Ten months had passed. Uncle Lavel was sitting at home in his chair reading the newspaper when the phone rang. It was Shimon.
“Uncle Lavel, how are you?” he said.
“Frankly, I don’t want to have anything to do with you,” Uncle Lavel answered.
Ignoring Uncle Lavel’s truthfulness Shimon said he was calling for two reasons.
The first was to apologize for his behavior on Rosh Hashanah and the second was to tell him he had another argument with the Big Shul and closed the door on ever returning. “I swear it, I promise it. I have nothing left there. No friends, just memories,” he said.
Shimon then called the Far Away Rabbi who discouraged him from making such statements, especially after what transpired less than a year ago.
“Go back,” the rabbi told him. “You know the place so well.” But Shimon was determined and swore again never to go back to the Big Shul.
“I will be in the Little Shul for Rosh Hashanah and I will not let you down again,” he said.
The Far Away Rabbi hung up the phone and stared at the heavens …and in the blink of an eye he arrived in Sherbert just in time for Rosh Hashanah. Shimon sat in the pews, Gedaliya behind him, Uncle Lavel a row in front to the right. It was evening, the first day.
The morning minyan began on time and did so throughout the holiday. Shimon not only made up for the previous year’s heartache but continued rejecting any notion of his return to the Big Shul and then confessed more about himself to the rabbi.
“I feel terrible about my life and the direction its taken,” he said. Unhealthy but wealthy since birth he revealed his savings had dwindled, his home was being foreclosed, he was estranged from most of his family, and the state would soon take away his car forcing him to quit his delivery job.
“I know what I had and that my current predicament is my own doing and I’ve done a lot of crying about it,” Shimon said.
The Far Away Rabbi was perplexed. “Master of the World!” he later cried out to the heavens “How awesome are your works! You give to man and take away! But you put us here and you too must answer for our sins. It is you we hold responsible, all merciful one. Grant us reprieve and a good year.”
A WEEK LATER on the afternoon before Yom Kippur Shimon and the Far Away Rabbi were driving in a car. Concerned over Shimon’s state the Rabbi once again pressed him on his anger towards the Big Shul and how it was unhealthy. Shimon then turned the discussion towards a key member of the incident that led to Shimon’s departure: Ocsar.
“I will never forgive Oscar,” Shimon said.
“You don’t have to go back if you don’t want to but at the same time its not productive to remain angry at him,” the rabbi responded. “If Oscar wants to remain angry at you that’s his decision but you have the power in yourself to choose a different path.”
“But if I’m not angry then I have to go back,” Shimon replied though it was unclear if he meant it or not.
“If you do, just wait till after Yom kippur,” the rabbi said wearily.
Bursting with laughter Shimon suddenly withdrew his euphoria and with a nudging tone clamored. “Read my lips. I will never go back there again!”
THE YOM Kippur service began that night and by the afternoon break the following day the Far Away Rabbi found himself sitting in the Shul with his longtime friend Dr Arches, Shimon, and Mordechai.
Another Jew, Nachum Yisroel, had taken a sleepy refuge on a nearby bench. It was then that Shimon proceeded to tell the full story of what transpired in the Big Shul on the day of his last departure but at the request of the rabbi he wasn’t to reveal the identities of those involved.
Shimon agreed and began: Some months back he arrived at the Big Shul for a morning service and in the chapel were only seven people including a non-regular who had to say Kaddish. Though the custom in the Big Shul was that Kaddish could only be said if ten people (a combination of men and woman) were present a debate ensued over letting the mourner recite it, despite there being only seven. Shimon’s long-time friend, Oscar, which Shimon didn’t name in his rendition, encouraged the man to stand and recite it. Though Shimon himself wasn’t such a religious man and knew the Big Shul was not as traditional as it used to be he felt it was wrong and protested.
“Stop being selfish!” Oscar yelled lambasting Shimon for being foolish. As the mourner said Kaddish Shimon stood bewildered and disgusted that the house of worship he called home for so many years no longer had ideals nor felt warm, especially after his friend turned on him.
“I will never go back there and I will never forgive that Oscar,” Shimon declared to the Yom Kippur break audience, and then he went home.
WITH SOME two hours to wait out, the rabbi, the shames and the doctor went for a walk to the beach but the rabbi returned to the Shul early to prepare for the return of the congregation and the final prayers. Stepping into the small sanctuary Nachum Yisroel had just woken up from his long nap.
As the rabbi picked up a prayer book and stood flipping through its pages Nachum Yisrael approached and stood frozen three benches away with an eager look on his face.
“I was the guy,” he said to the rabbi in an undertone, looking a little nervous.
“What guy,” the rabbi answered.
“I was the guy in the story,” Nachum Yisroel said.
Focused on a melody in his head the rabbi asked, “What guy? what are you talking about?”
“I was the guy who had to say kaddish,” Nachum Yisroel revealed. “They only had seven. I said it but I said it as if I was saying it to myself. Then Shimon and Oscar got into a shouting match.”
The bewildered rabbi was amazed! “But you were on the bench resting when Shimon was sitting here telling us all the story! How could he not have known you were here?”
“He knew I was here but you told him not to mention names…” Nachum Yisroel replied and then stepped outside for some air.
The rabbi was speechless.
Thirty minutes later the congregation reassembled and between the afternoon prayer and Ne’Eilah, the final service of Yom Kippur, he spoke to the congregation about the depths of the moment, the need to help each other, pray for each other, and shed the chains that weigh them down.
“Yesterday in the car Shimon and I were just talking about how carrying around anger is non-productive and self defeating. Shimon, what do you have to say about that?” he asked, his hands held out wide.
Prayer book in hand Shimon paused and with great gusto declared: “I – will never -ever – forgive – Oscar.”
And that’s how it ended, or didn’t. The congregation erupted in laughter and it appeared laughter was the best antidote.
Ne’Eilah was strong and high and the heavens responded with new life. As the Jews of the Little Shul of Sherbert and their out of town helpers wished each other a happy and healthy new year, it was too early to know what would be of Shimon or if the Far Away Rabbi would be back again. One thing which was clear, though, was that there couldn’t have been a better group of Jews to make it all happen.