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Alan D Busch

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You May Be Seated
By Alan D Busch
Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rated "G" by the Author.

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a chapter in my manuscript about the last weeks of my father's life ...

You May Be Seated

I always sit in the same place when speaking with the

Shel Olam.

It so happens that my seat is behind Rabbi Louis’s. I’ve been

sitting there for the past fifteen years. I do so as an expression

of my gratitude and affection for him. He befriended me at a

troubled time in my life when I needed help in my efforts to

become an observant Jew. That seat has become my makom

kavua, a fixed place of prayer, and remains “mine” by the force

of custom alone. In shul life, one’s makom is of such

importance that the word itself is often used to denote one of

God’s names.

Ben used to sit next to me in shul.
In the eight years since his

death, only my father has sat in Ben’s seat when he comes to

shul on the eve of the High Holidays. Neither Ben nor his

grandfather was religiously observant. As for me, I’ve evolved to

the point that just the anticipation of their arrival is enough

to put the tov in yom tov. As difficult and painful 

a lesson as it was, it has taught me that I can only demand strict

observance of myself.

I can see Ben’s yahrzeit plaque easily from where I sit just over

the top of the mechitza. It is the eleventh one down in the

first column of the first of five bronze panels. No matter the

season, the occasion or the daily weather, Ben is unfailingly

where I expect him to be. Since his passing, his plaque on the

south wall of the main sanctuary has become, I guess one can

say, his new makom.

My younger son
Zac attends shul as infrequently as his older

brother and grandfather. Their mother and I did not raise our

children observantly. In my family, it was I who alone became

religiously observant, and I was no different at their age than

they are now. So it doesn’t really concern me too much

because Zac has proven himself to be the kind of

young man who has become both captain and navigator of

his own ship. He has needed some guidance along the way,

but then haven’t we all? If, however, you look closely into

Zac, you’ll find a winning blend of his mother’s hard-headed,

common sense approach to everyday life, his older brother

Ben’s stubborn defiance of convention and the acquired

wisdom to recognize the correct path when it’s staring at him

in the face.

There were but a handful of occasions when my sons, Dad and

I came together for the holidays. They came and went so

 quickly and, although they were more bittersweet than

purely happy, I recommend it to all sons and their fathers.

Shul life is, after all, about family, community, happiness,

sadness, belief, faith, friendship and, yes, God and Torah.

Naturally, I wish we had been able to get together more

frequently, but for my Dad,  well … is there anyone who cannot

understand how a grandpa feels when surrounded by his son and

grandsons? I do, however, admit I am envious of other fathers who are

fortunate indeed to have their sons sitting by their side on a

regular basis. If I had a second chance, I’d do things differently.

The last time my Dad was in shul was on Erev Rosh Ha Shanah,

2006. He had already begun his battle against colon cancer

but still looked robust enough to remind me of the gibor he

had been in his younger years.

The Aseres Yemai Tchuva is a season of reckonings, a time

when you just begin to wonder about things, you know …

and as I looked at my father, seated between me and my son

Zac-Ben had already been gone for five years-it occured to me

that this night might be the last time we’d all be together. I

saw him whispering to Zac. I could not make out what he was

saying, but it allowed me a few moments …

The entire downtown business district would pour into the

streets around 5:30 P. M. clogging the already congested

traffic lanes of Chicago’s bustling “Loop”. Blaring horns of

Checker taxicabs and city buses made it hard to hear one’s

voice, but my father’s voice … I always heard.

As a kid, I recall his homiletic lessons that were not, he was

fond of saying, worth “a hill of beans” unless we perform

good deeds, “acts of loving kindness”, he called them. “Words

alone are cheap Son. Actions speak louder. Remember that!”

One bitterly cold afternoon stands out in particular. A

dusting of powdery snow had fallen. The city sparkled with an

illusion of purity. My father and I had just left his office and

were on our way home when a shivering, bedraggled man

approached us. The butt of a cigarette hung from his cracked

lips. His thin, dirty jacket reeked of tobacco and alcohol. He

muttered something to my Dad, but I couldn’t make it out.

“Here, my man. Take this,” my father reassuringly said while

removing his long coat and draping it around the trembling

shoulders of this fellow. “Be well,” he added with a faint smile.

He took me by the hand and headed to the underground

garage where he had parked his car. “Daddy, aren’t you cold?”

 “A bit son, but I would have frozen had we walked past that

man without responding. Giving is more blessed than

receiving, sonny boy.”

Now, nearly fifty years later, on the eve of the New Year,

while the three of us sat together probably for the last time, I

prayed that if I could but a fraction be to Zac what my father

had been to me … dayenu.



dayenu: from the Passover Hagadah, "it would have been enough".

Aseres Yemai Tchuva: "The Ten Days of Repentance" beginning with Rosh Ha Shanah and ending with Yom Kippur.

Erev Rosh Ha Shanah: Eve of The New Year

gibor: a man of strength

Shul: synagogue

mechitza: partition in orthodox synagogue seprating men from women in sanctuary.

yahrzeit: memorial

tov: good

yom tov: "a good day"; holiday

Ribono Shel Olam: Master of The Universe

Alan D. Busch






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Reviewed by Micki Peluso 4/17/2009
Dear Alan,

I loved this. I either read parts of this before or read all of it as it is quite familiar. Your next book is going to be wonderful!!


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