Thursday, Jul 25, 2024

Living with a Queen

Bobba Tress, wife of the legendary Reb Elimelech (Mike) Tress, a name that bespeaks greatness, that hints to an era gone by… And I? I am the granddaughter who was zocheh to live with Bobba Tress for the last few years of her life. I am often asked to describe life with Bobba Tress. How can I respond? How can I portray living with greatness? How can I depict a home that pulsated with kedushah? How can I transmit an atmosphere that transcended time and space?

Many people recount Bobba’s earlier years – her energy and spirit, her chesed and generosity, a time when her stamina and health allowed her to give, and give, and give.  I lived with Bobba during a later stage.  Often, as people age, their true personalities surface. Yes, Bobba’s character also emerged, but in her case it was sweet. It was honey. It was sunshine. 


Bobba’s day revolved around tefillahShacharis, Minchah, Maariv, Shema, every tefillah said carefully and slowly. Bobba would gently kiss each page before turning to the next. Even when Bobba’s strength ebbed, she exerted herself to daven. I once asked, “Bobba, you are always davening. What are you davening for?” Bobba responded, “I daven that I should be able to keep davening.”


When Bobba davened, she was literally talking to a King. She insisted on standing the entire tefillah, despite her advanced age. When I tried to persuade her to sit, she protested. Soft and sensitive as Bobba was, she was adamant in this regard: “When you talk to the King, you stand up!”


Bobba washed her hands before reciting a brachah and always wanted someone to say, “Amein.” Of course, if I was eating, Bobba would ask, “Did you remember a brachah?” 


Bobba loved Torah. She insisted on a devar Torah at every seudah. When I left to work each day, Bobba inquired as to where I was heading. “To teach in Bais Yaakov,” I responded. Her eyes would look at me as she said, “Teach me. I wish I could go learn in Bais Yaakov.”


When I returned home, Bobba immediately offered, “What can I give you?” She wanted to share, share, and share some more. If she was drinking a coffee, she would reach out to give me half her cup.


Bobba was always immaculately and elegantly dressed. She represented the highest levels of tznius, and when you saw her, you knew you were looking at a regal princess, a daughter of Hashem. Bobba was beautiful. Beautiful because she radiated kedushah. She did not need make-up or jewelry. Her beauty emanated from her pure neshamah.


Some nights, I was zocheh to sleep beside Bobba. If Bobba awoke during the night, she would thank me profusely and shower me with brachos. The next day, I may have been a bit groggy, but I felt spiritually elevated.


I often accompanied Bobba to family simchos. She arrived tired from the traveling, but upon hearing the music, her eyes lit up and her feet tapped merrily to the beat. The highlight of each simchah was when the family danced around Bobba, linking arms and spinning gracefully for their beloved Bobba. Bobba’s face would shine with a special light during those moments.


Shabbos with Bobba was an incomparable experience. From early Friday morning, Bobba looked forward to bench licht. The table was set Thursday night. She dressed in her finest clothes. The whole house was permeated with the Shabbos spirit. She loved zemiros.Nuch ah niggun,” she would repeat over and over, with an expression of sheer ecstasy.


Bobba possessed simchas hachayim. She was positive and upbeat. Every conversation was laced with “brachah vehatzlachah.” Bobba enjoyed dispensing brachos and simchah.


Bobba often told me, “You look beautiful,” and I was greatly complimented until I realized that Bobba told this to everyone. And she meant it. She saw the beauty in each person and helped them recognize it too.


Bobba also told her visitors, “You are wonderful.” And that, too, was sincere. Bobba believed in the inherent goodness of each person.


I once asked, “Bobba, a boy’s job is to learn Torah all day. What is the role of a girl?” Bobba answered: “To be a good girl.” I pressed Bobba to elaborate: “But what is a good girl?” She responded, “A girl who keeps the mitzvos.”


That was all. It was so simple. No elaborate résumés or fancy chesed jobs. Bobba had zoomed into the basic core: Just keep the mitzvos.


Perhaps that is why she accepted everyone, of all levels and backgrounds. The externalities didn’t exist for Bobba. She only cared if a person served Hashem to his utmost.


As a “fringe benefit” of living with Bobba, I was zocheh to witness the remarkable kibbud eim of Bobba’s children. This was not an ordinary kibbud eim. These are men and women with children, grandchildren, and jobs, but they arranged their schedules around their mother. The phone rang constantly. Visitors streamed in. The house was alive with song and laughter. There was nothing the children wouldn’t do, no amount that they wouldn’t spend, and no stone left unturned when it came to caring for Bobba. She was a queen.  She was royalty. And she was treated accordingly.


Sometimes I expressed my amazement while observing the outstanding kibbud eim. My aunts and uncles explained: “We observed Bobba’s exemplary care for her mother and are following in her footsteps.” But it was more than the repetition of generations. Bobba’s children considered it their greatest privilege to honor their mother. Indeed, the grandchildren absorbed the message, and the phenomenal link between parent and child became the core of the Tress castle.


I personally experienced tremendous brachah while living by Bobba Tress. I have no doubt that it stemmed from her many tefillos and her numerous zechuyos. My love for Bobba shone brighter than the brilliant sunshine. And now, now that she has left, my pain is indescribable. Bobba was more than my grandmother. She was my life.


Dearest Bobba, I am sure that Shomayim has opened wide for you. The malachim are joyfully escorting you, singing your praises. The myriad people whose lives you touched surely came forth to greet you. Your deeds of the past, and your generations of the future, proudly bear your name. Bobba, please, go before the Kisei Hakavod. Daven for your children. For your grandchildren. For your great-grandchildren. Daven for Kal Yisroel. As you soar high above on the wings of your zechuyos, shower brachah vehatzlachah down upon us. 


I will never forget that I lived with a Queen.



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