We first met Shlomie (name and some details have been changed) over 20 years ago. He davens in our shul, and he and my husband share a love of photography. Over time, we got to know each other well.
Every year, Shlomie would come to our house for Purim seudah. He would wear a costume and bring his famous chocolate Oznei Haman (Hamantashen). Together with the rest of us, he would don a funny clown’s hat and we would pose for our annual family Purim photograph. He considers himself an uncle to our children, and they have adopted him as well.
Shlomie had a history of health issues. There was a point in time when he was relatively young and the doctors did not have too much hope for him to survive. As he lay in his hospital bed, he overheard the doctors discussing his helpless case. With Hashem’s blessing, he proved them wrong.
Shlomie was always full of emunah. He always wore a smile and was friendly to everyone. He loved learning Torah and had recently taken on a new chavrutah, a young yeshiva student learning in our neighborhood.
A few months ago, Shlomie was tested again. It was late Friday night when he tripped and found himself on the floor of his living room, unable to get up. As no one could hear him, he spent the night on the cold floor. He unsuccessfully tried to get up on Shabbat morning. He lay there all of Shabbat, Sunday and Monday. There was a bottle of water on the floor nearby, and he was able to reach it and drink some of it. He had no food to eat, and he could not reach his much-needed medicines.
On Tuesday, a neighbor began to wonder if Shlomie was okay. Having not seen him for a few days, she called for help. An emergency crew showed up at the apartment building, and broke open the windows. They found a very disoriented, but very alive, Shlomie lying helplessly on the floor.
The doctors could not believe he had survived this nightmare – but once again he had. We went to visit him in the hospital, and he amazed us with his optimistic attitude. He did not feel sorry for himself; rather, he told me how thankful he was that Hashem was still watching over him. He told me how he was waiting to feel stronger so he could begin several projects he had long been planning to undertake. Each one involved completing a cycle of Torah learning. Instead of looking at what he just experienced as a setback, he saw it as an opportunity for advancement.
I told him that he inspired me with his strong faith and positive outlook. He smiled, saying, “Debbie, I inspire myself.”
May Hashem continue to watch over him and give him the good health and strength he needs to fulfill his dreams of continued Torah learning. May he continue to inspire others as he inspires himself.