Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Death in the Family:

by: Schvach Yid

So, I’m slow on the uptake. I know it, but still, I love those moments of unexpected revelation. Not religious revelation mind you, only the likes of Moshe Rabbeinu are priviledged as the recipients of those. No, I refer to the plain old everyday stuff of common information. One day I wondered about a rabbi with whom I had been slightly acquainted. He was an old man, weak in voice and movement, a gentleman in his physical appearance. I last saw him at a Jewish book fair sometime in the early to mid 1990’s. I doubt he knew my name, but he certainly recognized me. He bolted straight, yanked his elbows just as straight, and with jerking movements of his hands so as to add the exclamation of a desperate gesticulation said ‘what do you want; why don’t you leave us alone already?’.

This Jewish gent, a leader of the local Jewish community, was none other than Rabbi Moshe Cahana, the one-time head of the Irgun’s intelligence operation in the Yishuv, Britain’s former Mandate of Palestine, the soon to become Jewish State of Israel. Providing one can locate a copy, just turn to page 108 of Menachem Begin’s autobiographical work ‘The Revolt’ (Nash Publishing, NY, 1977 revised) and Chaptzem read: ‘Of course our underground is open’, Cahana is reported to have said, ‘the darkest spot is right under the lamp’ (in this work he was called Meir Cahan/Alex). On the occasion of the book fair, I had run into someone when I encountered Rabbi Cahana. Upon hearing his remonstration I recited this quote to my acquaintance. The rabbi smiled and left me alone. Thank Gd!

What’s the big deal? Well, I just learned about Rabbi Cahana’s death – in 2004. Don’t you love it? I do! I love being on top of things. Three years late, minus one month. I’ve always envied people who seem to imbibe infogossip. They always seem to know it all, and they always appear to be right. Not me. This, I suppose, is the down side of leading a reclusive life.

Rabbi Cahana had significance, a Jew who loved Yiddishkeit and his fellow Jews. I remember his eulogy of a congregant who died suddenly and unexpectedly (in other words he had dropped dead, the result of long standing obesity). His words extolled the man’s virtues as a member of the Jewish community, and provided great comfort to his grieving widow. When any congregation was in need of a rabbi for any function, he was always eager to provide – a real mensch. He fought for Israel, married a holocaust survivor who became a known artist within Jewish circles, and spawned a son who is now a rabbi . Belated as this post is, the memorialization of this great Jew can never be out of place. ‘Behold, neither slumbers nor sleeps the Keeper of Israel. No kidding!


Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana said...

Thank you for your lovely recollections of my father, Rabbi Moshe Hillel Cahana z"l. I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the quote, but I do have one minor correction: he was the father of two rabbis - Rabbi Ronnie Cahana of Montreal, Canada and Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana of Portland, Oregon

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