Sunday, May 13, 2012


As I sit down to begin writing this, it is Thursday, the thirty-third day of the Omer. Lag BaOmer, as it is usually called.

The forty-nine days of the Omer - from Pesach until Shavuot - were originally a joyous period. But in the time of the Talmud, it became a  time of mourning, comemorating the deaths of twelve thousand pairs of students of Rabbi Akiva. There are differing traditions about whether the dying ended on the thirty-third day of the Omer or if it was a temporary respite, but in any case we mark that period by not having a haircut, not shaving, not listening to music and most particularly not marrying.

Therefore, Lag BaOmer became a popular day for weddings.

My great-grandfather, Moritz Rosenzweig, married his second wife, Regina Bauer, on Lag BaOmer 1890. His first wife, Hermina Schafer, had died at twenty-four, leaving two small children. Moritz and Regina had three children in Budapest and after arriving in the United States in 1900, had one more - my grandmother.

A sidebar to this story is that my grandmother never knew. That is, never knew that there had been a previous wife. 
She learned that when she was about nineteen and while out in the neighborhood, one of the men from shul called to her "Remind Freddie [her eldest brother] that he has yahrzeit tonight."

Legend has it that she had some choice words for the rest of the household.
Their older daughter, Aunt Helen, married Uncle Joe (Pickholtz - he was my grandfather's older brother) on Lag BaOmer 1913. He was twenty-three, she was barely seventeen. (In the Jewish calendar she was a week short of her seventeenth birthday and she always boasted that she was married at sixteen.) When I was a teenager, they had a large fiftieth anniversary celebration, to which those of my generation were not invited.

Also on my father's side, my first cousin Jerry Pickholtz married his wife Marcia Seidel on Lag BaOmer 1997. Mazal tov to them and their family.

And a couple of second cousins on my mother's side.  Beverly Rosenbloom married Steve Hirsch on Lag BaOmer in 1979 and her brother Geoff married Donna Sandler exactly two years later. May both couples enjoy many years.

There are probably more than a few others, but I don't make a big deal of collecting marriage dates. I probably should. Lots of things I probably should do.

But I am leading up to two wedding-witness stories that have nothing to do with Lag BaOmer.

Three years ago, we attended the late summer wedding of Pikholz descendant Jacob Laor's daughter Noa to Nadav Mazliah. The rav - Sephardic, brought by the groom's family, I am sure - was walking around before the ceremony, looking like he was looking for a Sabbath observer to serve as a witness. He came over to me and asked if I am related to either the bride or the groom. I said "The grandfather's grandfather of the father of the bride and my grandfather's grandmother had the same last name and came from the same town, so we are probably sixth or seventh cousins - maybe even fifth. But we have no idea how."

The rav gave that a moment's thought, then decided he'd rather find someone else.

The second story was more recent. A few months ago, we received an invitation to the wedding of Eliyahu Kaplan and Oshri Sharoni. Eli is the youngest son of Menachem and Dalia (Pickholz) Kaplan. Dalia's great-great-grandparents are Mordecai and Taube Pikholz of Skalat and my great-great-grandmother Rivke Feige Pikholz is related to one of them somehow - a sister, a niece, maybe a first cousin once removed. I tend to assume that Rivka Feige is a younger sister of Mordecai, so I call Dalia my fourth cousin, with an asterisk.

Menachem and Dalia are enthusiastic supporters of the Pikholz Project, but we had a casual acquaintance when we both lived in Arad, twenty-odd years ago. Dalia's mother even tried to talk genealogy with me, but for reasons I cannot relate here, I was not able to respond properly.

Anyway, the wedding was a few days before I was to finish my twelve months of mourning for my mother, so I told them I would come for the ceremony but not stay. Leading up to the ceremony, Menachem told me that I was to be a witness. I did and a Pickholz signature now adorns the ketubah of the young couple. We all feel that our great-great-grandparents are pleased.

Also please note, I will be speaking - in Hebrew - on Sunday, 10 June, 20 Sivan at 7 PM - at the Israel Genealogical Society's Giv'atayim branch, on the subject
What We Know vs. What We Can Prove
at the Shazar Center, 30 Yavnieli Street, Giv'atyaim. There is a small charge for non-members.

1 comment:

  1. Still picturing the Sephardi rabbi trying to decide whether you could be an ed (witness), scratching his head and saying ala Yul Brynner, "Is a puzzlement."