I can’t believe it’s been thirteen years since my brother Danny passed away. I’m numb. Friday night September 3 will be the 27th of Elul, his yahrzeit. This year Rosh Hashana will begin on Monday night. So this year corresponds exactly to the year 5768 when he was niftar on Friday night Shabbos Kodesh a’h, and his levaya was on Monday (in Israel). Rosh haShana began on Monday night that year. 13 years.
In Judaism the number 13 is significant. Bar Mitzvah may be the most familiar to many, there’s also the catchy Seder song “Who knows One?” which asks all the way up to “Who Knows Thirteen?” Thirteen are שְׁלֹשָׁה עָשָׂר מִדַּיָּא the Attributes of G-d. These Middos in fact are the very core of the Slichos prayers recited from before Rosh HaShana, during the 10 days of Repentance and on Yom Kippur. Then we have The Thirteen Principles of Faith which Rambam composed, foundational concepts in Judaism.
I think it’s safe to say Danny was a believer.
Danny was a proud Jew committed to Klal Yisroel and devoted to Eretz Yisroel. He studied Tefillah and Torah with a learned rabbi who tutored him so that he would be properly prepared not just for his Bar Mitzvah but for life. His committment to Yiddishkeit blossomed while in NCSY. The friendships he developed all those years in NCSY, and while a student at Y.U., lasted until his final days. Over the years, he became involved in shul life and Kiruv matters on a very personal active level, wherever he lived. He was known for his warmth and genuine concern for others regardless of their background or affiliation and his devotion to Torah life. He had a way about him. Whenever anyone needed something fixed or had a problem to be solved, Danny was the one to call for help. He had an absolutely amazing capacity to figure things out on his own and this extended beyond mechanical know how. It didn’t matter to him if an object was broken or a relationship needed some mending, Danny cared and was affected deeply by other people’s troubles. He offered his hand to anyone in need and made himself available to all. Often this was at much inconvenience to himself, but he did it graciously without hesitation. He kept his word when he promised to do something. His integrity was matched only by his humility. Danny’s neshama was a giving nature. He would do chessed for others (myself included) selflessly. He often offered help to people who otherwise may have been too embarrassed to ask, and he did it quietly. He wasn’t looking for credit, glory or financial gain. He saw someone in need and genuinely wanted to help. HaShem blessed him with remarkable compassion, understanding, and patience. He always saw the good in people and did his best not to judge them.
No matter where we lived or how far away from each other, he looked out for me. We shared life’s ups and downs, and held each other together when life got rough. Oh, just how rough it got! It seemed Danny kept experiencing setback after setback. All the while, he never lost faith, never became angry with the One Above, or blamed Him. That would have been the easy way out. Not my brother. Ani Maamin* – by Dvekus
As persistent and however unrelenting his trials and sufferings were, he did not complain. He didn’t understand, none of us did. He was such a good person. But he would ask, “how can I do things differently? Make things better?” So many tests he endured, many that most people do not even know about, yet he remained steadfast through everything a mentsch, a gentle soul, not bitter. I learned so many of life’s lessons from him. He was the one who could work wonders and bring people together. You’d never know his pain.
When Danny was diagnosed with cancer he called me. Steady and calm he reassured me he was going to keep going. He kept his Faith throughout his ordeal. He believed in וּתְשׁוּבָה וּתְפִלָּה וּצְדָקָה מַעֲבִירִין אֶת רעַ הַגְּזֵרָה. He did what he could. The collection of emails he sent to his immediate family and extended family of friends far and wide to keep us abreast of his situation show tremendous Yiras Shamayim. He was exchanging and spreading Chizuk with others, not defeat. His letters show it is possible for one person to touch many lives and bring so much good into the world. The responses he received testify to his uniqueness. As his health deteriorated, his committment did not falter. He knew G-d is all loving, knowing and merciful. Danny chose Life, as we are directed in this week’s Parsha Nitzavim, וּבָֽחַרְתָּ֙ בַּֽחַיִּ֔ים לְמַ֥עַן תִּֽחְיֶ֖ה because he wanted to have a loving life with his family and be close to G-d for as long as he could. He wrote in his final letter,
I think more about what my day of judgment will be. How can I answer for my life? I am proud of the life that I have led, the father that I am, the husband that I have tried to be, the values and goals that I represent – even my failings, mistakes and all have always been the result of the best of intentions. Everyday that I am here is a bracha (blessing) for those who care about me… The good news is that I have few regrets and I feel ready to stand at the gates of heaven and hear my decree.
In the spirit of Rambam’s 13 Principles, אני מאמין I Believe Danny showed us how to have more than a little Faith.
The auspicious days of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur are upon us. Now is the time for us to remember those 13 Attributes of G-d. Beautiful Yom Tov and Selichos prayers give us a way to turn to G-d for forgiveness. The gates of Heaven are open to us. This is the time for reflection, forgiveness, hope, renewal and redemption. It’s a New Year! כתיבה וחתימה טובה
CHAZAK! שנה טובה ומתוקה