Loving Hands MAG

By Ilona M., Brooklyn, NY

     I open my eyes and greet the day. It is no ordinary day. It is my twelfth birthday, the day of my bat mitzvah. I hear the gentle squeak of the door opening, and I feel the breeze from the open window ruffling my hair. I can hear the soft steps of my grandma’s slippers as she approaches.

She brings with her the aroma of freshly baked gingerbread cookies, my favorite. She sits by me and stretches out her closed hand. I look at her soft hands that have loved, protected, and cared for me. Then I raise my gaze and see her young eyes surrounded by soft wrinkles smiling at me. “Happy birthday, sweetheart,” she says in Russian and then slowly opens her hand. Lying in her palm is a small black velvet box with a Hebrew letter on it. I wonder what is inside. “I’ve waited 12 years to give you this,” she says. “When I was 12 my grandma gave it to me, and now I pass it on to you.”

I carefully take the box and open it. Inside I see a silver necklace with a hand on it. “It’s a hamesh hand,” my grandma says. “It will protect and guide you as long as you wear it.” I take it out of the box and study it closely. A thin silver contour shaped like a hand surrounds the Hebrew letter. I know this letter from my studies in Sunday school. It means life. Beneath the letter is a round eye made of a diamond.

“What is the meaning of the hand and the eye?” I ask my grandma.

“The hand and the eye are meant to stop any evil that may try to harm you,” she explains. “The hand is very important. It caresses and soothes. It greets and guides a child into this world. The first thing a baby feels is the touch of the doctor’s hands. A mother’s touch is the first word of love.”

A year has passed, and since that day this necklace has become my most precious possession. Because it was given to me by my maternal grandma and was passed on to her by her grandmother, it will forever tie me to the other women in my family. It is the hand of my ancestors reaching out to me, protecting and guiding me, from the past.

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