My email message read:
Two boxes of Rabbi Sidney Ballon's sermons are en route to you via UPS. Delivery is expected Friday. Attached is the signed Deed of Gift.
And with that, after nearly forty-four years in my possession, my dad’s papers are on their way to their final resting place, the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ohio. The end of an era for me. I “inherited” these documents much too soon, at the age of twenty-seven, upon my father’s death. Now, at the ripening age of seventy, I bequeath them to the generations of students and scholars, who, I am assured, regularly peruse these archives. After my intense scrutiny of these eight hundred or so sermons plus many other speeches and articles—over two million words—it most definitely tugs at my heart to send them off.
I inquired of my chevra as to the proper ritual to mark this departing. I got intelligent and meaningful suggestions. In the end I simply lifted two well-packed cardboard boxes onto the counter at the UPS store. (After summer jobs in our youth Dad and I shared a bit of pride in our packaging skills.) I inserted my credit card in the reader, affixed my electronic signature, took the receipt, drove home, put away the hand truck that assisted my transport of the cartons, walked into my room, pressed our shofar to my lips, and gave Dad a tekiah gedolah on this second day of Elul 5778.
More will follow. Our family will gather in early December, a year after the launch of the book, A Precious Heritage, in which I bequeathed to them thirty-six of my favorite of Dad’s sermons. What exactly we will do at this year’s gathering I cannot say for sure, but it may involve a combination of some of the suggestions offered by friends and family. Havdalah, a piece of art inspired by Dad and his sermons, kaddish d'rabbanan, and a big deli spread, rise among the possibilities.
One more thing. The legacy of my father’s essays—preserved not only in the book, but also in dozens more transcribed and/or scanned to my webpage—still seems somewhat thin compared to the fullness of holding the actual aging pages in one’s hands. To make up for for that, I have withheld from the American Jewish Archives the selected thirty-six sermons, and replaced them with photocopies. The originals remain with me for now, soon to be placed in a 9x12 black clamshell metal-edged archival storage box. Who knows, maybe the uneven impressions of Dad’s fading typewriter ribbon, his pencil scrawl edits, and his now rusty paperclips will one day be held in the hands of another generation of readers. Maybe not, but I will at least allow for the possibility that my future septuagenarian grandchildren might experience these pages with some awe and wonder about their ancestor, Rabbi Sidney Ballon.
Oh, I guess there’s one more piece of the ritual…I wrote this.