Well after my parents departed, I realized that they had left me a cultural and spiritual legacy which a that time did not seem very important to me.
Well after my parents departed, I realized that they have left me a cultural and spiritual legacy, which at that time did not seem very important to me. It was only after many years passed, that I started to realize its wide reach. The departure of these human beings went on in silence without exchanging a word. Those who departed and those who surrounded them did not dare accept the end on earth of those who are dear. Only the survivors’ pain is felt. From my experience I knew that nothing in the world could alleviate the inner pain. Everyone suffers alone and in his or her own way.
Only time can heal the pain. Now, already many years passed since all these people I loved left us, one after the other. They left their bodies that served them for many years. It is only now that I try to put in writing my feelings from that time, which I had first thought keeping for me, by reviving the memory of these departed persons. They enveloped me with their love and enriched my life with their experiences and their stories.
We were not even aware that we lived in the grace, with our fellow citizens from our town. Only after so many years, I came to realize, how much our daily activities preoccupied us and deprived us of the leisure of letting our memories flow freely. We are so much taken by the daily worries, that we lose our sensitivity both for the past and for the present. But compared to the loss of one of our elders, all obligations seem trivial today. All we can do now is to give respect to the departed by helping support their close families and keeping their spirit alive with what they have left for us.
Sometimes we have to go through what is absurd in order to realize and confront the truth.
Nothing is as precious as a mother, or a father, or brothers and sisters. Sometimes we think that it is necessary to do this or that, but nothing is more important than a family. It is the first link in a chain, to which we were physically and directly, attached that breaks when someone of our close family leaves us. It is only when the event has passed, that we realize the degree of their importance. We are shackled by the chains of the material existence, by the fear of the unknown, by the pain that we have experienced; by our own experiences and a thousand and one things that have absolutely no significance.
We are unknowingly haunted by the worries for the next day. The fear paralyses us and deprives us of our faculties. Fear was never beneficial to anybody. It makes us decide hastily and without careful weighing. It diminishes us and tries to make us depended upon it. But the fear sometimes saves us if it holds us back from any decision that might have been detrimental.
I saw the departure of my aunts, my uncles, my grandmothers, my grandfathers, my father, my mother and many members of my family and lately of my oldest sister, my friends, or simply persons whom we have known at one time or another. Of course we missed them sometimes, even during their lifetime, due to the distance or simply because our busy schedule. Now we keep missing them for the duration of our life on earth. This sad picture repeats itself sometimes for one and sometimes for another and life goes on.
Today I feel sorry for not taking the time for listening longer to their stories and questioning them about things which did not come to mind when they were among us and alive. We should have given them more of our time and our attention. This could also have enriched the spiritual legacy they left to us.
Only today we realize that those who left us still exist within us and in our mind. Sometimes we feel their presence through their stories, their sayings, their songs and sometimes their behavior, their gestures, their way of walking, their wisdom, their proverbs, their expressions; all these accompany us. Their legacy revives them in us at the moment of need.
Physically they are no longer among us but they live within us. They seem to be closer to us than they were before. At the moment of sadness, we cannot always express what we feel deep in our heart.
This is the way I thought to formulate my prayer by diving deep into the past and by reviving my feelings for those human beings, through the legacy left with us, and by relating one episode or another.
I returned to my town to review things in the spirit of yesteryears. They left us a legacy that only after so many years unveils its true sense and its just value. This is the way I have thought to express my gratitude towards all the human beings I once knew.
We have first to pass our proper experiences, in order to be able to distinguish the real and the fake, the good and the bad experiences. Of course there is history that serves us as lessons, may they be those learned in school or in universities or simply those which were transmitted to us orally.
There are also the stories of each country, of each people, of each family and of each human being. Even if these represent a family testimony, they still constitute a proof of individual and collective memories.
I cannot tell the story of every person I have known, even if I wanted to, because I would be missing some details of one or another. The most I can do for my children, for the future generation and for people who have the same affinities and feelings as I, is to relate those things that have helped me make my own experiences and helped me find my way. It is them that I am addressing. Each one will judge for herself or for himself what they want to take or to leave. Actually, everyone has to make his own experiences and it is only them that count. It was necessary for me to dive through several generations and through the different epochs that I have known. I even dove into distant history in order to extract certain facts and give my account a certain authenticity which will allow each reader to choose what seems the most essential for him or for her.
