My friend Marty Penn, known to the initiated as Rabtat, has died. I find it difficult to write about him. We spent much of our time together indulging in activities which were not becoming of the Rabbi Penn that he became in later years. As shepherd to a Montreal Jewish congregation, his immature, child-of-the-Sixties years were not the parts of his résumé that he would have highlighted, I’m pretty sure. To flaunt them now, would be to disrespect the person that he became, and I have no intention of doing that. Though he was one thing to me, he was something else to many other people. And I have no doubt that they loved him as a rabbi as much as I loved him as one of the few people who could outdo me in substance-fueled juvenile stupidity.
The other reason I find it difficult to write about him is guilt. I saw him only once since he fell ill 18 years ago. It was easy to rationalize: We were living on different continents (he in Canada and I in South Africa and then Israel) and I was relatively newly married with young children. Between work and family it was difficult for me to get away. But I should have visited him, I should have been there for him, and my guilt is enormous. Until this past week, I had still hoped to make it up to him somehow, but that is now not going to happen.