Updated: Mar 29, 2020
There are memories that remain forever etched in our minds. There are emotions that remain forever etched in our hearts.
Those that carry a chisel throughout their lives, work with endless passion and sacrifice to help shape who we can become. They are driven by a vision of a completed work, while they still hold only a heap of raw clay in their hands. They inspire us to strive to realize our full potential, but with the assurance that they will be there in our failures and over pitfalls along the way. They raise us on their purest morals and beliefs, but with the delicacy of knowing we may form our own that deviate. They rebuke us compassionately when they see our choices expose us to risks and dangers, to shield us from harm. They glow with boundless pride when they see our accomplishments and successes, to instill understanding of what is purposeful. They embrace us with undying love and welcome us into their home and family, when we arrive in their world as strangers.
There were so many experiences, so many moments we shared these past years, alone as individuals and together as families. I have contemplated this day’s arrival for some time, wondering how I would react, wondering what I would feel. I have asked myself how the physical loss of a person so dear to me would finally affect me.
What I experienced from the very first time we met and I sat in your home with your family, and every moment since, was driven by one central theme. Our souls are connected intimately to God, to Judaism, to the nation of Israel, and to all people near and far. That is a bond that cannot be broken, can never be severed. It is only through an individual or collective consciousness that we recognize this fact at any given time in our lives. But it remains, transcends the physical.
We say that people “touch” our lives, but what we mean is they are connected to us in a more intimate way than others. We say someone is no longer with us, but what we mean is that we simply cannot experience them with our limited physical senses. We say someone has passed, but what we mean is that they no longer stand on this land before us.
I can spend endless days and nights recounting experiences we shared. I can delve into Divrei Torah to try and ignite a light at a time that may appear to some as dark. I can speak eternally of your great character and impact on so many of us as a teacher, a Rav. I can try and stir memories amongst us all of the personal sacrifices and dedication we witnessed throughout. Or I can remain true to who you were, who you are and who you will be to me...always.
The first Memorial Day (Yom Hazikaron), you took me to meet the father of an Israeli soldier that had been killed defending the land. When we left, you recounted how the father, standing at his son’s grave broke down and recited a blessing of Shehechiyanu, the most joyous of all blessings. A father thanking God for having allowed him to arrive at this moment, for having given him life only to have to bury his very own flesh and blood.
Even if you did not know then, that single experience inspired me like no other, and there were no shortage of experiences we shared over the years.
We travelled many roads together, to have arrived at where we are today. Do we sit and lament all that we suffered along the way, or look out to the beauty of all that lies ahead - that which is only visible from this single vantage point? What do we take as we embark on that very next step on this journey from our prior travels and experiences?
Having just learned that you have left our world leaves me contemplating life without your physical presence. People may ask how you should or will be remembered? I do not understand. Is it not the same we remembered you to be every day in our lives, each and every one of us that you touched along the way?
So how do I feel? I feel the very same spirit, the very same connection, the very same intimacy, the very same love and the very same presence I have felt from the day you embraced me as one of your children, and every day since. I may not feel the physical warmth of your body, the touch of your beard against my cheek or the strength of your arms as you hold me, ever again. I may never walk back into your home to see you overcome with joy, a smile break across your face as you rise to greet me as a son returning back home from afar, even when I was there the day before. And I may never feel you playfully slapping my face while hearing your voice lament “what is going to be with you” fully knowing you probably would prefer to give me a real hard punch and shake me from my “helem”, my state of confusion.
But what I do feel is your spirit and soul infused in my life, always. You give me the strength to wake and embrace tomorrow with exuberance and passion - there is always a tomorrow. You give me the appreciation for who I can be – because that is someone evolving and still never fully realized. Throughout your life you worked in body and soul to help us all realize that vision of who we can be, that potential you saw in every single one of us. In your eyes there were never failures, just greater challenges. Your soul alone will continue to sculpt us all, for generations and generations to come. You help us realize that every moment we face choices, and our decisions and actions shape who we are and shape the lives of those around us. We are all connected, all of us responsible for one another (yes I know that in Hebrew it sounds far, far better). That connection can never be broken.
In the end, what we feel is lost or gained today, is only decided by how each of us embrace these events. And so, I thank Hashem for having given me life, sustained me and brought me to this very moment to feel forever grateful as only a child to a parent can ever feel - yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Forever your Talmid, forever learning from you!