Saturday, July 02, 2022

Feelings of bewilderment, a lack of cognition and a great sense of confusion are a general recap of what my mental landscape was during the kumzitz that took place on the Motzei Shabbos at the Kotel not even two days after Lag B’Omer last year. Talmidim and Talmidot of numerous yeshivas and seminaries came together to celebrate and honor the legacy of Donny Morris, zt”l, and all the others who passed away at Meron.

Towards the end of the kumzitz, I was asked to share a few words in memory of Donny, but at that moment I was lost for words with no clue of where to even begin. Nearly a year later I am still in shock at the tremendous loss, yet I have so much Hakarat Hatov to Hashem and the Morris family for allowing me to learn from my friendship with Donny. Looking back at the kumzitz, the following is only a fraction of what I could have said to emphasize the impact that Donny has had and how he continues to shine on my everyday life.

Two middos of Donny that I always admired was his desire and determination. My first exposure to these impeccable traits was during our elementary and middle school summers in camp, where Donny made the most out of each day, especially when we went on trips to amusement parks. Donny would set out an agenda of which roller coaster to ride and specific times to do it, but his excitement did not stop there. He insisted on only riding in the front row of the rides to make the most out of the day and take advantage of the opportunity to be in the amusement park. At first, I was unsure if this was the most sound suggestion because waiting for one specific row to ride in would take more time, but Donny’s enthusiastic charisma always seemed to convince me to join him. To this day I still don’t understand how Donny pulled it off, but we always ended up riding in the front row while somehow never waiting in line for too long. Donny truly took advantage of every moment until the park closed, usually making us the reason the buses had to wait to ride back to camp, but we didn’t mind because we were enjoying the moment.

This attribute continued to be present as we got older, and in high school, I saw it on full display while we were chavrusas from our freshman through junior years. The most emblematic story of Donny’s determination was when our ninth grade shiur set a goal of finishing all of Seder Mo’ed in Mishnah in one day. Donny and I were tasked with finishing all of Masechet Eruvin. Donny led me as we skillfully learned all ten perakim in record time, and with around half an hour to spare before we were expected to conclude our learning for a shiur-wide siyum. Donny wanted to learn more. My first reaction wasn’t one of too much enthusiasm because we had accomplished so much already, but when I saw Donny’s desire and excitement it showed me how much work there still was to be done. We ended up learning Masechet Shabbos as well and finished just in time for the siyum. Once the Hadrans were recited and the siyum festivities had begun I looked over and witnessed Donny’s delight of contributing to a siyum. This was not Donny’s first and far from his last time completing a Mesechta.

This year, around the early half of Adar II, I was learning Masechet Megillah when I encountered a portion of the Gemara that reminded me of the constant impact that Donny has on my life and what he stood for. On daf 15a, Rabbi Elazar takes a tangent from the text of the Gemara mentioning Mordechai’s role in saving Achashverosh from Bigtan and Teresh to quote an important lesson learned from Rabbi Chanina. He taught that when a tzaddik passes from this earth, he is only considered physically gone from his generation. His impact and how he conducted himself remain for eternity, due to his righteousness. Rabbi Chanina continued this tangent by comparing this tzaddik lost to the world to a pearl that was lost by its owner. However, regardless of its location, the pearl retains its status of being a treasure. It may not be in the hands of its original owner, but it still has tremendous value.

Rabbi Chanina’s interpretation relates exactly to how I perceive Donny’s legacy. Donny continues to be a vital part of my everyday life, whether it is reminiscing all the iconic moments we shared or looking back in awe of the remarkable individual he was. Not only will Donny be remembered for this generation, but his status of an eternal pearl or, as Rabbi Chanina stated in the Masechet Megillah, will remain. I can't wait to share the greatness of Donny ”מרגלית עולמי“ with my future children one day as well as all future generations until the coming of Moshiach. The day that all of Am Yisrael will be joined hand in hand along with Donny near the Kotel, the location of the initial kumzitz, cannot arrive soon enough.

Donny has left a permanent impact on this world and remains a treasured pearl in our hearts.

Ikey Gutlove is a longtime contributor to The Jewish Link sports section and a lifelong friend of Donny Morris,zt”l.

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