Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dear Readers,

This post is a revision of the previous one. I apologize if I'm driving you crazy with revisions and more revisions, but it's what I do. Writing is best defined as "rewriting."

Those who know me closely know how few are the persons to whom I bond closely. And that bond is so extraordinarily strong that there is nothing I wouldn't do for them. They know who they are. I make no secret about my love for them.


I mourn the "death" of "us", of my kallah[1] and me whose marriage lasted but

fifteen months. Sadly, I became all too familiar with the pain of mourning

following the death of my son Benjamin in November of 2000. And as maudlin

as it may sound, I can tell you there is something frighteningly tangible about a

broken heart and the nagging pain in my gut.

Soon Tisha b’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, will be upon us

when Jews worldwide will publicly mourn the destruction of the Beis Ha

Mikdash[2] along with a plethora of innumerable tragedies that befell

us on this joyless day throughout the centuries.

My own sense of mourning for the innumerable tragedies of Jewish history-

which is supposed to heighten as we near that dark day-is diminished while my

thoughts and hopes turn to my beloved whose love I have lost, but whose caring attitude and

friendship I thankfully retain.

At such times when grief monopolizes my days and nights, I turn to my shul

community for comfort and companionship. But something happened there earlier this evening

when I met an elderly man who was patiently awaiting Mincha that was scheduled to begin at


"Good evening, Sir."

"Good Evening," he responded with the slightest hint of a smile. "I was worried

we would not have a minyan. It's nearly time, and I've yahrzeit for Ma'ariv.

"Oh," I sought to quickly reassure him. "We'll have a minyan guaranteed. Please

don't worry about that. Your name, Sir?" I asked.

"Dalisman, Irving Dalisman," he said.

I could see he almost said "Yitzhak," his Hebrew name, but did not.

He seemed a tiny bit hard of hearing, a little nervous and quite sad.

"Reb Dalisman," I addressed him. "For your wife, your parents, you have

yahrzeit?" Twisting his left arm over with the assistance of his right hand, he

showed me six numbers. He looked up at me. His glistening eyes bespoke the truth, but his lips

uttered "my parents" whisperingly. Only moments before I looked at his arms for

that same sign but did not see it. Just a small rotation of his forearm

revealed the green subcutaneous numerals. I was speechless. Not that I hadn't

ever seen such a tattoo before, but in Reb Dalisman's case, he presented it as

I had never experienced-almost as if it were a badge, of honor or shame, I am not sure.

His eyes were sunken and sallow as if he had been crying and were underscored by dark rings-a
sign almost as indelibly permanent as the horror of his tattoo. I just wanted to take care of

this man.

"This way, Reb Dalisman," pointing to the Rabbi Aron & Rebbitzen Ella Soloveitchik Beis

Medrash, some twenty paces down the hallway from where we stood. Together we opened the

door. He paused.

"Should we enter? There seems to be a bar mitzvah lesson going on." Indeed

there was. Rabbi Louis was just finishing up as the "bocher" chimed his

way through Kaddish Shalem. Rabbi looked disturbed. Seeing that I was

escorting an elderly gentleman to minyan, he saved his upset for the next two

hapless fellows who followed us in after we had shut the door.

"Close it!" Rabbi barked.

"Abba, it's 8:05. Time for mincha. We have a minyan," said Benzie who, as it

happened, was one of the two who came in after us. Reb Dalisman slowly approached the one

chair unlike any other in the beis medrash, a comfortable seat though not of the stackable

variety, well-cushioned and distinctively but peculiarly pink in color. It had been the favorite

chair of Reb Helman, the late father of Rabbi Louis's wife Saretta. Rabbi Louis gave a klop on his

"Ashrei yoshvei v'secha ... ," we davened Mincha, but when came time for Ma'ariv, I had lost all

my kevana, my focus, and began thinking of her, and how she'd not be there when I arrived

home. Now I am aware that one should look toward the heavens should he feel his devotion

waning, but I just couldn't. I closed my siddur and stared out the window.

"Maybe she'll pass by," I mused, "or drop in to meet me here."

I turned my head to the doorway thinking I had heard a feminine voice! Oh … just one of the

younger guys.

"Amen. Yehey shmey rabba ..."

The beis medrash emptied. I followed Reb Dalisman to his car.

"Good night, Sir," I smiled.

"Good night," he said appreciatively. I touched his arm comfortingly.

I watched as he got in his car and drove away.

I fumbled for my keys.

"There surely has to be a lesson here," I ruminated.

And it was, I concluded, "The One Above" had sent Reb Dalisman to remind me how

others are grieving too and afford me the opportunity to perform the tiniest act of

gemilus chasadim that brought a smile to a thin, worn face and relieve an elderly Jew of his

burden if for but a moment.

I turned on the ignition. How I hoped she’d be home. I would have liked to share this story

with her … perhaps tomorrow.

Alan D. Busch

[1] Hebrew:bride
[2] The ancient Holy Temple in Jerusalem

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