(Continued from here.)
Shaharit ended. I sat down with the rest of the kahal and listened to a Holocaust survivor tell how she was hidden and saved by a non-Jewish family after her parents and siblings were murdered. She spoke with no bitterness at all, with pride, strength and love. At the end her granddaughter said, "If it weren't for the Holocaust, my parents would never have met, and I wouldn't be alive." Even amidst evil and obscenity, goodness and beauty always manage to survive. The universe is amazing that way.
We finished at 3, about two hours behind schedule. I was shocked; it felt like only minutes had passed, or that we had been suspended in a kind of time-less place. But my body knew otherwise. Minha was at 4:45, and I really needed to lay down for awhile. I had arranged with my old friend J., who lived a few blocks away, to crash on his sofa for what I thought would be two hours. I walked over to his building and rang the bell--no answer. Just as I was about to start wandering the streets of Manhattan in search of a spare couch, the doorman said, "Oh! He left you a key right before he had to run to the emergency room with his son!"
oy. It seems that P., five years old, was hit by a bicycle while crossing the street with J. Lots of blood and angst, but no permanent damage. I went upstairs and collapsed for a fitful but life-saving 20 minutes. On the way out I ran into my friend and his brave and bandaged little boy, as well as another dad and his kids who had come by for a play date. J. introduced me, and explained where I was going.
"Oh!" said the friend. "I meant to go to Yizkor this year--my two brothers died a few months ago."
Silence. My friend hadn't known this, either. "I am so, so, sorry," I sputtered. You know, I'm sure they'll let you in now, since the service is about to end."
"No, that's fine," he said. "At least I, uh, got to say a few words to a rabbi on this holy day."
"Oh, no, I'm not a rabbi!" I answered quickly.
"Well, a cantor then," he replied.
"No, no, I'm not an cantor either! Just someone acting like a cantor."
He nodded emphatically. "I still feel better, that's OK! At least I got to talk to someone pretending to be cantor."
He looked relieved. I felt a bit like a fraud, but very glad to be in the right place at the right time. We shook hands, and I ran back to the Very Big, Fancy Theater.