Monday, July 23, 2007


(Special thanks to my teacher Ruchama King Feuerman and my fellow students.)

I mourn our "death" as kallah and chossen. Our marriage ended after only fifteen

months. I won't remark how sadly apropos its timing may seem, but the fact

remains that its coincidence with the Ninth of Av seems to call out for attention.

The Jewish people mourns its many national calamities on this day, Tisha B' Av, starting with

the destruction of the Beis Ha Mikdash through the Churban of the Second World War right up

to the contemporary threat of "Islamofascism" to destroy the Jewish state. It is said that

whomever does not mourn the ancient destruction of Jerusalem, "Ir Ha Kodesh," will not merit

to celebrate its messianic restoration.

I too am practiced in the ways of mourning. The effects of personal calamity have

accompanied me since the death of my son Benjamin in November of 2000. As profoundly

devastating as is our national past, so too are the beats of a broken heart and the tangibly

nagging pain in my gut. To my beloved I turn whose love I have lost.

On the day when Jews worldwide will publicly mourn a plethora of tragedies that have

befallen them on this joyless day, my own sense of national mourning is diminished. I struggle

to accept the absence of my kallah whose genuine return I should no longer expect.

I remain in isolation for several days. Grief darkens my days and nights. I turn to my shul

community for comfort and companionship. There I met an elderly man patiently awaiting


"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.

"Talisman, Irving Talisman," he said.

I saw he had chosen to almost say"Yitzhak," his Hebrew name, but did not.

A slight man with rounded back, he seemed a tiny bit hard of hearing, a little nervous and quite


"Reb Talisman," 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. Looking up at me with his glistening eyes, they

bespoke the truth, but his lips uttered "my parents" whisperingly. Only

moments before had I looked at his arms for that same sign but did not see it.

Just a slight rotation of his forearm revealed the green subcutaneous numerals.

I was moved.

Though I had seen such tattoos before, in Reb Talisman's case, he presented his

almost as if it were a badge, of honor or shame, I am not sure. Sunken and sallow, his eyes

looked to me 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 Talisman," 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. Reb Dalisman paused.

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

there was. Rabbi Louis, looking perturbed, was just finishing up as the bar mitzvah boy chimed

his way through Kaddish Shalem. Rabbi- seeing that I was escorting an elderly gentleman to

minyan-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,"said Benzie, emphatically pointing repeatedly to the face of his watch.

Reb Talisman 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

of Reb Helman, the late father of Rabbi Louis's wife Sara Etta. Rabbi gave a klop on

his shtender.

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

my kevana, my focus. I began thinking of her, she filled my head, and I knew she'd not be

home when I opened the door. Now I am aware 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." I turned 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 escorted Reb Talisman to his car.

"Good night, Sir," I smiled.

"Good night," he said appreciatively. I touched his arm hoping to comfort him. He nodded a

"thank you" as he got into his car.

I watched as he drove away while I fumbled for my keys.

Living close to the shul does have its advantages, but proximity does not allow for much

reflection. I'm good at tiny acts of self-deception and within the time space of one minute, I

convinced myself that her car might be in the driveway. My heart felt lighter though it pounded


"How nachesdik would it be to share this story with her!" I turned on the ignition.

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

Others grieve too as do I for love lost. Bringing a smile to a thin, worn face and lightening the

burden of an elderly Jew made this one of the nine days just a little less grievous. For my

Kallah's return, I remain helplessly hopeful.

Alan D. Busch

Revised 7/23/07


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