In The Beginning
By Allen Herman
Nowadays, I rarely have a column that discusses politics or religion. I know better. The nation is divided into blues and reds, democrats, republicans, independents and lord knows what else. Peoples’ thoughts and views are all over the block. What ever you say provokes and enrages half of the population. Let’s be honest, debate is history and character assassination is the weapon of choice.
When it comes to religion the slope is even steeper. Being a member of a group that represents less than two percent of the nation’s numbers I don’t feel it’s my place to start proselytizing . I really believe that if you are comfortable in your beliefs I am not about to tamper with your comfort. Besides, to be honest, I am not that knowledgeable or well versed. I had trouble teaching history and economics.
Yet I feel compelled to mention the Jewish holidays that have just ended. I refer to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur … the beginning of the Jewish calendar New Year. Recently, Linda and I, after much wandering, found a home at Melrose B’nai Israel Emanu-El on Old York Road in Elkins Park. I enjoy the congregation, the service and the commentary. The fact that they always have a great spread of food after services doesn’t hurt. I guess the way to this man’s soul is through his stomach.
But most of all, I adore the Rabbi. Rabbi Charles Sherman is no Elmer Gantry. He never blasts us for coming so infrequently nor does he demand “we sinners repent.” His sermons are usually interesting, humorous, timely and thought provoking. Often, I feel like I have been hit below the intellectual waist line and the significance of his thoughts take days for me to reflect on.
This holiday was no different. He discussed his grandson and his first haircut. He reflected how he accompanied his son for his (Rabbi Sherman’s) three year old grandson for his first haircut. The noise in the children’s shop was a little more than the grandfather could handle so he went next door for a cup of coffee. Shortly after he finished his second cup his son and his grandson, with his first “little boy” hair cut, entered the restaurant. His long blonde curly hair was gone and the youngster was having a tantrum only a three year old could muster.
He had been great in the barber shop He had jumped up on the chair and sat perfectly still while the barber cut his locks. He was even happy when he jumped off the chair. But when he looked in the mirror and saw the finished product he had a fit. He didn’t like what he saw and “wanted it back the way it was.” The tantrum lasted almost all the way home.
The next day I was sitting in our living room and thinking about the little boy’s words. Most of us would often like things the way there. Life has gotten very confusing. Carol marrying Sheila, George coming home as Loretta and people turning their backs on our flag were not the norm. But in reality, as the Rabbi pointed out in his sermon, most of us rarely remember many things that were not so nice when we were growing up. Many changes are for the better.
And as I sat there thinking about his theme the next day, our phone rang. It was a call from a member of our Congregation informing us that the Rabbi’s thirty six year old son, Eyal, had died. Although he had many, many compromising health issues for over thirty years, the finality of his death, especially of a child so young, must be devastating. Linda and I made plans to attend the funeral.
The service itself was packed and it was conducted by another Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom, a close friend of the family. Tough as it must have been, Rabbi Sherman delivered a eulogy for his son. I sat there wondering what he would say, how he would handle this terrible loss and how he could even spiritually justify it. I didn’t have to wait long.
He started with a simple statement. He quietly said “Once Upon a Time.” If my memory serves me properly he said it three or four times before he moved on. He and his wife and his other four children, plus grandchildren, adored their Eyal. They had created a new “Once Upon a Time” that incorporated their son, brother and loving uncle into their everyday lives. Although confined to a wheel chair and a variety of mechanical devices, Eyal was not a burden. In reality, he had become the cornerstone of the Sherman family. His loss was not a relief. It was a tragedy.
We all have dreams and aspirations. We want to be firemen and circus performers when we are young. We attend colleges with plans and hopes for our futures. We all seek a mate for a once-upon-a-time marriage. We plan careers and have families. But things don’t always proceed the way we plan. Fairy tales, more often than not, are fairy tales. Some things end up badly. We have academic failure, divorce, health issues and on and on. Some situations are almost unbearable.
But when these things occur, we can’t change them. We must work around them. We must learn to live with the curve balls that cross the plate. We must accept reality and create new liveable “Once Upon a Times.” Rabbi Sherman and his family learned to live with and love the new Fairy Tale they encountered. Linda and I wish them well as they move through this time of sorrow.
Your opinions are always welcomed.