Columns - 2004

    Taken for granded

    By Doug Brook
    Deep South Jewish Voice Columnist

    A significant, ever-growing segment of the Jewish population, a segment without which many of the mainstay components of Jewish life would disappear, continues this day to suffer under the yoke of obscurity and indifference.

    No, this is not a plea for a date.

    This is a shout out to grandparents throughout the world. And, after thousands of years of persecution in the Jewish community, it's about time someone did it.

    I know what you're thinking... "Is that paint on the wall dry yet?" But when you finish watching that and read on, you might also think "What, does he think that we load our grandparents in their sleep onto wagons and push them off cliffs?"

    Of course I don't think that, pending the outcome of a couple of court hearings. But I have discovered staggering precedent for why grandparents should be recognized more than they have been by the Jewish world.

    You cannot overlook how important grandparents are to Judaism. First of all, without them, none of us would be here.

    Second, many of them fill important roles in synagogue life, including a significant number of board positions, ninety-three precent of the regular attendees at daily minyans, and a significant majority of the regular attendees at all non-High Holy Day services.

    Now, I'll grant you that grandparents get a few perks. They get their own specialized assisted living facilities in various communities. They get unmitigated access to all pinchable cheeks on our youth, without fear of reprisal. And they get free ticket to complain and worry about their kin without reproach.

    Of course, the Rabbinical Assembly years ago ruled against the grandparents' right to guilt. And they've never heard the end of it.

    But all is not bright on the grand horizon. When you hear people referred to by their Hebrew names, it's always "son/daughter of..." and they mention the father. In recent years, it's become more fashionable to mention the mother's name as well, out of fear of otherwise doing one's own dishes and laundry.

    Are the grandparents mentioned? No.

    Not convinced? I'm just scratching the surface. One can look no further than the Bible to find endless precedent of grandparental neglect.

    Sure, the father's father is often mentioned. But forget about knowing who the mother's parents are, and it's rare to even know who the father's mother is. This is ironic considering in the modern world it's generally known who the mother is, and the father is more often the mystery.

    Furthermore, it's even worse to be the grandmother than the grandfather. There are many litanies in the Bible of so-and-so begat such-and-such (son of what's-his-name) where it lists only the men in the lineage, even though the mothers did most of the work, and all of the labor.

    So now, to make up for this egregious omission, I present you excerpts recently culled from research into the lost Mishnah tractate, Bava Gump. These quotes depict how the lesser-known sages chose to recognize a bit more the importance of grandparents in the Bible by retelling many classic biblical events in a slightly different manner.

    "Noah, grandson of Methuselah and his wife who lives in obscurity, is still reportedly building a large watercraft out of gopher wood in his yard. His neighbors are complaining to local authorities, saying he has no permit for the work. Noah declined comment, except to say that permits have not yet been invented, and that it doesn't matter because there won't be time for the ink (or anything else) to dry."

    "Abram, grandson of Nahor and his wife who prefers to remain off the record, has just been selected to be the father of the Chosen People. We're not sure who this People is going to be, but authorities are suspicious considering he changed his name to Abraham upon taking this new position."

    "Jacob has married Rachel, his second (and intended first) wife. His grandparents were the late forefather Abraham and foremother Sarah."

    "Joseph recently informed his family that he is a high-ranking official in Egypt. His family is moving way down to Egypt-land to be closer to their newly favorite son. Proud grandparents are the late Isaac and Rebecca."

    "Ruth and Boaz are happy to announce the birth of their son, Obed. Proud step-grandparents are Naomi and the late Elimelech."

    "David, grandson of Obed, has ascended the throne as king of Judah. He succeeds Saul, the first ruler of the kingdom."

    "Solomon, grandson of Jesse, has ascended the throne. He has formed a building committee to spearhead work on the local temple. Unconfirmed reports indicate that during his rule he also intends to break the kingdom record for most wives."

    "Esther, raised by her uncle Mordecai the grandson of Kish of the tribe of Benjamin, was just made the queen of Shushan. She also happens to have helped to save the Jewish people from being the victims of mass genocide. For details, see scroll 25, column 6."

    Puts a whole different perspective on things, doesn't it?

    Doug Brook is a technical publications program manager in Silicon Valley. He has many years of experience in having grandparents, but is not one himself´┐Ż that he's aware of. For more information, past columns, other writing, and other current events, visit his website at

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.