As a Rav I spend many hours at a “Shiva Home”.
Often I feel that I gain more from being Menachem Aveil than the mourner who I am attempting to comfort.
Invariably I leave a “Shiva home” more inspired than when I entered and with valuable insights.
Nevertheless, when I arrived at ‘Beryl’s home’ to console him over the loss of his brother Yanky I was somewhat skeptical as to what gems of wisdom I would be able to procure.
Yanky had passed away in his early sixties; he never married and seemed to be a loner.
Yanky’s day was the most expectable life one could imagine.
Every morning at 5 AM Yanky awoke and caught the 5:30 train to Hoboken.
He then boarded the 6:10 PATH train which arrived at 33rd Street in Manhattan at exactly 6:30.
Yanky would then take the “D” train two stops uptown to Rockefeller Center and exit on 47th Street.
He would daven Shacharis at a midtown Minyan.
For Mincha, Yanky was a fixture at the Radio City Synagogue (AKA: The 47th Street Synagogue) in the midst of the Diamond District.
Yanky’s life was predictable, pedestrian and certainly prosaic.
I must admit that his predictability was not always looked at so favorably by others and I must add -embarrassingly- myself to the list.
Too many times when I and others attempted to ‘set him up’ with perspective Shidduchim, he would demur by stating, “I must be in bed by 9 PM!”
There were those who began to ‘blame’ Yanky for his bachelorhood and contended (without any basis) that ‘his Bashert’ must have passed him by.
Whatever the reality, I figured that there was not too much to be gleaned -which I didn’t already know- about the life of a 63 year old Bachelor who awoke the same time for 40 years and never altered his behavior even one iota.
I arrived for Shacharis on the last day of Shiva.
After Davening, Beryl, Yanky’s older brother asked me if I would accompany him for the customary ‘walk around the block’ signifying the end of Shiva.
As we walked he was quiet; yet, suddenly he turned to me and said,
“Rabbi, I must tell you something.
I know there were those- and you may be one of them- who ‘blamed’ my brother for his lack of ‘hishtadlus’ in attempting to get married.
Maybe, the claim is valid… who am I to judge?
However, I want to tell you something.
My brother in his pedantic exactness did something amazing.
He saved every extra penny he made as a low level clerk in the Diamond District.
And in a neighborhood where millions of dollars changes hands daily, my brother accumulated his own diamond; he quietly and without fanfare endowed a special scholarship fund at one of the yeshivos.”
I was awed into silence by the words of Yanky’s brother.
Yet, Beryl was not quite finished.
“One more thing; my brother asked that when he is remembered –and if he able to leave any legacy- he requested that people stop judging each other by if they are married and how many children they are blessed with.
My brother really did want to marry… he just didn’t want to marry ‘anybody’; he wanted to marry the ‘right body’; he just never found her.
His greatest pain was that he always felt his being single relegated him to second class status in the community and that reality hurt him deeply.
His final words were, “I just wish people would have accepted me for who I was and for what I achieved and not for what they thought I should have done.”
As we arrived back at the Shiva home, I once again realized I received much more than I gave.