Thirty Years and a Day: A father surprises his daughter

As told to Sarah Pachter

We met in a classic Jerusalem café that has been around for 30 years, and enjoyed fine coffee and exceptional baked goods straight from the oven. Although the coronavirus was on everyone’s mind, we enjoyed the warm surroundings while chilly winds swirled outside. I sat and listened, my eyes glistening with tears, as Avraham Cohen recounted his mother’s fascinating story.

“When I talk about it, I still shiver,” Avraham said. “This is the family story that keeps me tied to my roots. My mother has always been careful about observance and is shomeret Shabbat. She treasures her children above all. But her story began with tragedy, and I was privileged to be present during the Shabbat when she achieved closure for her grief. Her story is proof of hope and hashgachah pratit. There is a lesson here for everyone to have emunah and look forward to the geulah shleimah, when all our prayers will be answered.”

This is the amazing story of Rivkah Cohen.

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As she busied herself in the kitchen preparing the Shabbat meal for her family, the smell of kugel and cholent wafted across the room. She took time to appreciate her beautiful home—the made-to-order Italian sofas, the mahogany table and matching chairs, the fireplace in the living room that illuminated the collection of knickknacks she and her husband had collected on their travels around the world.

She smiled at her children, her pride and joy, as they rushed inside to savor the warm schnitzel that had just come out of the frying pan. Watching them eat filled her with contentment. She realized how fortunate she was to have her family.

“Eat! Play! Get dirty!” She wanted them to enjoy life, and it didn’t matter if they made a mess. Miriam, their nanny, was on hand to make sure their hands were clean and their shirts were freshly laundered and ironed for Shabbat.

It was on that Friday afternoon that all her painful memories came flooding back. Rivkah remembered the small yard outside the house she had grown up in, where she sat for hours waiting for her father—who had left the house one day and had never come back—to return, as she knew in her heart he must. He had carried her on his shoulders when they arrived in Eretz Israel and told her exciting stories about the redemption of the Jewish people; he had told her how lucky they were to have reached Yerushalayim and found a place to live, with a yard and a tree from which he hung a swing for her. How was it possible that he would just get up one day and disappear?



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