Grandparents never die, they become invisible and live forever in the depths of our heart!
By Renato Athias
The sentence above is not mine, I took it from the internet, and I found beautiful and gave the title of this chronicle about my trip to Israel.
Today (1/19/2017), it’s my last day in Jerusalem. I’m going to leave here as usual, with that immense desire to return. Jerusalem captivates anyone, both by his past and his present. It is the eternal city. I had quite an experience today. I visited again the tomb of the great Rabbi Haim Ben Attar. He is known today in the Jewish world as Ohr Hachaim Hakodesh. He was born in the same town, in Morocco, the small Salé, as my grandfather, many many years ago. The first time I heard about this sage was in 1982, when I first came to Israel. Our cousin, Yuddah, with blessed memory, took me on the same trip to visit one of his relatives, on the side of his mother, Josef El-Jam, right on the border of Jerusalem. Then together we visited the tomb of the Ohr Hachaim HaKadosh on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. That year, I did not even call, I actually found it very annoying, and as much as he explained to me I did not understand the meaning of that visit in that cemetery.
Many years later, in 1992, Yuddah came to Brazil, and we traveled together to Alenquer, in the State of Pará, in the edge of the great river Amazon. He insisted to, because he wanted to visit the graveyard where my grandfather Jacob (and his uncle) was buried. I would tell him the memories he had of Grandpa Jacob and translate for him (in French) the memories of his doughters and son Ruth, Rubens and Noemia, in Alenquer and Santarem, so Yuddah could at least understand a little more of my grandfather’s life in this distant Amazon.
In the cemetery in Alenquer I followed Yuddah in the same way that he had accompanied me in Jerusalem. In fact, he had once met only my grandfather, in Belém in 1963, but he spoke of him as a wise man. I confess I did not understand these things from visits to cemeteries. We visited his grave, and then we passed a Shabbat together at Alenquer, and prepared an Adafina to eat together the whole family in Ruth’s house in Alenquer. It was on this occasion that he told me, with more details of my great-grandmother Simcha (Ben Attar) Athias, whom Yuddah had known very well and who was a direct descendant of the Rabbi Haim Ben Attar. I was very proud to know.
A few years later, in 2002 I am walking in New York, and as always, looking at old books in sewing. On the shelf of the Strand, a famous occasion books store on Broadway, a book slides through my hands: “Light Life — Writings of Rabbi Haim Ben Athar.” I leafed through with much curiosity, especially remembering 1982 when I visited his tomb in Jerusalem, and I was very interested in reading a few pages of the book, but I confess that I did not understand anything, and I did not buy the book, I’ll leave it there.
A decade later, in 2012, Isaac Essoudry Z” L, Moroccan from Alcazarquivir, Chazan of our synagogue in Recife, in one of the Talmud Torah we did on Shabbat he tells us about some important commentaries of Ohr Hachaim haKodesh, the writings of Haim Ben Athar. Isaac tells the story of his life and makes allusions to the main Kabbalistic comments of this Tsadik. I fall in love with reading his texts, here and there. And, today it gave me immense desire to read the whole his Torah commentaries. However, his books is difficult to find translated into Portuguese, but easy in English, French and German, I had stopped buying one of those volumes in 2002 in New York, which escaped my hands. I just looked at amazon.com’s website and the five volumes are being sold between 800 and 2,000 pounds … escaping again from my hands. But, I’ll be able to read it one day. Yuddah got what he wanted. Bring the bones of my grandfather from Alenquer to Israel to be buried in Haiffa in 1995. Will I, one day, be able to read these commentaries from Rabbi Haim Ben Attar?