April 18, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 18, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A Tribute to a Cousin, a Nephew, a Grandson, A Brother, a Son, a Husband, a Father and a קדוש

Dear Zecharia,

I write now with tears flowing, my emotions raw after having just watched your levaya from here in the States. Growing up in New Jersey, attending a typical Modern Orthodox yeshiva day school, our teachers tried their best to instill in us a love for ישראל ארץ, and a yearning to return. Looking back, I laugh at the superficial manifestations of that, including the subpar Hebrew instruction and the blue and white cookies on Yom Haatzmaut. But one thing which had a real impact on me, time after time, was whenever our school would bring in חיילים to speak to us. Things about the army have always fascinated me: the responsibility, the sacrifice, the honor. I remember after Operation Protective Edge in 2014, some חיילים came to speak to us about their experiences and I was so amazed by their bravery and heroism. I wanted to be just like them – and like you. With pride I’d tell my friends about my cousin, the tank commander.

But Zecharia, in Uncle Ilan’s hesped, he beautifully noted how ‘warrior’ isn’t what comes to mind when thinking about your character. He reminded us of your sweet, congenial nature, your soft spoken disposition, your pleasant מדות, your love of nature, ישראל ארץ, and most importantly, love of family. In fact, everyone who spoke at the levaya highlighted how you truly exemplified what it means to be an עניו, particularly in how you managed, even while being so exceptionally brilliant, to come off so modestly in everyday conversations with others, never sounding pretentious or ostentatious.

While you and I were a decade apart in age, and grew up with 6,000 miles between us, every time I saw you, you always made me feel so good. You were genuinely interested in whatever was going on in my life – in all of our lives – and made such an effort to spend time with family during your visits to America. It feels like just yesterday that we were driving to your engagement party in Teaneck, to meet Talia for the first time. I really didn’t think there could be someone as nice as you – but of course I was wrong. You and Talia are both tremendously caring, concerned about everyone else, fascinated by the world, and content with your lot.

In my two years at Yeshivat Sha’alvim, I cherished the Shabbosim that I spent visiting your family in Yerushalayim. I know that was equally true for all of my siblings – Aviva, Tzvi, and Shoshi – during their gap years in Israel. I was just reminiscing with Tzvi, and he reminded me that what he misses most about those days are the Shabbos table conversations with all of the Haber boys (you, Netanel, Noam and Yisrael): the rapid fire arguments about politics (both Israeli and American) and discussions about the myriad books (fiction and nonfiction) that everyone was reading! And the beautiful dialogue on the Parsha that was always present as well, memorable for never being forced, but rather as insightful, spontaneous discourse.

While, it’s so challenging to envision a reality in which Sedayel (5), Shevet (3) and Nachliel (just 10 months), grow up without their father, I know with every fiber of my being that your sweet, gentle, caring disposition is surely to emerge in them, and that they will grow up and flourish surrounded by the most loving family, both immediate and extended, one could imagine.

Zecharia, I feel so incredibly lucky to have had you as a cousin, and as the בכור of all of the cousins in our family. You will forever be a role model for me – the epitome of what it means to be a devoted son, brother, husband, and father. When I have my own children one day (IY”H), I will take them to your kever at Har Herzl, to tell them the story of Zecharia Pesach ben Aharon Baruch (HY”D) who gave his life ה׳ קדוש על for ישראל עם and ישראל ארץ. A singular, exceptional man who didn’t just give his life ה׳ קדוש על, but who also lived every moment of it ה׳ קדוש על ;In the way that you interacted with others, in your התמדה as a חכם תלמוד, in the way that you were always מכבד your parents and grandparents, and in the way that you parented your children.

How many people can say that about themselves?

.יהא זכרך ברוך ותהא נשמתך צרורה בצרור החיים .

You’ll always be my hero, Zecharia.

With love always,

Yair

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles