[Post on my mind today: Another Elementary School Closing, at Orthonomics]
The other day, when I turned to Hallel in my siddur I saw the following code pencilled in: 632 AS / 565 B / 139 Goody.
My shul rabbi readers, certainly those from shuls which welcome people who have less background, may be able to parse the first two-thirds of the code. 632 is the page number for Hallel in the Artscroll siddur, and 565 is page number for Hallel in the Birnbaum siddur. I always announced the page number, to the point that I had them memorized, but I was concerned about forgetting them and so I inscribed them in my siddur. But what is 139 about?
The third number was from Goody Miller’s siddur. Every month, when I was in Allentown, I would say, “Hallel is on page 632 in the Artscroll siddur, 565 in the Birnbaum,” and Goody would lift a finger and say, “139, Rabbi,” because that was the page number in his siddur.
Seeing that code was poignant for me today, because Goody passed away several weeks ago; this was the first Rosh Chodesh since his death that I used this siddur, and saw the notation.
Goody was in his 90s – probably 94 or 95 – and until a couple of years ago he came to shul every day, regardless of the weather, in his old pickup truck. A gentle man, always grateful for any small favor, never complaining about his ill health (although he wasn’t happy if the heat in shul wasn’t working properly), quick to smile and greet people. Colds and deafness and snow and rain rarely stopped him until he finally moved to be closer to his kids. He passed out, at least once, in shul. He was the unsinkable Goody.
Shuls around the world are blessed with “Goody”s. In my shul in Rhode Island we had Yankel Faust and Joe Zalusky, both now of blessed memory, both with incredible life stories and a devotion to making the minyan. In Allentown we had, in addition to Goody, an incredible man named Leo Ritter, of blessed memory. (I can still hear Leo, our nonagenarian gabbai who passed away seven or so years ago, asking, “Has anybody yahrtzeit?”) And there are more, those who have moved to the next world and those who, thank Gd, are still with us… I would expand here, but I’m not certain what people want to keep private.
We would benefit greatly if someone would take it upon himself to write a book, or at least create a website, dedicated to these octagenarians and nonagenarians who keep minyanim going in communities far and wide. They daven, they serve as gabbai, they inspire men one-third their age, and they make sure the tenth will be there. That would be a great book, a snapshot of these minyan anchors from a moment in time.
Just make sure Goody’s listing is on page 139, please.