"From Moshe till Moshe, there arose none like Moshe." (famous Jewish folk saying)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Coincidence Continued

A few posts ago, I shared my encounter with coincidence. I would like to now tell the rest of the story. So I went to the Cemetery in Beit Shemesh for Hal Shmichels’s unveiling. It was very meaningful for Hal’s family and I am glad that it worked out for me to be there. But there is more to the story.

As I was leaving the cemetery, I stopped to wash my hands, a traditional hand washing done when leaving a cemetery. As I was washing, I noticed a familiar face. It was Rabbi Geller, the former Rabbi from Malden, MA who now lives in Baltimore, MD.

He saw me and said, “Moshe, what are you doing here?” I asked him the same question! Rabbi Geller told me that he came to Israel for Bill Rubin’s 1st yartzeit. Let me explain. Bill Rubin was a young man who lived in Malden. Bill was the backbone of Beth Israel and for many years he was in charge of their youth program. I was close with Bill for many years until sadly, he passed away last year of a brain tumor. Rabbi Geller continued, “I’m not sure if we’ll have a minyan, can you stay?” In the end, they had nine who came for the minyan, I was the 10th. A memorial prayer and the kaddish could be said.

Coincidence, maybe….but the story continues. As I was leaving the cemetery, I saw the name Bookspan on a tombstone, Rabbi Oskar Bookspan. Let me explain. When we moved to Brookline from Lowell in 1996, I wanted my son to sit next to an old man in shul. I had grown up in a shul of old men. There is something about the character of shul where the median age is between 70-80! I think that so much of my character, for better or worse has been defined because I grew up in shul with a bunch of old men. The herring, the kvetches, the GAS! Sometimes there was so much wind in shul we thought the windows were open… and there were no windows!

Anyway, moving into a more modern and younger community, this was something I wanted for my son, who was 7 at the time. There were 2 empty seats in the front left of the synagogue. 2 empty seats next to an old man, Rabbi Oscar Bookspan. We took those seats and for the next 4 years, my son was able to enjoy the character of this sweet, kind and gentle old man. He passed away in 2000 and I remember how our son cried when hearing the news. He funeral was held in Israel and we never knew where he was buried. Never knew until today.

Now I can take my son to visit his old friend. I left a few stones for Bill and Rabbi Bookspan and told them both I would return. Sometimes G-d taps you on the shoulder and sometimes he hits you over the head. Coincidence? Not a chance!

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