Mine was not alone of the fathers I knew who struggled with emotional disequilibrium. He was not the only pious devotee who periodically, at terrifyingly unpredictable intervals, flipped out. Even (or especially) many of those most revered for their leadership in orthodox communities had a fiercely furious dark side.
There was for example my friend Josh whose father was the revered, white-robed, guest rabbi from Yeshiva University who deigned to lead our modest but fervent community in the High Holiday services each year. I remember him rushing by in august rabbinic haste, tall and flushed, securing the cord around his white, flowing robes. Later on during my teen years, there was in our community tragic news of the revered High Holiday guest rabbi. He had lost his first-born son, Josh’s older brother, on the operating table where they were hoping to repair the boy’s congenital heart ailment. Then, in a nightmarish incident, his younger son Josh was jumped by some Puerto Rican hoodlums and beaten so badly that he was laid up for days.
It would not have occurred to Josh and I to speak to one another in those early days or even to look one another in the eye over the great gender divide. But, fast-forward a decade or two and we found ourselves members of an ad hoc late-seventies subculture of lost souls all of whom had left their orthodox upbringings behind, all of whom were unmoored, floating Chagall-like through a kaleidoscopic wonderland of a world, circling like lone doves, wondering after the deluge where they might land.
Josh and I, we had our ways. We scoured the underground of New York in the seventies catching one another up on the inner linings of our lives. He told me of his father’s inconsolable sorrow turned to brutal rage over the loss of “the wrong son.” Dear Reader, It was the Rabbi – not the Puerto Ricans – who beat Josh to a pulp and this because Josh had managed to confuse God Himself in His cruel choice of brothers, this because the devilish boy had dared to be spared.