What’s in the Name Devorah?

Today is the thirteenth Yarzheit of Devorah bas Yitzchok Aaron, my mother-in-law.  It is hard to believe that so many years have passed since her petira (death).  While in her life I did not always appreciate her rebuke, as the years go by, I appreciate and hope to internalize the lessons she taught me.  Many of those life lessons are intrinsic in the root and the very letters of her name, Devorah, as this name encapsulates her past and future essence.

The Hebrew word Devorah shares the same root as the word dibur (speech) and the word davar (thing), both themes befitting for this Devorah.  We are endowed with koach hadibur (power of speech) and it is an awesome responsibility to use speech in a positive way.  There are many halachos  (Jewish Laws) surrounding speech and we are cautioned against even the slightest misuse of speech.  My mother-in-law was endowed with an unusual koach hadibur as she was known for her gift of gab.  She made friends easily and used this power to include others that would be forgotten.  She spent many hours each day on the telephone in friendship and kindness, bringing people together and offering help to those in need.  She was not afraid to instruct us and guide us with words, even chastising us when we erred.   

My mother in law would admonish me if the leaves were not swept in front of the house or if the chairs were not scrubbed down before any outdoor event.  She spared no words to tell me if she didn’t like the way I dressed my children or myself.  Although the criticism stung, I appreciate my mother-in-law’s direct rebuke.    It allowed me to correct the things that I did wrong and I can now thank her for telling me what I needed to hear directly and not through someone else.

Mom was the master of little things.  She would show up with all the missing things that she had noticed on the last visit.  She would bring dollar store items, giveaways from the last simcha and safety pins.

The root of the Hebrew word Devorah also forms the word davar, meaning a thing.  Mom was the master of little things.  She would show up with all the missing things that she had noticed on the last visit.  She would bring dollar store items, giveaways from the last simcha and safety pins.  In her lifetime, I did not really appreciate those little things.  Now, I realize that she was paying attention and it was a gesture of love.  

I have been repeating these two quotes that encapsulate this idea:  “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may realize that they were the big things” and “Little things make the big things happen”.   Mom really was the master of these little things, finding inexpensive ways to express her love and concern for us. 

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may realize that they were the big things”

anonymous

Much as the root of Devorah captures my mother-in-law’s life, the letters in her name are formed in a way that appear to have been created just for her.  When parsed into the distinct letters, the Hebrew word דבורה (Devorah) contains the letters  ד-ב-ו-ר-ה .  The first four letters ד-ב-ו-ר all have vertical lines that are grounded on the right side as they reach backward toward the letter before them and they are open on the left side as they move forward toward the next letter.   The last letter ה represents Hashem (G-d) and is similar to the dalet or the raish, but with another leg.  

The idea of these letters connecting staunchly to the past while being open to the future represent Mom’s ability to take her upbringing and create a future with her own openness and character.   Mom’s kindness and caring nature was imprinted by her parents.  Sora and Yitzchok Aaron Kramer a’H were masters of chesed (kindness) who took care of refugees in Williamsburg after World War II.  My own Opa z’l was the beneficiary of their kindness and charity in those difficult years and we owe much to the chesed of the Kramers.  Mom had the unique ability to open her door, her home and her heart to others and to offer them the ability to move forward into the future, too.

The  ד (dalet)  is the first letter of her name and it represents a door.  It is formed as a vertical line, representing the doorpost with a horizontal line above, formed as a  lintel.

The  ד (dalet)  is the first letter of her name and it represents a door.  It is formed as a vertical line, representing the doorpost with a horizontal line above, formed as a  lintel. Mom’s door was always open to those who needed her.  As one of thirteen children and the youngest daughter, she was the one who opened her home to her own mother after her father died.  I vividly recall her running to the door happily when we arrived with the family for a visit.  She always greeted us warmly.  Her door was a welcome entrance to her warm home.

The  ב (bais)  is the second letter of her name and it represents a home.  Like the other letters in her name, it has a vertical line that is grounded and is open to the left.  Like the dalet before it, it has a roof over the line.  Unlike the others, it appears to be seated with a roof over it.  To me, it looks like someone being served by Mom.   No matter what time we arrived, she insisted on feeding us.  Her home was always open to her neighbors and friends, who enjoyed many Shabbos and Yom Tov (holiday) meals at her table, drawing inspiration from these visits.

The  ו (vav)  is the third letter of her name and it represents a hook.  Like the other letters in her name, it has a vertical line that is grounded and is open to the left.  It is a letter of connection; when added to the beginning of a word, it means “and”.  Mom’s gregarious nature helped her form bonds with people of all ages and from all walks of life.  While my good natured father-in-law was often credited with connecting the family, Mom was the vav that engineered the connection and initiated relationships.

The ר (raish)  is the third letter of Mom’s name and it represents a head.  Like the other letters in her name, it has a vertical line that is grounded and is open to the left.  It is a letter of leadership, representing the forward-thinking nature of my mother-in-law as she engineered and implemented ideas that brought people together.  Perhaps, the most memorable was her fiftieth wedding anniversary trip to Israel.  It was a well-planned and unforgettable trip for the children and grandchildren.

The ה (hey) is the last letter of Mom’s name and it represents G-d.  Like the other letters in her name, it has a vertical line that is grounded and is open to the left, but it has the addition of a short vertical leg that takes the word into the future. It is a letter that transforms the material aspects of Mom’s hospitality, connection and leadership into the eternal spiritual realm.

The word Devorah and the letters within create the framework for Mom and her legacy.  It is a lasting tradition of kindness created by her parents that she built upon to form her unique brand of hospitality and connection.   May her memory be blessed.

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