Yussie's Yom Kippur Prayer
Yussie Yablonsky, aged 56, sat on the bench by the parking lot of his synagogue, Bais Chaim. He studied the congregation as they headed toward the front doors. The men looked prosperous and proud in their dark suits, the women were radiant in their new dresses, and the children were like dress-up dolls, even when they were misbehaving.
Yussie looked down at what he was wearing. His green jacket was worn through at the right elbow, his red striped shirt was missing two buttons, and his blue pants had a cuff that had come undone. He could feel the damp grass through the holes in the soles of his shoes.
Michael Fein, the President of Bais Chaim, drove up in a brand-new jet-black Lexus. He parked in his assigned spot, opened the door and stepped out like a king. He smoothed the wrinkles from his expensive suit, straightened his silk tie, and patted down his styled hair.
He walked around the car and opened the door for his wife. She stepped out wearing a French designer dress, patent leather high heels, and a matching Gucci bag. She took her husband's hand like a queen. Their children, a handsome boy of twelve and a pretty girl of eleven, joined them as prince and princess. Then the wealthiest Jewish family in Sunshine, a little town east of Miami, strutted toward the entrance of the shul. Once inside, Michael Fien sat in the first row, next to the Rabbi, in the seat of honor.
Yussie inhaled the warm October air that was settling in. Sundown was approaching, signaling the start of Yom Kippur, the High Holy Day, the Day of Atonement. Jews around the world would observe this holiday the same as the Jews in Sunshine – they would take off from work, go to synagogue, and fast for the next 24 hours. Some would spend most of those hours in synagogue, praying, begging God's forgiveness for their sins committed during the year.
Like the rest of the congregation, Yussie was going to take the next day off from work. However, unlike them, he had no job to go to. Six weeks ago he lost his job picking up trash along the Florida highways because of budget cuts.
Yussie planned to attend services for a few hours this night, walk home, and then return tomorrow. The day after that, disaster loomed.
On that disastrous day, Marshal O'Neill had a 1 PM appointment to evict Yussie from his tiny apartment. He would put Yussie's third-hand furniture and meager belongings out on the curb, change the locks, and then escort Yussie to his new home – the streets of Sunshine.
Yussie listened to his stomach growl.
The rest of the congregation had a large and elaborate meal before starting the fast. Yussie finished the last of his oatmeal yesterday morning, and had nothing to eat for a day and a half. It would not be an easy fast for him. Already he was starving, and he had to sit down because he felt light-headed and dizzy.
Yussie believed he was observing Yom Kippur like a good Jew. He was taking the day off from work … and fasting. He would have preferred to have performed these two observances voluntarily, rather than because of unemployment and starvation … followed by being homeless.
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© Copyright 2012 by Zalman Velvel Inc.
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