For the first time in approximately 30 years, I will miss the first day of Sukkot. I am doing a decidedly un-rabbinical thing, or maybe a decidedly rabbinical thing. I am going to a Roman Catholic funeral mass.
Patrick Barnes died last Friday from pancreatic cancer. You may have noticed the obituary in the Star Ledger. Pat was a Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor for many years, and he was also the Hunterdon County Prosecutor from 2003 until 2008. He rooted for the Red Sox and the Devils, he was a voracious reader, and he loved to discuss track and field.
He was assigned to me when he first came to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, and I quickly discovered that he ran the half-mile in high school and college. I was miler in high school and college, and we swapped war stories ever after. Pat, knowing my love of Jim Ryun (the last American to hold the world record in the mile), tracked Ryun down and he presented me with a framed collection of Jim Ryun photographs, all autographed. He recommended books to me (The Boys in the Boat, for example). We talked endlessly about literature and athletics (the British name for track and field). When he was appointed the Hunterdon Count Prosecutor he invited to speak at his installation and he chose the topic: Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof. Justice, Justice, you shall pursue. He knew chapter and verse (Deuteronomy 16:20) and the concept of chasing justice was important to Pat.
The Ethics of the Fathers says a good name is the most important thing in the world. Pat had a good name. He stood on principle. He chased justice, as a prosecutor and as a privately practicing lawyer. He was my friend, and I saw him in the hospital two weeks and one week before he died. I recited the deathbed Vidui on the first visit, and I recited the R’fuah Shlemah, the prayer for recovery, on the second visit. We who read the U-netaneh Tokef prayer three times every year, know that nobody lives forever, but we pray for the best year that we can have.
I would not forgive myself if I did not attend the funeral. Pat was a very dear friend.