Today was Netzach she b'Gevurah - a day of endurance in a week of strength.
I often drive some residents of Rhoda Goldman Plaza, an assisted living facility in San Francisco, to and from services on Shabbat and holidays. Some are my friends; some I don't know well but wish to attend services.
Since January, I've been transporting Nathan Mass to and from services when his son is unable to make other arrangements. Nathan is 100 years old and is still quite sharp. Even with a hearing aide in each ear, he's quite deaf, but he knows the service and can sing with the best of us. In fact, we often sing parts of the liturgy in the car--which is good, since conversation can be difficult given his hearing issues.
I get little glimpses of his background each time I see him. He grew up in Europe, and went to cheder--Hebrew day school. He came here with nothing, met his American-born wife here, and raised two sons--one a doctor, the other a lawyer. He considers himself Modern Orthodox, but he loves our service. He remarks on the knowledge and participation of the women of our community. Make no mistake, he is pleased about it, it just never ceases to amaze him.
I would love to know more about him--when did he get to the US, and how did he get here? What was his profession? What was he like in his younger days? I am going to meet up with one of his sons--the doctor, who lives near me--and get some of the answers. But whatever I find out, there is no doubt that he epitomizes this day of endurance and strength.