With apologies to the movie that’s coming out, but not really. Certainly to the original book.
Yesterday was a very full day in the life of this rabbi and his household, meaning me, from start to finish. He was up very early in the
dark morning to go to services, which are one-half hour earlier until Yom Kippur.
I did not get up, but I commiserated, or at least I would have, if I were awake.
But then phone rang a few times. No, that was the day before, come to think of it. That was the day ISHI got the call saying that the baby had died and they would need to take care of arrangements. This is a baby that died before he had a chance to live, so this was definitely a not-normal life.
So that was yesterday, with the rain, along with the tears. I looked at all kinds of things at the cemetery, thinking about all the very good photos that I could take, if I were brazen enough. But then I realized how I was looking at things, rather than allowing myself to feel. Because it hurt too much.
I saw everyone else there with their sad teary in slow-motion faces. I motioned the people away from their cars to join the mourners under the canopy. Maybe it was too close, maybe it felt more real to be under that canopy with them, but they came when beckoned.
I could tell you about the coffin that the rabbi was given to carry slowly from the car to the grave. Not to hurry. The coffin that had a raised Jewish star on top. I won’t tell you how small it was, not the star. I won’t allow myself to think about that.
I could tell you about the tissue packets that lay there unopened, on the chairs under the canopy. Everyone could have used them and no one did.
Or about the pregnant women who were there, despite the superstition that they shouldn’t come to a funeral, especially of a baby. Their faces were even more frozen than everyone else’s.
Or the broken umbrellas, that seemed to be appropriate for the occasion.
Or the dirt on the nice raincoats of the men who had probably left work to come. Many women also had left work, but they kept clean while filling the grave. Especially one woman, who was the first of the women to help fill the grave, she who had buried a child of her own many years ago.
Or about the dirt on the shoes of the undertaker who had to kick the canopy wheel to stop it from rolling away, after they moved the canopy to bring in more dirt.
More dirt! How could they not know how much dirt that little space would need? That was even more cruel to have to wait, not because it hurt more, but because it made it seem so mundane. This was anything but mundane.
And when we finished, we went out of the cemetery to the entrance where we usually stop to pour water on our hands, to leave the death behind us. But there was a significant puddle there. We went down the street a bit before leaving the death behind.
And then we went to the bank to deposit some checks, first for the shul tzedakah fund, then for our own account.
Business. Real mundane. Real.
And then back to the house for some phone calls; the woman who needs guidance about her abusive husband, but she doesn’t think that divorce is really a good idea. And with the woman who has divorced her husband and is still reeling from the marriage, still feeling the abuse.
And then ISHI ran off to services at a mourner’s home; a mourner who had buried his father who had lived a good long life, with great respect and great love.
And then the lite side of rabbinic life; the phone calls that came in about kashrut; yes, the meat of the rabbi’s life. “Is this kosher, if I did this or that?”
I could write some Mad Libs about it.
My ______ took the _____ spoon and put it in the _____ by mistake. What do I do now?
The fillers for the first blank have changed over the years–husband; mother-in-law; babysitter; au pair; child; neighbor; non-Jewish in-law; daughter-in-law…the fillers for the second and third are interchangeable. Meat/milk/pareve….milk pot/meat dishwasher…etc.
“Tell me, what were you thinking?” is never uttered, because it is clear that people act reflexively and not with forethought. The woman who felt grateful that she could give the food that she messed up to her neighbor who likes Jewish food; the couple that felt relieved that they did not mess up as much as usual.
And then there was a second phone call from someone who left a long message beforehand, more honest on the message than he would be in person, most likely. He wanted a meeting. ISHI commended him on his honesty and said he deserved a good answer, which he couldn’t give him until next week due to the imminent holiday approaching.
Fear and trembling, Days of Awe.
May we all be sealed for a good year of a good life.
And may we all understand how good it is.