This Friday will mark the shloshim of Corporal David Menachem Gordon (z”l), the lone soldier who died shortly after returning from serving the Jewish people and the entire Nation of Israel in the most recent war in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge. No one, I repeat no one, knows why David died-not his closest friends and family, nor the “know-it-alls” that placed him on a post-mortem couch, psycho-analyzed him, and pontificated that his death was due to the emotional traumas he experienced in life. The only thing that is known is that the world shines less brightly without his radiance, the fusion of his breathtaking honesty and integrity. This radiance was expressed in his brilliant smile and brilliant clarity of prose. The boy could write and write well. Anyone who has tried to put pen to paper or, to be less anachronistic, fingers to keyboard, and has read his work was filled with appreciation and yes, more than a touch of envy. David and I spoke a few times and plans were in place for him to join my family for Shabbat. Because it was a date never kept I never met David in person but we were connected through our love for a shared Rebbe, Rabbi C (the “C” of the title) and David’s brother-in-law who is my best friend in Passaic, Aryeh (the “A” in the title). To round out the title, I need a “B.” Potentials: “Bereaved”-as are his friends, family, and fans; besmirched-as was his good name; “Better place”-as where he most certainly resides presently. Perhaps most fitting is Boruch HaShem for those of us who came into contact with him and Boruch Dayan Emet for a neshoma returning to his Maker, the ONLY true Judge. We accept that life and death have many mysteries, so why can’t David’s life be treated as a mysterious and wonderful gift and his passing accorded respect as “unknowable”? Why has his death been treated by some as an invitation for an emotional “autopsy”? An autopsy is a process viewed by Jewish law as an assault on the emptied vessel of the physical body, a fortiori (kol v’chomer) shouldn’t it be considered an even greater affront when it is the exalted soul that is placed under the attack of cutting words?
Vile and baseless speculation as to the “Why?” of David’s passing has infected the thoughts and rants of many so-called “writers.” One writer in particular arrogated for himself the role of the “Final Word” on the reasons for the death of a beautiful and complicated young man whom he never met in life. His “insight” came without ANY assistance from those closest to David. According to a member of David’s family, the writer did NOT speak to anyone close to David, either family or close friends. In fairness he was not the only person to make this speculation as to the cause of David’s death but while other writers upon communication and clarification with the family were completely apologetic and remorseful, this particular writer not only showed a lack of basic respect for the deceased and his family in his initial column, his subsequent comments in defense of his indefensible claims only exacerbated the anguish of the Gordon family. The writer’s insensitivity persisted and intensified throughout the shiva.
The flurry of words conjecturing on David’s passing brings to mind the following parable on loshon hora. The classic story has the practitioner of loshon hora setting loose defamatory words into the universe damaging the subject of the gossip. The shtetl’s Rav determines that the proper punishment for the guilty speaker is to slash open a feather pillow and in a parallel act to the crime itself, set loose a flurry of feathers. And now he is told he must collect all the feathers, an impossible task. Analogously, retracting and reclaiming all the words dispersed through the media and internet by writers and bloggers defaming David is equally impossible, perhaps even more so because the feathers however numerous are still a finite number while the broadcasting and linkage of words on the internet are infinite, expanding the original statement exponentially.