24 Av 5776 / August 28, 2016
This Shabbat, a well-reviewed film abut the Obamas’ first date, “Southside with You.,” opened. I plan to see it, but maybe I’ll wait for streaming video – High Holy Days and all. I’d be more interested in the Nixons’ early dating days. We’re told the future President would chauffer Pat on her dates. Such a vision evokes a protective, determined and passionately loving man, who would convince his future life-mate that he would chivalrously guard her safety for all time.
It reminds me of Boomie. At Fran’s house, a week after the love of her life and a dogged guardian of our Temple passed from this earth, she told me about their early dating days. Boomie pursued her, he knew he would marry her. He would wait at the front of her house so she made it back safely from her dates.
A couple years ago, Boomie demanded to speak to me after Kiddush. He was beginning to have some trouble getting around, so we put a stool up on the Amud so he could still be our Gabbai. He darted into my office. And as I closed the door, he eyed the bottle of Sliwowicz. He ran after it with unusual alacrity. He took a swig straight out of the bottle. It’s still there, but Lord I’m not drinking from it.
He was beside himself with worry over Fran. He went through a medley of her ailments, and he was having trouble coping. I don’t know if I was able to say anything that could help him. Perhaps active listening would have to do.
This indelible image has sometimes haunted my sleep, especially since he’s the one who died first. Now what’s Fran going to do, now that her knight has fallen in battle? She does have a loving family, but it would take an army to do for her what Boomie, even in his wounded state, managed to do.
It was so lovely to hear from her family last Sunday in our sanctuary, more than ably confirming our impression of this man as pure passion, without a note of guile, who would (and did) rescue the Torah scrolls after the Northridge quake.
On Fran and Boomie’s wall is a touching papercut of a pre-modern couple on opposite sides of their actual marriage license. He made it for her on some anniversary or other. Not sure it had a zero in it, but for Boomie every anniversary had a zero. It didn’t even have to be an anniversary. He showered her with love every day with whatever creative notion he could conjure.
Psalm 15 says that such a man “shall never be removed.” Not from our memories, not from all the Temple places he personally reparied. Not from his Buddies on the Bagel Brigade, another crazy idea of his to get his Bnai Brith chapter to personally get meals to hungry souls. He was the consummate Jew, all three legs on the stool Pirkey Avot says establishes the world: Torah, service, and lovingkind deeds. He was loving and kind to his bride, to hungry strangers, to grieving rabbis, and to God.
So, how are we going to help Fran?