The Finest Thing This Side of Heaven

Rabbi Goode leaned against the steel bulkhead and watched the passengers stream by him. He glanced quickly at his watch: exactly one in the morning.

The crowded luxury liner that he was on had been ferrying passengers around the northeastern seaboard since 1926. He may have even seen it at the docks of New York when he was still a child, but he had no memory of it. Thousands of ships called New York home and they had all looked alike to him then.

The Dorchester, as it was now known, was far from her usual route though. On this February 3rd, 1943, she was 150 miles from Greenland. It was freezing cold out on deck and the Rabbi held his gloved-hands over his ears to keep warm.

He soon noticed a young sailor making his way up a ladder through the throngs of passengers. He was heading in the opposite direction of everyone else. As he passed by, Rabbi Goode reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Mahoney, where are you going?” he asked in a concerned voice.

“My gloves,” the petty officer replied, “I’ve forgotten my gloves. It’s freezing! I have to get them!”

“Never mind that,” Rabbi Goode said smiling. He removed the pair of gloves that he was wearing, “take these. I’ve got a second pair.”

The sailor took the gloves and turned and headed back down the ladder. Midway down, he stopped and looked back at Rabbi Goode for just a few seconds before he was pushed on his way again by the crowds.

Fifteen minutes later, the Rabbi and three other army chaplains died in the Atlantic, having given away their gloves, their coats, their life-jackets, and their prayers so that some of the other 900 soldiers aboard the torpedoed-vessel might live.

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