Yom Kippur a powerful time.
And this year was extra powerful. Boruch Hashem, we had a full-house for the Shul services, everyone was focused on davening and connecting and the atmosphere was electric. We ended Neilah on a high with the sounds of "Shema Yisroel" and the lively Napoleon's March reverberating in our ears.
Soon enough, the last Shul members headed home and the kids went to sleep. In the quiet I mused over how Yom Kippur catapults us into transcendence, and then leaves us in suspended animation. Our challenge is to crystallize the experience, capture the high, take it home and live differently for the next year.
By the next morning, I had my answer.
Dr. Schneur Levin had been my paediatrician. I have very fond memories of his boundless love for us kiddie-patients, his quirky humour and his eccentric homemade remedies. Visits to the doctor fun and his house-calls (yes, he still did house-calls) lifted the mood of the whole family.
I hadn't seen Dr. Levin for at least 25 years. I "outgrown" him and moved on to a regular GP a couple of years before my Barmitzvah and we only crossed paths sporadically over the next few years.
On Friday morning, I heard that Dr. Levin had passed away. I decided to attend his funeral to say a final thank-you for all the amazing things he did for me as a kid.
As the funeral procession made its way through the lines of graves, I walked alongside an old friend's father.
'They could have written a book on him," he said, "I could tell you a hundred of stories about him".
"Ok," I prompted, "Then at least tell me one."
Dave told me how Schneur Levin had attended the "Jewish Government" school in Doornfontein. Apparently, the school still operates today as a regular government school (there are no Jews living in that part of Johannesburg any longer).
Some years ago, Dr. Levin visited the school, probably for "old times sake". He chatted to the staff, walked the familiar corridors and reminisced about the "old days". He also paged through the old school journal and found the entry from the day his brother had fallen in the playground and broken his leg.
The journal entry recorded how the school had called for an ambulance, which had cost the equivalent of 25c, to take him to hospital.
Now, Dr. Levin knew that his parents did not have that sort of money in those days and realised that the school must have paid for the ambulance.
Without hesitating, he calculated the 30-or-so years worth of interest on the 25c and handed the school an donation to that effect!
That's when I realised it was no coincidence that Dr. Levin was escorted from this world on that day. After all, he held the clue to translating the inspiration of Yom Kippur: Be a mentsch.