Remembering Efrat’s Moshe Silverman: Seize the Day

Composite illustration: Moshe Silverman (Courtesy the family, © 2020); Babylonian Talmud by Sotheby’s [CC0, Public Domain] via Wikimedia

Composite illustration: Moshe Silverman of Ma'ale Amos and Efrat (Courtesy the family, © 2020); Babylonian Talmud by Sotheby’s [CC0, Public Domain] via Wikimedia

[Please note: this article has been updated for the current weather conditions - Editor]

Being indoors during this current weather has given me time to ponder, to reflect. Unfortunately, my reflections turn to what you do when your friend and study partner falls down, suffers a mortal injury, and departs unexpectedly from this world. It makes you wonder if life is just completely random? Or, if we are just like leaves thrown about by the wind?

The story starts many years ago when Moshe (Silverman) of Efrat’s Philly Pizza asked me if I would be interested in learning with him in the mornings, for about half an hour a day. Moshe worked many years at Philly Pizza, serving both local residents and those (including tour groups) visiting Efrat and the greater Gush Etzion area. He served all who came and with great equanimity.

We started learning together about 11 years ago and had our last study session this last Monday. You've all heard of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who passed away not long ago. I am here to tell you about Moshe. Moshe's footprint may have been smaller than that of Rabbi Steinsaltz, but it was just as deep.

Our learning sessions enabled me to integrate my religious life with my working life. Both of us worked hard (and he, maybe harder), but together we made time for learning the Gemara (traditional oral teachings of the Torah). While we never learned very much at any one time, we learned together consistently over these 11 years.

Unfortunately, Moshe developed ALS some time ago and was forced to retire this January from work. Yet, instead of focusing on what would be, he focused on what he could do with the unexpected "windfall" of time. He spent more time with his family, and our study times (interrupted by his disease and the coronavirus) were longer and more fulfilling.

But who was he, outside of these rather dry facts?

Moshe was a person who embodied Torah values, while working and practicing a religiously observant life. He even completed this recent past difficult fast of the 9th of Av. He was firm in his beliefs, but not judgmental. He had only good things to say about his family and spoke proudly of his children. Moshe was a person of infinite patience and optimism. He led our learning, but never pushed ahead until we both were comfortable with our understanding of the text before us. He never criticized, but only rejoiced in our greater understanding. He never tired of going back, and never faltered going forward.

Moshe died on Shabbat of Parshat Re'eh. In this parsha, G-d tells the Jewish people, "See, this day, I set before you a blessing and a curse..." Rabbi Judah Mischel explains that G-d is telling us to seize the day, to make today a blessing — that to leave over or procrastinate can only delay the good, if not bring on the "bad."

Likewise, Moshe was a person who never dwelled on the negative, but asked only what he could be today, as the person he was that day. Imagine if you had to make 100 pizzas a day? You can only make them one at a time, and similarly you can only live your day, one day at a time. Without this attitude, he could never have endured — let alone be contented — with his forced retirement. In fact, his family doesn't look back at the last six months as a time of difficulty, but one where the days were spent, for the first time, with his wife, children, and grandchildren.

When we met last Monday, he'd already fallen a few times, but I don't think that anyone imagined that he would fall and his life would end. Instead, I imagined, or at least hoped, that we could continue our learning (we came close to finishing Bava Kama). And of course, I hoped for a small miracle that his disease would progress ever so slowly. But, what is slow, he told me, when his physical condition continued to appreciably deteriorate?

Yet, when we last departed, I took special note that it wasn't like our usual partings, when he would say, "I'll call you,” or “We'll meet soon." I too forgot to mention it, and as I crossed the parking lot to my home, I pondered just what it might mean. Thinking back, it makes you wonder if not everything is random. Besides not saying "See you soon," he died on the Shabbat whose Torah portion exemplified his life, and he died before having to endure the suffering that so many with ALS (and others with unfortunate illnesses) have to endure.

I'm often too busy to ponder and ask myself what am I doing and why. I just do what seems to come up, often with my eye on tomorrow.

Moshe was the opposite. His eye was on today, and for that reason his last days were full days, days that I'll remember, and so will his family. I still want to believe that he'll soon come to my door to continue our learning, but I know I will have to finish our last chapter for both of us.

Please note: Dr. Lynn's complete and accurate weather forecast can be found here. Editor]

Counterclockwise winds circulating around low pressure centered just to our east will bring the hottest weather of the summer, and the hottest weather in quite some time.

Unfortunately, temperatures should be two to three degrees hotter than the heatwave of our recent past, meaning temperatures near 40 C/104 F (or above), instead of in the upper 30s C/90s F in the central mountain areas. Temperatures in coastal areas should be in the mid-30s C/90s F, but with higher humidity (meaning, very high heat indices). Temperatures in the normally hotter locations of the upper Jordan Valley should be in the upper 40s C/110s F. Eilat should be in the upper 40s C/110s F, as well.

The dangerous heat conditions should persist from Thursday this week until Monday or Tuesday of next week. There is a 30% chance the heat wave will continue through Tuesday, before more normal summertime temperatures return on Wednesday.

It is very important to drink plenty of water during a heat wave like this, and if someone must be outside they should drink water and juice. One sign of hyperthermia is clammy feeling skin. Just because you're not sweating doesn't mean that you don't need to drink. In fact, the end stage of heat stroke is a lack of sweat (moisture) to cool the body.

Take care and stay indoors if you can!

Dr. Barry Lynn (Photo courtesy the author)

Dr. Lynn is a lecturer at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Earth Sciences Department. He is also CEO of Weather It Is, LTD, a company that specializes in reducing weather risk. Click here to read more of this writer’s work in The Jerusalem Herald.

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