Wednesday, September 28, 2016

  • Wednesday, September 28, 2016
  • Elder of Ziyon
  • ,

Shimon Peres is gone. For two weeks, we held our tongues and our collective breath, knowing  this would likely be the end. You don't curse someone on death's edge, but bless him. You think of anything you can that will serve in his merit, because that's what we do as Jews. You go gentle.
We care about each other, as a people, as a nation. We know that when death hovers, judgment surrounds us, and we try to soften things however we can, lend support and balance. As a result, no one in my social circles engaged in nasty banter or worked to dredge up dirt on the former president.

No one smeared him.

And this shows our strength and might as a nation, our unity. We tried to beam good thoughts his way, Shimon's way. Our hearts and minds went out to his family, and we kept them close in our thoughts.

And we waited.

I shared with my small circle that Shimon Peres always consulted the rabbis on any matter of importance. He would always go to the rabbis, irrespective of whether they were Ashkenazi like him, or Sephardi, like Rabbi Yosef (z"l). Shimon's respect for the wise men of our nation was genuine and palpable.

Today, memories of Shimon Peres came flitted before my mind's eye as I tried to concentrate on my work and on my pre-holiday cooking. Sometimes I smiled thinking back. The man was funny.

Twice I had the privilege of watching David Horovitz of the Times of Israel interview him.

The first time, David had all these questions prepared and every time he tried to ask one of them, Shimon Peres would interrupt, essentially pwning that interview, leading the interview right back to where he wanted it to go, and where he wanted it to go, was where he, as was his right, played the part of the nonagenarian grandfather, giving folksy advice to the young.

And why shouldn't he? Next to him, heck, EVERYONE was young.

He'd earned the right to play the grandfather. He had the right sort of Yiddish-inflected manner of speech, in which everything sounded like a question or a punch line.

And yet he was young at heart. You could see it. He remained interested in things. He liked meeting celebrities, pretty women, Sharon Stone.

The second time I saw David Horovitz interview Shimon Peres, it was a more intimate meeting. This time, Peres was funny, not by design but by accident. The subject was Israel's treatment by the media. Shimon Peres wanted to speak about the psychological impact of media and Israel advocacy (hasbara). He was fascinated by the workings of the mind.  

He used one of Horovitz's questions as a springboard to talk about just that and declared with much rolling of r's, pointing a finger at us, his audience, "The human brain is a very strange orgasm."
(He meant "organism," of course.)

Will you believe me if I tell you that not a single audience member laughed? Out of respect for the man, his office, his age. We all struggled mightily as one not to crack even so much as a one-sided smile.

Because it would have embarrassed him.

And that wouldn't have been nice.

Afterwards, at a little reception in the hall, we giggled a bit quietly, but agreed that at his age, Shimon was entitled to a malapropism, or even two or three. He'd earned the right. And we respected that.

With this one final year, Shimon Peres received one last gift from the Man Upstairs. He made it almost to the very last day.

May his memory be a blessing for Klal Yisrael and may his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

The author, flanked by Yisrael Medad and Toby Klein Greenwald,
waiting to hear Shimon Peres speak at the 2014 Jewish Media Summit.

All photos courtesy of The Real Jerusalem Streets.

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