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the little things

I generally don't use this blog to share highly personal stories, so please excuse the following post.

The last few weeks have been a roller coaster for me.  Between hitting month number eight in the baby watch, losing a childhood friend and celebrating the engagement of a good friend, it's been an emotional roller coaster.  Lots of change. 

Then I got an email that really threw me for a curve.  Someone very special passed away but I could only smile at his legacy.  This man was none other than Moshe Ben-Aharon.

Moshe Who was Moshe Ben-Aharon?

During my 2+ years studying in an American yeshiva in Israel, I made some really great friends.  Together we discovered who we really were and who we wanted to become.  We went through the terror of the Intifada and the joy of being 18 and far away from home (and our parents) together.  We became a family.  And if we were a family, Moshe Ben-Aharon was our cooky uncle.  

Moshe Ben-Aharon was an elderly Moroccan immigrant that lived not far from the yeshiva and used to hang out in the back of our study hall.  Moshe had his own seat, his own lectern and his own approach to life. 

Moshe was what we would call poor and had at least one wooden leg.  He walked with two canes and later relied on a scooter. He regularly had to resort to asking us to lend him a hand financially, often infusing humor and personality into a pretty demeaning task - begging teenagers for their change.  He didn't have much going for him in the traditional, materialistic sense.

But I have never met anyone with as much zeal for life as Moshe.  Every year he committed to learning a piece of American culture that would be his catch phrase for the year.  One year he learned about "cash flow" and enthusiastically went around asking us in broken English to help him with his cash flow, using hip hop mannerisms and the biggest smile in the world.  Another year he learned to do a Doctor Evil impression and ask for "One Million Dollars" with his pinky on his lips. 

Our mentors and Rabbis taught us how to focus and grow.  Moshe provided endless comic relief.  While he didn't have much, Moshe used to keep a bin of taffies and lolly-pops in his lectern.  Moshe distribute sweets not only to the kids that came to visit, but to us (and our Rabbis) as if we were all his kids.  When we weren't studying and just hanging around talking, hard candies would fly at us from across the room, a sweet reminder that we weren't there to fool around.  When we were studying well he would come around with taffies, limping from table to table telling us to keep it up with the most sincere little nod as if he were our parent acknowledging that he's proud of us.

Though he didn't have a penny, Moshe would do anything to make us smile.  He would dance with us, he would lend us his scooter for a comedy skit, he would even invite guys over for meals.  He had nothing, but he knew what mattered.

Everyone knew Moshe.  The bus drivers, the vendors in the shuk (market) in town, the kids in the community, everyone knew him, everyone loved him.  He didn't have enough money to buy grape juice for Shabbat (sabbath) but he had a smile for everyone.

And so, eight years after I've left the school, on one of the toughest weeks of my life, I received email after email from friends with memories of Moshe.

I don't know much about Moshe's past, but I gathered that it was very hard.  Yet as we all looked back at the little we knew of Moshe, all we could remember was happiness.

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If you would like to make a donation to the Moshe Ben Aharon Scholarship Fund, please use the links below.

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