Imagine going back in time 150 years to a small shtetl known as Dorbian, in northwest Lithuania. A righteous woman named Dina Frankel, wife of Hesi Frankel, sews a linen pillow case on which each of her sons is placed during their circumcision. She stitches the family surname, Frankel, in red at the bottom right corner of pillow case. She intends this bris pillow to be an heirloom for her future generations.

The pillow case is bequeathed to her daughter Shoshana Rivka, my great grandmother, and it is used for the circumcision of each of her five sons, including my grandfather, Moshe, on March 9th 1913, the 30th of Adar I, 5673.

The bris pillow. The Hebrew letter lamed on the left is partially unraveled.

On the horizon is the Holocaust and the sun would soon set on European Jewry. One of Shoshana Rivka’s sons, Shevach, made aliyah to the land of Israel in the 1930s and falls in active duty during the War of Independence in 1948.

Except for my grandfather, grandmother and one other relative, the remainder of my great grandmother’s nuclear and extended family returned their exalted souls to their Creator. Also lost forever was the Frankel bris pillow.

From a crucible of great suffering, a shining ray of light emerged. My grandparents were betrothed and married in 1947 in the Bari refugee camp in Southern Italy. They survived the trials of the Holocaust and had the fortitude to rebuild anew. They planted the seeds whose precious fruits would be actualized by subsequent generations.

All of this ultimately leads us to the present, to the very special occasion of the bris of our newborn son.

I was preparing for the bris and reviewing the checklist: red wine – check, Kiddush cup – check, bris pillow…

At that moment I vaguely remembered that about five years ago I received a package with some sort of pillow case from my mother. The contents originated from Israel from a Rivka Feldman – a woman I did not know. My wife, Zemirah, reminded me that we had instructions to use this pillow case if we ever had a boy. All this time the package remained untouched in the top shelf of my bedroom closet.

I took out the pillow case and examined it. I noticed that the last name of my maternal great grandmother was inscribed on it: Frankel. How could this be? Where did this come from? Who is this Rivka Feldman in Israel? This is impossible. Every tangible, physical item from Dorbian was destroyed. Nothing survived the War.

We started searching for answers. After examining family tree we discovered that Rivka Feldman is the widow of my great uncle Shevach whom perished in the Israeli War of Independence. Unbeknownst to us, he had brought the pillow case with him when he moved to Israel in the 1930s. Mrs. Feldman kept it safe over the years and was God’s messenger to deliver it to us.

At my son’s bris

So last week we witnessed a small miracle, my son had his bris while being held on the pillow case sewn by his great-great-great Grandmother. They very pillow his exalted, holy ancestors were held when undergoing their circumcision. It’s a testament to Divine providence and to the indomitable Jewish spirit. The Jewish people are indeed an eternal nation.

His forebears would have much nachas seeing how the nation of Israel thrives today as we welcome to the Jewish faith Eliyahu Dov Meir Eidelman, the newest member of our growing family.