Ner Neshama: The Soul Candle of Shimon Peres Will Illuminate Forever

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, September 30th, 2016 – 27 Elul, 5776

Good news is always lovely. 

First, mazal tov to Jack Lakefish. He turns 99 this Friday, September 30th. I can’t wait till he hits 3 digits next year! 

Second, our own Ilene Safyan has been chosen as a winner of the Forward’s “Soundtrack of Our Spirit 2016” award for her original composition of the “Haskiveinu” prayer. The Forward, which comes out of New York, arguably remains the last of our great Jewish American national newspapers, and so this is a prestigious reward. For those of us who regularly join Ilene for First Fridays, you can say, we heard it here first–I believe this was the world premier before a live community. 

This past week, the Jewish world and humanity as a whole lost one of its giants. Shimon Peres crossed over to olam ha’emet–the world of truth as one Hebrew idiom describes death. It was clear that this week’s article needed to be dedicated to his memory. Yet how does one sum up a man like Peres, particularly when so much of the world press has been reporting on his passing? If you don’t know much of his life, it’s worth spending a few minutes on Wikipedia to grasp a few of his accomplishments and contributions to the Jewish state.


Rather than speaking of this great individual, it made more sense to let him speak for himself. Below are a series of quotes. Some are from the American press. Most I have translated from the Hebrew. This man who once stated that all he ever aspired to be was a shepherd was gifted with pithy eloquence.

Additionally, instead of the recent series of questions included here under the title “Shabbat Table Talk,” feel free to use any of his wonderfully expressive quotes as jumping off places for your conversation this week.

Before we get to Peres in his own words, let me comment on one short Hebrew video I watched, filmed in the last year. Peres is hanging out with a bunch of teens and young Israelis, using Snapchat and Instagram with them. As the clip begins, he states, “Young people are speaking a new language, and I want to speak with them.” This captures so well his indomitable optimism and the manner in which he always was able to look to the future, even at an age when most people turn backwards to look instead at their memories.

He provides one piece of advice to them while happily siting on a sofa mobbed by teens and taking cell phone photos. “Don’t listen to your parents. Don’t listen to your teachers. Don’t listen to your friends. Listen to your imagination. Everything new begins there.”

I hope one day to be 93 and learn what impact that conversation will have on the world. I want to live and see the inventions birthed from that encounter, and want to hear a middle aged man lay the credit at the feet of our beloved Shimon.

From a NY Times article

“Looking back on the life of Israel, our dreams proved not to be too big but too small, because Israel achieved much more than I could have ever imagined… I ask only one thing of the United States of America, this mighty nation of dreamers: Don’t dream small. You are great. So dream big.”

I’ve been controversial for most of my life. Suddenly, I’ve become popular. I don’t know when I was wrong, then or now.

At my age, after looking back, if I feel that I have to make a choice between being experienced and cynical or being curious and innocent, I prefer the second. It is much more appealing.

Jewish history is devoid of any desire to rule over another people. I think that what is happening now is a deviation. All the people who ruled over us have been erased from the stage of history. We are the only ones who never ruled over anyone else, and we prevailed.

I support the right of every human being to marriage, including gay marriage. Every human being has the right to breathe fresh air, to eat food, to fall in love with whoever they want. According to our tradition, we are all created equal.

From the Hebrew

The person who wishes to be a leader must serve, not rule.

This thing of leadership is not to divy up roles, but to sit oneself on the chair of reality and ask the most penetrating questions.

The nation is like a television–there are numerous channels.

If you eat three meals a day, you’ll be overweight. If you read three books a day, you’ll be wise.

You don’t make omelettes with unlaid eggs.

People without fantasies don’t do fantastic things.

There are no infantilizing questions. There are infantilizing answers.

I am made from the future.

The sin which we committed by stealing land doesn’t touch even the edge of the sin which the Arabs committed by stealing peace.

I would do everything for the sake of peace…and I am not seeking a role.

The worst trauma that the Jews brought into the world is our absence of satisfaction.

There is one thing as terrible as death. This is boredom. Bored people are the walking dead.

I promise you–when the day arrives, I won’t forget to die.

Shimon, you didn’t forget to die, although so many of us wish you had forgotten for a few more years. More importantly for those of us left behind, you didn’t ever forget how to live. We thank you for that, and we will try to live up to your legacy.

Shalom Chaver. And a sweet year to those of us who remain.

Rav D