Messages from Murray Kleiman

His name was Murray Kleiman, raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where his Zionist father brought him to experience Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s funeral in 1940.

Dov Lipman and Murray Kleiman (photo credit: WIN ROBBINS)
Dov Lipman and Murray Kleiman
(photo credit: WIN ROBBINS)
Israeli politicians and world leaders visiting Israel are getting most of the attention in the newspapers this week. But I want to focus on someone who was not known to the public; someone whose words and wisdom need to be read and internalized by as many people as possible – especially those living in Israel.
His name was Murray Kleiman, raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where his Zionist father brought him to experience Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s funeral in 1940. Murray believed that the event entrenched within him a love of Zionism, ultimately leading to his aliyah in 1979.
A math professor and attorney for decades, Murray was already retired and spending most of his time in his apartment when my family immigrated and moved into his building 15 years ago. I was blessed to start my day studying Torah with Murray for a number of years. I loved the Torah study, but I gained much more from our conversations about life.
As human beings, we tend to complain often. Certainly, those of us living in Israel feel that we have much to complain about, especially dealing with the frustrating political situation and challenges associated with making aliyah. If there was anyone who was justified in complaining it was Murray. His wife whom he adored had passed away after years of her not being fully present. Murray’s son passed away tragically. And Murray was a double amputee living in a building with stairs, which essentially confined him inside his apartment. He required an aide 24/7, needing assistance with nearly every aspect of his life.
Not only was Murray not a complainer, he was happy. The following are messages that Murray shared, which all of us must work on internalizing (these were recorded so they are precise quotes):
• YOU MUST realize how short life is. I am in my 90s. I must have been young at one time, but it passed so fast. Where did it all go? Life passes so fast. Live life every day as it should be lived – with joy, and with respect for life. Respect what life has given us: our family, our friends, the food we eat, the very air we breathe. Life means not wasting it. Not wasting it on stupid hostilities that people feel toward each other. Not wasting it on idle thoughts or wasting it on ongoing grudges that waste time and spoil your life and poison the air. Live. We should be aware of the fact that we are alive. You know, we go through every day and we live through the day. We are not even aware that we are alive. Be aware. Live.
• I wake up every day and I feel, “Thank God, God has given me another day to live.” It has been a wonderful life so far, and it will be good in the future. What is there not to like about life? What is there to be depressed about? There is a saying, “It’s a big mitzvah to always be happy.” And in truth, why not? I want to live not until 120-years-old but until 2,020 years old! Why not?”
• Make amends right after we do something wrong. We should understand that we did wrong and make amends. We shouldn’t delay making amends. The time passes and you don’t, and you will regret it the rest of your life.
• Quoting his grandmother: “I cry when someone dies because when someone dies, they can’t see the sky anymore, they can’t smell the flowers, they can’t hear the birds. So I cry for them.”
• From the eulogy that he wrote at his children’s request a few years before his own death: I regret deeply having to leave you. In spite of the spiritual joy in the thought that I believe my soul will be rejoining its Source, I cannot help feeling reluctant to leave a life that I loved to live and longed for more. I had a good life – good family, good friends, a long life with a beautiful, loving wife whom I never ceased to love and desire, many more days of happiness than of despair and sadness, more memories of triumph and success than those of failure.
• At the end of every day, you must ask yourself: “What did I learn today that I didn’t know yesterday?”
He repeated to me regularly that there was “so much more to learn,” and almost every day when I entered his apartment he would say, “Rabbi, I have a question for you.”
• I live my life with my favorite sentence from the Jewish prayer book in mind: “Into His hand I shall entrust my spirit, when I go to sleep and I shall awaken. With my spirit shall my body remain, the Lord is with me, I shall not fear.” God watches over me. Whatever He wants, I am ready for him.
Murray passed away one year ago at the age of 95. I miss him terribly. But on a daily basis I find myself thinking about the messages he shared with me.
Next time you are feeling down, please remember Murray’s lessons. Let them inject you with a positive perspective and inner strength to confront whatever comes your way.
The writer was a member of the 19th Knesset.