When the great trumpet will sound and the dead will arise from their graves, the shortest walk to the place of assembly will be for those who were buried on the Mount of Olives. But soon they will be joined by all those who were laid to rest on Har Hamenuchot, a little further away. Others will come from places far removed. Spain and Portugal, Iraq, Iran, Western and Eastern Europe, Africa, the USA and many other countries. They will all walk up to the mountain of Jerusalem. They will have a chance to stretch their legs after the rest of the ages and will enjoy the stark and beautiful hill with its sweeping views in all directions overlooking the land of Israel. It will be a colorful sight, with millions wearing their customary attire. Colorful turbans, black and silk top-hats, various kinds of streimels and other forms of head covering. They will mingle with all the other Jews and righteous people. Some will be dressed in spectacular and highly decorative outfits which will reflect those countries where the sun stands high throughout the day. Others, coming from the northern valleys will walk in modest simple clothes whilst others will stroll in entirely white robes. They echo all the civilizations among which Jews have lived for thousands of years without being fully absorbed. And the world will be silent and serene.
In front will walk Chazan Abraham Lopes Cardozo in his black toga as he did when he led his beloved congregations in Amsterdam, Suriname and New York. He holds hands with all the great chazanim and composers of chazanuth throughout the ages. There is the great Yossele Rosenblatt, the talmudic miracle maker Choni Ha-Me’agel, the tzaddik Shmuel HaKatan of ancient times. Next to them are Shimon Duque, Jacov Blanes and Salomon Nunes Nabarro from Amsterdam. Also David de Sola Pool from New York will be there. There are Moshe Kousevitzky, Louis Lewandowsky from Europe and many thousands who inspired their congregations to sing the song of the Lord throughout the thousands of years. Close by are those who just rose from the auto-da-fe’s of the inquisition, the mass graves of the pogroms in Poland and the tombstones of the destroyed Temples in Jerusalem. And there will be all those millions who just woke up from the ashes of Auschwitz including Abraham Lopes Cardozo’s parents and siblings. And the chazan, like always, smiles his unforgettable smile. This small figure will stand out because all the thousands of friends he made throughout his nearly 92 years will want to shake his hands and join in with his songs to the Lord of the Universe. And there will be very many since he had no foe. Also many non-Jews want to say hello to this Jew who was first knighted by the Queen of Holland and now by the Mashiach himself on the demand of the King of the Universe.
Abraham Lopes Cardozo was born in Amsterdam in 1914 and by heavenly decree became a brand plucked from the fire of Auschwitz and Dachau in which his entire family perished.
Instead of bitterly complaining he turned his world around and made it into a great kiddush Hashem trying to make his fellow man happy through his zemiroth, his great optimism and deeds. He resembled the tradition of the Portuguese and Spanish Jewish Community which came to Amsterdam after the Inquisition. He lived a life of “gravidade”, distinctive royalty, and it was in that very same way that he died. With a divine kiss and a song on his lips. He served for nearly 50 years as the main and later emeritus chazan of one of the oldest Jewish Communities in America, “Shearit Israel” in Manhattan. He made sure that the entire Spanish and Portuguese liturgy was recovered and preserved and thereby left a large legacy.
But it was not just with this that he left a great spiritual heritage. While fully involved in the world, he taught us that spiritual nobility is a thousand times more valuable than all what the great secular world has to offer us. He taught us that the world is not contingent on physical grandeur, huge sums of money and large buildings. To him the House of worship was not important because the world needs it, but on the contrary the world is important because the Houses of worship exist in it. He realized that a world without Torah and piety will turn into chaos. He taught us that we Jews are God’s stake in human history and that we had better make sure to live up to this. That if the Jew is not more than human then he will be less than human and that in order to be a people we have to be more than a people – a holy nation. He knew that there is a high cost to be paid to be a Jew and that we are the most challenged people in the world. Either we are superfluous or indispensable. He understood the last to be true and lived his life accordingly. When wrapped in tallith and tefillin he found his unconquerable freedom. Outwardly he was a small man but inwardly he felt like a prince, a kin to the King of kings reminding us that our gravest sin is when we forget what we, Jews, represent.
I have been chosen by his wife, daughters and sons in laws to recite the kaddish and sanctify God’s name in his name. It is an awesome undertaking which makes me tremble. May his zechut help me, my family, his wife, children, family and all of Israel.
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