By Israel Drazin
There are Jews in Namibia, Africa, with an Orthodox synagogue in a town. The Jews there call themselves “Bush Orthodox.” The synagogue services follow the Orthodox tradition, and there are services every Shabbat, on holidays, the New Moon, and when one of the parishioners needs a minyan, a quorum of ten men, for a service when he needs to say Kaddish, the prayer for a deceased relative. But many of the Jews are not strictly kosher; although some refrain from pork and sea food, which the kosher rules prohibit. And some of the men are married to non-Jewish wives.
One of the Jewish men died and his non-Jewish wife wanted to respect him and his religion, so she arranged for a rabbi to fly in from Johannesburg. After the funeral, the rabbi wandered around the cemetery to look at the gravestones to see how many of the dead were Jewish. He saw a tombstone that had peculiar writing, which he couldn’t decipher, though it looked like something he knew. He asked the widow if she knew the story behind the tombstone.
“The man in this grave,” she answered, “was Jewish, and like my husband, was married to a woman who was not Jewish. She, like me, wanted to honor her husband, to bury him in a Jewish way. But she didn’t do what I did. She searched her house and found a box with Hebrew words. She took the box to a stone engraver and told him to inscribe the Hebrew words on her husband’s stone. He did so, but not knowing Hebrew, he copied the letters upside down and imperfectly.”
The rabbi looked again and saw that the stone said “kosher l’pessach,” the matzah box was kosher for Passover use.
When the rabbi told people this story, their first reaction was to laugh, but the rabbi said, “This woman performed a great mitzvah, a really good deed.” And the people realized their mistake, and agreed.