse, Rava said: After departing from this world, when a person is brought to judgment for the life he lived in this world, they say to him in the order of that verse: Did you conduct business faithfully?

The plain meaning is as stated “Did you conduct business faithfully?”  However perhaps the saying of Rava also means did you carry yourself and did you give of yourself faithfully?  Did you escape responsibility or were you connected? Did you, for the last years of your life, just sit on the couch involved in your narcissistic needs? Or were you there for your family, your friends and other Jews?  Hashem understands that for most of one’s life people are working and raising kids. But afterwards, in retirement, in the last 10+ years of your life,  were you counted or absent?  Rabbi Efraim Twerski said that my Pshat is farfetched.  I said that I will call it Drush. 

Rashbam – Shmos 22:6:

כי יתן איש אל רעהו כסף או כלים לשמור – בפרשה זו פוטר את השומר מגנבה ואבדה ובפרשה שניה מחייבו בגנבה ואבדה. ופירשו רבותינו: ראשונה בשומר חנם, שניה בשומר שכר. ולפי פשוטו של מקרא: פרשה ראשונה שכתוב בה: כי יתן איש אל רעהו כסף או כלים לשמר – מטלטלין הם ולשומרם בתוך ביתו כשאר חפציו נתנן לו, לפיכך אם נגנבו בביתו פטור, כי שמרן כשמירת חפציו. אבל פרשה שניה שכתוב בה: כי יתן איש אל רעהו חמור או שור או שה וכל בהמה לשמור – ודרך בהמות לרעות בשדה ודאי כשהפקידם על מנת לשומרם מגנבים הפקידם לו ואם נגנבו חייב.


I believe that this is who my mother was. She was always accepting extra responsibly and gave her utmost to others. Up until the age 90 she was actively involved with all her kids, whether it was carpools, shopping, or being that extra pair of hands for whoever needed help.