The world lost a special man last night. A man who walked quietly, but whose tread was heard loudly. A man who rarely addressed audiences, but who love was felt by many. A man who smiled sweetly and suffered greatly. A man who never stopped believing that all is for the good and who never stopped trusting that all will be good. A man who considered it a pleasure to serve even as he needed to be served. A man so special that anyone who helped him, felt he had been helped. Anyone who taught him, felt he had been taught.
This man Dovid Yonah (David) Liebowitz, suffered from a rare and terrible disease. He was in and out of hospitals, in out of doctor’s offices, in the company of his devoted and loving wife, Noreen, and his tireless doting children, for about a decade. There is no question that his attitude prolonged his life. Where others saw devastation, David saw inspiration. Where others saw indignity, David saw G-d.
David and Noreen graced us one year with a three-day visit during Sukkot. David visited the hospital each day of that visit for painful treatments, but upon return, he was always aglow. In pain, indeed, but also in great spirits. He always had a small story to tell about an unexpected kindness or a miracle of Divine providence. To David, every kindness was unexpected. He was a man that personified the trait of joyful gratitude.
David was a bundle of joy. He would often say that health, children, family, and sustenance are all in G-d’s hands. The only thing in our control, is our attitude. The decision to be happy or sad, joyful or depressed; that is up to us. That is all that we control; everything else is up to G-d. Shall we let G-d down, he would ask, in the one area where we can make a difference?
Furthermore, shall we let ourselves down? David often said that sadness places you in a miserable pit. Why choose to descend to the pit, when you can climb the scales of joy?
David experienced joy for its own sake. He had every reason to give up on life, every reason to wallow in depression, but he didn’t. Not because he found reasons to be happy, but because for David, happiness was its own reason.
If you asked him how he was feeling, his answer was, “thank G-d, it could be better, but you know what, it could also be worse.” Ask him about a terrible treatment that he had received and he would tell you how impressed he was by the sincerity, good will and positive intentions of the doctor that recommended it. David refused to see the negative. He could have, but he refused to. He had an iron grip on optimism and good cheer. And he had an iron will to keep moving forward.
He spent only three days in our community, but left an indelible impression on all who met him. We never stopped praying for his health and today we humbly accept G-d’s judgement. We accept G-d’s judgement humbly, but not sadly, because David would never allow that.
Somehow we will find the courage, fortitude and inner strength to be what David was. To forge on in joy, light, dignity and acceptance. We will seek the silver lining in every cloud, the grace in every judgement and the beauty in every human interaction. David was not content to find beauty in nature. He was not satisfied with stopping to smell the flowers. David stopped to enjoy people, to enjoy life and to enjoy G-d.
David’s trademark was his loving kiss. On whomever he met, whomever he touched, he would bestow a loving kiss before saying good bye. David, today we return your kiss. We kiss you in love as we say goodbye, but it really is not a goodbye.
As we lay your body to rest, your spirit, your teaching and you loving memory remains alive within us. This is our solemn pledge (bli neder) on this holy day.