last night was the memorial service for my father at the synagogue. about 275 people managed to join us. noam, my mother, edward, philip and the bishop of oxford spoke. here is what i said ... started off with the beginning of my lev post from last month and added a few notes.
"i had a dream. it may not, however, have been a dream. i don't know, and it doesn't really matter. i thought it was real at the time, because i was sitting on the sofa in my office listening to my mobile. i heard a voice on the other end, and i knew it was him. "daddy!" i said. "no," he replied. i know his voice, i've heard it all my life. "albert?" "i am not albert," he said, "my name is lev." there was interference on the line, and he began to fade out. i tried to get his number, but wasn't quick enough. "we'll talk again," i heard him say. and then the book-keeper woke me up - i was sitting on the sofa in my office.
the thing is - i don't dream like that. i'm a bit of a smartarse, and am pretty sure that if this experience came from my subconscious, it would've been much more ... smart. "i am martin buber!" the voice would've said, and sent me to the bookshelves in search of 'i-thou'. i would then figure out the subtle meaning, ponder upon the concept of connection, and be pleased about how smart i am. but things are different now. albert is dead. and he said his name is lev. he named it all with that one word: heart. not my style at all. it was, however, a message for me.
heart. that says it all, which is good, because i haven't the faintest idea what to say to you. i keep thinking that maybe, if somehow i can channel him ... here's rabbi f. in the pulpit again ... softly spoken ... wise, funny ... similar expressions and gestures ... if i could channel him then i could console you. somehow, though, i don't think i should.
my colleague rabbi s. was talking with me the other day about losing a famous father and how at some point one has to stop trying to console his public and say 'hey, i lost my daddy'. i thought - what a kick albert would get hearing himself compared to isaac stern! she has a point, though.
so - forgive me if i am neither articulate, nor funny, nor wise tonight. i'm sad. i am also blessed. when my father died, we had nothing left unsaid nor undone. he had e-mailed me every day telling me how much he loved me and how proud of me he was and what a great rabbi i am and will be. i, too, rarely missed an opportunity to say the same to him.
what i miss is being able to talk about kevin gallen's goal on saturday, and if only the goalie hadn't tipped that shot onto the post in the last minute. i miss the little twitch in the corner of his mouth just before he says something he thinks is extremely funny. i miss his eyes shining with tears as gunga din falls at last. i miss his mischievous mind, and his joyful heart. most of all ... his hands ... just being able to hold hands ... walking along the street, sitting in front of the television ... not saying anything, just holding hands.
when it became my responsibility to deliver sermons on the high holydays, i would spend hours on the phone with my father across the atlantic. i did not want him to help me write them, but i did want to make sure that i wouldn't embarrass myself with flawed reasoning or mawkish sentimentality. he'd make suggestions, and i'd argue with them all. one day he suddenly said, "i have to go now." "but i'm not done yet!" i said, anxiously. "you don't need me anymore," he said, "you'll be fine." and off he went.
i so didn't want him to go, but he was right, i did just fine. and that's how it is for us tonight. and that's how it's going to be.
lev - heart
as long as i remember that while excellent sermons are extremely important, the key is b'chol l'vav'cha, u-v'chol nafsh'cha, u-v'chol me-odecha ... with all your heart and all your soul and all your might. like r. akiva, daddy used up every last bit of his heart, and if we will try to do the same with our own, then his memory will surely be for a blessing.