A dynamic young man who left this world much earlier than anyone ever expected, still managed to reach from beyond the grave this week to help a fellow Jew.
David Antar, 26, was the youngest son in a Brooklyn-based Syrian Jewish family and least likely to be sick; but he passed away nearly a year ago. Heartbroken family and friends told the story of his life in the few words they could place on the stone cover for his grave.
“Humanitarian. He helped hundreds of people in their time of need… He lived a very short life spent in the service of others.”
There is a tradition among Jews to visit the resting place of departed loved ones during the ten “days of repentance” between Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).
In a Sephardic cemetery in Staten Island, New York, Eliot and Shlomit Belilos were visiting the graves of family members on Thursday when they suddenly remembered their friend David had also come to the cemetery this year.
Walking over to pay their respects, they spotted a group of nine men close to Antar’s grave who looked like they were searching for something, Shlomit Belilos related in an interview with JewishPress.com .
“Can we help you?” she asked the group.
“We need a tenth man,” one of the group replied, “and we’re running out of time. We need to say Kaddish (the Jewish prayer for the dead) for a relative here but it is getting late.”
The requirements for reciting Kaddish are specific, and unique. A quorum of ten Jewish males age 13 and up is required. Kaddish cannot be recited without these specific conditions having been met. In the loss of a parent, for the first 11 months the prayer is recited by the bereaved child three times a day, every day, supported by the quorum of ten. In other circumstances the requirements change.
Eliot Belilos had appeared just in time, and more to the point, he was sadly eligible, having lost his father just a couple of years ago. Being familiar with the need for recitation of the Kaddish, he quickly joined the group and Kaddish was recited.
Those in the quorum merited a ‘credit’ for having helped out a fellow Jew and the bereaved merited a credit for having met his obligation to recite Kaddish as he was supposed to. Belilos scored an extra credit for being the tenth man to complete the minyan (quorum).
Coincidence? Yes, of course. But David Antar always had a knack for being in the right place at the right time when something needed to get done fast. Now.
Antar was a drug counselor, a case manager and a crisis intervention specialist. He founded and ran an agency, “C.R.I. Out” in Los Angeles, California, that helped place drug addicts in treatment programs.
He knew what worked and what didn’t, first-hand, because he had already been there — like most really good drug counselors — trying to bury old business he’d spent a lifetime trying to forget. He knew the struggle from “working the program one day at a time,” every day.
On October 28, 2013, Antar didn’t work the program. No one knows why. It cost him his life, but not his soul. That part of him still burns brightly.
On September 3, 2014, somehow David Antar reached out and made sure Kaddish was said for a fellow Jew.
May the memories of all departed loved ones be for a blessing this Yom Kippur Sabbath.
Hana Levi Julian