I’ve been in shock since last Friday when I first learned that my friend Zvi died unexpectedly on Thursday night.
He was only 57 years old, and he was an avid marathon runner. What could have happened? My mind races, trying to regain its illusionary bearings. Still another reminder of humankind’s lack of control.
We knew one another from our morning minyan. Once, after I’d been already been reciting kaddish for Papa for a couple months at shul, he kindly and gently pointed out to me that I was mistakenly reciting the Diaspora version of the kaddish d’rabbanan while praying here in Jerusalem (blog #16), which led us to a friendly conversation about his own experience of reciting kaddish for nearly three years in a row. Zvi was one of the few minyan members who remained at the back of the room with me, rather than taking a seat among the majority of the daveners, each of us praying daily in the other’s orbit.
The son of Conservative Jews who had made Aliyah from the USA, Zvi grew up in Israel and adopted a more religiously conservative approach to Judaism than his parents before him. He was a deeply religious man, praying three times daily and maintaining a serious commitment to halakha, while keeping an open, curious mind towards other people’s approaches. On Saturday mornings, he would walk more than two kilometers from the Pat Neighborhood to shul in Baka for our early morning minyan, and he wasn’t usually one to be late to services.
Zvi was truly a wealth of information. He knew the histories of neighborhoods and buildings in Jerusalem; and to say that he was politically informed would be a gross understatement. He was someone who would actually download the texts of Knesset laws and Ministry regulations from government websites and read them thoroughly from beginning to end. Zvi was politically left-leaning, but he deeply understood the underpinnings of the values and ideas of those to his right. He was particularly interested in disability rights laws (he had a daughter with special needs), and for many years he volunteered as a Shekel counselor for independently living young people on the Autism spectrum, spending nights away from home to provide them with security.
There’s more I could write – about his humility, about his intelligence, about his sensitivity, about his insights into so many different and fascinating matters…
There are faces one becomes accustomed to seeing at a daily minyan, and there are faces one looks forward to seeing. Every morning, I would look forward to seeing Zvi. I will miss him dearly.