Lesbian author Adele Levine thought she had made a mistake by accidentally inviting an orthodox rabbi to conduct her Jewish father’s funeral- but didn’t regret it. “Our little Orthodox rabbi was so short you could barely see him from behind the podium. Yet in his traditional garb, he loomed larger than life.”
When my father found out his cancer had returned, he called a family meeting. Not about the cancer, but about his funeral. He said he wanted Rabbi Eli to do the service.
I was surprised to hear that my father even knew a rabbi. He was hardly religious. But he said that this particular rabbi had once been a stand-up comedian, and he and my mother heard him speak at a local event. He found Rabbi Eli very engaging and wanted him to do his funeral.
Shaken up by Dad’s blunt meeting, my mother, sister and I didn’t ask any questions. But when my father approached his final days, I searched for a Rabbi Eli near Silver Spring, and I called.
Rabbi Eli Fink answered the phone immediately. In the background I could hear children playing. For a former stand-up comic, he didn’t strike me as particularly funny. He was stern and to-the-point. But at the same time, there was kindness in his voice.
He told me he usually didn’t do funeral services, but that he would make an exception for my father. And then he asked if my father would like him to visit. For a second I considered this. But my father was no longer very lucid, and I thought that having a rabbi suddenly appear at his bedside – especially a rabbi he had never formally met – would just scare him, like a signal that a hearse was pulling up outside.