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Slow and steady wins the race: To-do lists for a life cut short

Among a fallen soldier's goals for his army service: Don't complain, take initiative, don't be upset by the little things, and help others
(courtesy)
(courtesy)

Maoz Morell z”l was born on March 6, 2002 (כ”ב אדר, תשס”ב). He is the son of Varda and Eitan Morell and brother of Dov, Eliezer, Shachar, Elkana and Channa. Maoz was drafted to the Elite Paratroopers Reconnaissance Unit in the IDF in April 2022. Two years later, on February 15, 2024, Maoz was fatally wounded fighting in the Gaza Strip. He died from his wounds five days later on February 19, 2024. He is buried on Mount Herzl. 

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Varda Morell, Maoz’s mother, writes:

When I sat down to write my eulogy for Maoz’s funeral, I was at a loss for words. When you think of Maoz, you just think of his big smile, his love for his friends, tiyulim (hiking) and his commitment to his service in the army.

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But at the funeral itself, and during the shiva, an extremely clear picture of Maoz came to life.

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Maoz was an exceptional fighter throughout his army service and a brave hero in his last moments. But we realized that Maoz was a fighter his entire life. School was not easy for Maoz. He had learning disabilities and it was difficult for him to read in both Hebrew and English. Despite this, Maoz did not take the easy road. He decided what was important to him and set goals for himself to realize his dreams. He wanted to read his entire bar mitzvah parsha although it was Vayakhel-Pekudei, which is the longest Torah reading. In order to reach that dream, he started studying with his father a full two years before his bar mitzvah.

The whole family. (courtesy)

He wanted to learn all six books of the Mishnah. He knew that he wouldn’t succeed if he tried to do it quickly and intensely, so he took on himself in ninth grade to learn three mishnayot a day and in 12th grade, he finished all six books. “Slow and steady wins the race.”

Maoz knew that if he wanted to succeed, he could not be prideful. He knew how to ask for help from teachers and from his friends in order to help him in his learning. When he didn’t understand something, he asked his teacher or a friend to explain it again and again until he understood it.

Maoz believed strongly that he should try to use his time wisely and not waste time, so when he came home from a hard week in the army, he would eat and rest a little and then go out for a run, and spend a few hours working in the garden. 

During the shiva, we joked around about how we would not find a hidden notebook of Maoz’s poetry or a diary with all of his deepest feelings. Maoz was not a man of many words. When he was in Gaza for the first seven weeks (beginning October 7th), he was only allowed to call home once. At that time, all the boys sent one WhatsApp voice recording to their parents. While the other parents were reporting on the beautiful detailed long messages they received from their sons, I got my message from Maoz. It was 11 seconds long: “Hi Mommy, it’s Maoz. Everything is ‘sababa’ [slang for OK]. That’s it. I’ve updated you.”

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So we were not surprised when we did not find a notebook filled with Maoz’s poetry. We did, however, receive from the army a number of notebooks together with his equipment; they were filled with lists — lists of goals and aspirations. I feel that these lists show Maoz’s essence and what was important to him. Below are the titles of some of his lists and some of the items that were in those lists. Just from these simple words and lists, Maoz reveals what a great young man he truly was.

Maoz’s Lists:

What Torah books I want to learn during summer vacation:

  1. הכשרת האברכים (Preparation for studies)
  2. משנה ברורה (Mishnah Berurah)
  3. מסילת ישרת (Mesilat Yesharim/Path of the Just)
  4. שניים מקרא ואחד תרגום (parsha)
  5. רמב”ם (Rambam/Maimonides)
  6. מסכת תענית (Tractate Ta’anit – Babylonian Talmud)

 

Preparations for Yom Kippur:

  1. Ask my friends for forgiveness
  2. Drink a lot of water
  3. Learn in the night session with all my strength
  4. Make a daily schedule

 

My schedule for the upcoming week:

  1. Go to sleep on time
  2. Wake up for davening because then I feel better all day
  3. Pay attention to what I say and how I speak to people
  4. Try to learn well in the morning learning session

 

Expectations for myself for tomorrow:

  1. Wake up on time
  2. Try to be focused all day
  3. Have “kavana” (intention) in my prayers

 

What can I learn from these past few months in yeshiva that will help me succeed in the upcoming months?

  1. Find a learning partner that is a good fit and fun to be with. If I am checking the clock every 2 minutes, I need to switch partners.
  2. Feel good about the learning. I don’t have to learn every second. If I need a break, I’ll take a break. 
  3. Go to sleep early and wake up for morning prayers.
  4. Don’t put in all of my strength in the very beginning. Do it gradually.

 

Before I go home from yeshiva, what do I want to do at home so that I will not waste my time:

  1. Try to do things that don’t involve screens.
  2. Don’t go into sites that have inappropriate content.
  3. No screens after 11 p.m.
  4. Don’t be on screens for more than an hour unless I’m watching a movie.

 

Goal: To move ahead in yeshiva in my learning. How can I do that?

  1. Start as if all is new — come with renewed energy
  2. Make a schedule and stick to it
  3. Find strong learning partners and put a lot of effort into my learning
  4. Get up for prayers and go to sleep early
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Hopes and commitments for my army service:

Commitments:

  1. Learn every day — שניים מקרא ואחד תרגום, קיצור שולחן ערוך, מסילת ישרים
  2. Go to yeshiva for Shabbat once every two months
  3. Wear tzitzit all the time
  4. Write a halachic (Jewish law) question every day in my notebook

Hopes:

  1. To look at my service in a positive way and not be upset and disappointed all the time
  2. To be a servant of G-d during and after my service
  3. To succeed in helping others in my group
  4. To take initiative 
  5. Don’t get upset and frustrated by the little things
  6. To be careful about halacha (Jewish law) without cutting corners 

 

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On my 20th birthday, insights for the future year:

  1. Work on my middot (personal character) — How I treat others
  2. Don’t speak badly about others
  3. Get up every day at a normal hour

 

Goals that I am setting for myself as the “Maggist” (The Mag is an extremely heavy gun which gives cover fire. That was Maoz’s job in his unit. )

Maoz with the mag. (courtesy)
  1. Don’t complain
  2. Don’t slow others down by walking slowly
  3. Give it my all
  4. Try and help others
  5. Never give up!
Maoz’s lists. (courtesy)

When something was important to Maoz, no matter how difficult, he would set goals for himself and then make himself lists with doable steps in order to reach those goals.

We encourage you to do the same and to think of Maoz when you do so. In that way, his legacy will live on.

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Maoz’s parents, Varda and Eitan Morell, speak about their son, including his heroic actions in Gaza, before he was killed, here

Maoz Morell’s story and many more stories of those who fell in battle or were murdered in terror attacks can be found in Those We Have Lost: Stories of civilians and soldiers killed since Hamas’s onslaught on Israel on October 7, 2023.

About the Author
Maoz Morell z”l was born on March 6, 2002 (כ”ב אדר, תשס”ב). He is the son of Varda and Eitan Morell and brother of Dov, Eliezer, Shachar, Elkana and Channa. Maoz was drafted to the Elite Paratroopers Reconnaissance Unit in the IDF in April 2022. Two years later, on February 15, 2024, Maoz was fatally wounded fighting in the Gaza Strip. He died from his wounds five days later on February 19, 2024. He is buried on Mount Herzl.
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