Jun 9, 2013
What I Learned From Zevi
Zalman Myer-Smith, Zevi Silver’s obm friend, neighbor and business partner, writes about his friend's strength and unshakeable faith.
To say that this past week has been a week from hell, would be an understatement. I say that from a wholly selfish standpoint, however this has been a very long and emotionally draining week.
My family and I now live in Florida and are on Eastern Standard Time. Zevi, a’h, passed away minutes before Shabbos came in here and I missed being notified of his passing until after Shabbos.
However, despite not knowing that Zevi had returned his holy soul to the Creator of the World, I had a very unnerving Shabbos. Days before I had been told of Zevi’s deterioration. His family and friends were still clinging onto the hope of a miracle. Zevi had defied doctors predictions so many times that a turn around, again, could have been possible. Yet, the possibility of Zevi passing was constantly on my mind during the day and at night.
Alas, HaShem had other plans and wanted Zevi back. Zevi who fought so valiantly, who showed the courage of the human spirit and let us gaze into the beauty of the Jewish soul. He allowed his fellow human beings, so frail in other ways, to see unadulterated strength and the purity of the soul. He showed the way to have emunah and bitachon, faith and confidence that G-d rules the world and His will, whether we understand it or not, is what rules the world.
I was honored to be Zevi’s friend, neighbor and business partner. Zevi was a tough NY guy. He knew how to negotiate a deal better than anyone I’ve seen. He had such a strong demeanor, yet when you got to know him you would see a deeply kind and sweet person who, if ever guilty of anything, would be only of random acts of kindness. Some I saw myself, many more I know were done in a quiet and modest manner.
When Zevi was told that, r’l, his illness had returned we had a business together. He did not let this news get in the way. He rolled up his sleeves and started to take action to deal with the disease. He went to battle and fought so valiantly. I have been blessed to see real strength, physically and mentally, yet Zevi put Superman to shame. In a past life I trained with some very tough guys, yet Zevi amazed me with his mental and physical toughness.
He endured pain and suffering that hurt me deeply to watch. On countless occasions I gave him a ride to Froedert Hospital for treatment or tests. I visited him after surgery or during Chemo. I ran errands, stopped by his house to talk and just wanted to be there for him.
But he endured this experience in the most holy way. He had faith of steel. There were many private conversations about faith and “why” this was happening that are not appropriate for me to divulge, yet I will say that Zevi opened up a spiritual door or chapter in my life that I could never have discovered or examined otherwise.
His connection to the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was unshakeable. Before we started our business, he insisted at his own expense that we would fly to NY for the day to go the Rebbe’s holy resting place to seek blessings. We ordered only the highest quality mezuzas in the office. He also had a weekly learning session set up with Rabbi Moshe Rapoport of Chabad of Mequon at the office. In the middle of a bustling office with non-Jewish staff, phones ringing off the hook and customers and salespeople waiting to be seen, all stopped for 20 minutes of Jewish learning. That after all is what life is about, growing and learning.
Our business did not, for a variety of reasons, work out in the end. Zevi started having a lot more treatment and had to be absent for lengthy periods of time. Yet his attitude to the business, was the same as towards his illness…..keep on going.
As Winston Churchill so eloquently once said “ If you find yourself in Hell, keep on going”
Zevi had an addiction (I can think of no other appropriate word) to Starbucks coffee. His day did not start until he had his coffee. He had a Starbucks Gold Card, a Starbucks Black card…..the whole shebang. He was a favorite with the staff at the old Starbucks on Mequon Rd. and it was a favorite meeting place for he and I to meet and talk about business and life in general away from it all. Once he had his coffee…..he was ready to take over the world.
Zevi always, no matter what, had a loyalty and love for those he cared about. He always looked after me, even if we had disagreements, and always did the right thing. His sensitivity and thoughtfulness was so deep.
I consider myself a pretty strong individual mentally. Zevi’s illness was something I skirted around. I got my information about Zevi’s progress from his wife Shani or his father in law, Dr. Maiman. Zevi and I talked in vague terms about the treatment and I never would want to hear or discuss the prognosis. Zevi never had an issue with that. He would state the problem or challenge and then start seeking a solution. Just like making a deal, and he defied medical and human logic in getting a seemingly lost deal done so many, many times.
When the Jewish web news sites announced Zevi’s passing they took a stock photo of Zevi from his facebook account. Zevi didn’t use facebook a lot, and the photo he had for his profile picture was one he did not like. It really wasn’t vanity, he didn’t want his wife or children to have that image or memory. He was already very aware of his legacy, including his digital legacy. I scrambled to get that photo replaced with a gorgeous photo Chabad of Mequon posted and all the sites replaced the photo…..and I know that he would approve.
Looking at that photo broke my heart and I am ashamed to say that I cried. The face was a strong Zevi, ready to take on the world and wearing a gorgeous pink tie that I loved. Zevi and I did not always agree on tastes in ties. I always went for a more conservative, careful tie. Zevi, just like in life, went for something different….he wasn’t afraid.
This taught me yet another lesson. Zevi’s body might have suffered and changed, yet his soul always shone. He taught me strength, faith in G-d and to never give up. He taught me how attitude makes a big difference and ultimately to never surrender.
He always talked about his amazing wife Shani. Shani is someone who also defies logic with her strength and resilience. To say that she is inspiring would put it mildly. He loved his adorable children deeply and talked about them constantly. As both being young fathers we talked about the challenges of bringing up children in today’s world and how vital Jewish education is as an investment.
I had tried to prepare myself for this news, I could never accept it and the passing of Zevi last week was like an emotional nuclear bomb.
It is Divine Providence that this coming Shabbos precedes the anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe, someone who Zevi was a committed and devout follower of. I know Zevi is with the Rebbe right now on his next project, helping end the exile of the Jewish people and bringing Moshiach!
Shabbos is coming. I know Zevi is no longer constrained by his illness, his neshama can now shine even stronger. Each good deed and act of kindness we do will elevate his soul. He left a clear legacy and message for life in the way he lived life and served G-d and the Jewish people.
May HaShem only bless his dear wife Shani, his four adorable sweet children Chaiky, Mendy, Sruli and Suri, his parents and sibling and his parents in law, the Maiman family. They should know of no further sorrow and I know right now that Zevi is demanding on our behalf that HaShem keeps his promise to the Jewish people and that Moshiach comes and we can be reunited with Zevi and all those who we love and have lost.
Zevi, I love you and I deeply miss you. You should forgive me for anything I might have said or done wrong. My heart is broken and I know you know how to fix it, like everything you have a solution.