One evening after our weekly class in Torah I was walking on the promenade with my friend, Rabbi Butman. I was telling him that my regular barber had sold his business to another barber. However what was peculiar to me was that there now a photograph hanging on the shop wall of the fellow who had been my barber.
Rabbi Butman looked at me and said, “Mick, when you see a picture on the wall it usually means that the person has passed away. I know the man you are talking about; I visited with him in the hospital; he’s gone”. At that time I had no clue how a few years later those words about seeing a picture on the wall would be so emotionally devastating to me. But first let me tell you how this all came about. In making the adjustment from leaving everything behind that you cherish in the USA and moving to Israel, one of your biggest challenges is to find new friends. In meeting that challenge I was lucky enough to have had a new good friend. It started like this:A year before I made Aliyah, I spent five weeks in Nahariyah. The previous year I had been to Nahariyah for a very short visit and really liked the place, but I wanted to make sure that it was right for me and not some kind of fantasy. The Passover holiday fell during this five week testing period. An acquaintance fixed me up with an invitation to Rabbi Butman’s, the Chabad shaliach’s, Passover Seder. The Rabbi sat me next to a Israeli gentlemen who was suppose to speak some English, but who turned out to be as deficient in English as I was in Hebrew. However, I had brought my own Haggadah to the Seder, and had no difficulty participating in the service.I thought that it would be a good idea to make a favorable impression by attending services at the Chabad synagogue the very next morning. Despite the fact that we finished the Seder rather late and the four cups of wine I managed to get to the shul on time. Often something rather peculiar comes over me when I go to shul: I seem to get very relaxed and as a consequence, I close my eyes and in an instant I am out like a light. Maybe it was the late night or the four cups, but that’s what happened; I nodded off, only to be awakened by a tap on my shoulder.I opened my eyes and there was a stern Rabbi Butman looking down at me: “You are being called up to the Torah; you have an Aliyah”. Well I blew it, so much for trying to make a good impression, oh well.A couple of years later I was sitting in the Nahariyah town square enjoying a cup of coffee when I noticed a sign in shop window that invited English speaking women to a class in Judaism that was sponsored by Chabad. I said to myself, “What are men chopped liver?”, and started looking for the Chabad office. After a few false starts, I found it; knocked on the door and went in. There, sitting at his desk was none other than Rabbi Butman.I said “Rabbi, my name is Mick Jaron; you may not remember me”.Without looking up, he said in a tone not making me feel exactly elated: “Of course I remember you”, But I soldiered on, and when he heard of my wish to have a Torah class for English speaking men, he was enthusiastic and encouraging. I posted flyers all over town announcing the class, and reported on my progress to the Rabbi.Once again in his office, I suggested that perhaps at the class we should have refreshments. Rabbi Butman replied “Yes, by all means, pick up some potato chips and cookies”.Without hesitating I said, “Rabbi, please these are Men…how about some beer?”And Rabbi Butman without missing a beat exclaimed “Get some Stolichnaya”. Excellent... we were on the same page and of a same mind, a new friendship was blossoming and some more Torah learning had begun in Nahariya. The weekly Torah class grew as did my friendship with Rabbi Butman. We often have a Minyan, and once we had 17 men in attendance. Then in the middle of the night about a year and half ago, Rabbi Butman, only 55 years of age, suffered a heart attack. He was dead in the few minutes it took the paramedics to arrive.For a long time I was not able to bring myself to visit what had been Rabbi Butman’s office. I could not come to grips with reality. But one day I had to buy matza for Passover, and I steeled myself and made the trip to the office.. The door was open; but another man was behind the desk. I looked up, and there was a portrait of Rabbi Butman hanging on the wall. I turned on my heels and hurried out of the office, ran down the steps and out into the street. I could barely control myself…my friend was indeed gone.