I have attempted above all to emphasize what could serve as a link between different epochs, different nations, and different persons. Be it our history, or that of others, it includes many good and bad examples, which contain truths. I preferred seeking those which seemed to me to be the good ones, those which may unite and may enrich us. Everyone has the choice to take from the various examples, those which could help him or her in life. Should we have to ask ourselves questions, why things were the way they were, and not differently, or dwell only on the negative, we would block ourselves the path which could lead us to the life of tomorrow, in short, towards life. Everything is not perfect in life, but everything is not imperfect either. There can possibly be only ONE that’s perfect. It is up to us to discern the best of what surrounds us and which we can pick-up easily. Let’s look at nature, the beautiful flowers, the birds, beautiful music, beautiful paintings, literature, the art of living, everything beautiful that makes us happy. It is only then that we realize that the questions we asked of ourselves are false at the base. We must edit them in order to find the right answer. It is our duty to aspire to perfection, without worrying about the result. The most important is to do our best. The rest we should leave to grace.
By searching my memory, and above all my deepest and most honest to myself feelings, I fall onto my origins, since it is well from these that I can draw my strength. The origin of man first begins with himself, than with the family, the town where he is born, and it is only after that, that one looks for the people or for the nation to which one belongs. In the case of the Jews, these relations are complex. One may ask oneself whether the millennia or the past centuries are the closer ones. Will it be the religious affiliation, or the national one, or our actions and our personal faith accumulated through our own experience in life, that will determine our future and our existence? Is it the history of the generations that we have known or the destiny of our people which will dictate the path to follow? The people, with whom we have a common language? A common culture? A common music? A similar way of life? Or others, who are connected to us through history? Through religion? Through the nation among which we live, that will determine our life? The choice is very vast and complicated. The bigger the choice, the more our decision is uncertain. It is up to us to discern and give priority to whom we want, sometimes rightfully so, sometimes falsely so. The best decisions I ever made in the past were those I made by necessity. Necessity is the law of the universe. My father frequently used this Arab saying:
"Es Sbab Y Kasser Es Slassel Lahdid" (Necessity breaks the iron chains). Once we are aware of the facts, we have to be honest with ourselves and others, without wanting to please or play comedy, since eventually it is to ourselves that we have to respond in order to be at peace with our conscience. It suffices that we take a little walk through our various past experiences, through the years, and through the lively stories that we have lived or known, in order to realize that the people we have known are alive and accompany us all the way that life makes us pass. This is how we notice that we have in fact an enormous legacy from which we can draw according to our daily needs. An inexhaustible source of clear water is constantly at our disposal, in short: the hidden treasure.
It is essential to recognize all our feelings in ourselves. Each feeling is an independent force without conscience. It is up to us to know how to direct them in a way that they all are united with our conscience. This way we realize that thanks to these feelings, our conscience is enriched by a considerable strength.
What today seems remarkable to me, are the good relationships that existed among the diverse communities of our town. The mere existence of an open society, which was composed of diverse ethnicities and faiths, was the basis of the mosaic of the Tunisian society. The memories of what we ourselves have experienced are driving us today. The family relationships or those of our childhood awaken us. It is certainly the country where we were born which brings us together; since it is there that we find the beginning of our childhood and the purity of our being.
If it is not possible to live on the native soil for family, social, or other reasons, the earth that gave birth to us is also an inheritance worth caring for. Even if we now live within other societies, under other skies, the memories of our childhood accompany us. One cannot erase with one stroke of the sponge the centuries of harmonious, peaceful life, for one reason or another. One needs to be honest in order to avoid falsifying the facts of our history. We are ourselves an integral part of this history. Everyone has members of his family buried here or there.
My father used to say: “By respecting the deceased we respect the living”. There is also a physical and visible heritage of all that our ancestors have left us. It would be good to show it, and be it only for our children, first, then for the inhabitants of our town, and finally for the others and for history.