This weekend I saw a degree of strength that I had never seen before. Dr. Susman relayed to me how the Lopatin family sat around the Shabbat table discussing the parsha, with the Las Vegas Rabbi and his seven children. Everyone in this room looks up to the Lopatins as role models of Gevruah [strength]. Out of the entire family, it was Amir who most closely resembled Yossi’s bold strength amidst all adversity – cool, calm, focused and determined, no matter how difficult the challenge. He was true to his name – Amir – which means strength. Amir needs you to be stronger than ever.
There were two things about Amir that I found both unique and incredible and I believe they are hinted to in his name. The first two letters – “A” “M” – stand for Emet [A,M,T – truth]. He was a true person – true to himself and honest to the world. He had no need for the games we all play – doing things we don’t believe in and saying things we don’t mean. Everything Amir did, he did sincerely out of the depths of his being.
When I became close with the Lopatin children immediately after Yossi’s death, Amir was the hardest to get friendly with. He did not care for idle small talk and he had no desire for the trite things people say when they try to make others feel better. But when we finally had a chance to talk at length, Amir became my deepest friend. We had intimate conversations about his spiritual quest – how he despised ceremonious heartless adhesion to ritual, and how he yearned for a true connection to G-d and the Jewish community. When I suggested that we pay someone to be a shomer [guard] for Amir’s body for Shabbat, the family felt that Amir would not have wanted that. Although that would certainly have fulfilled the minhag [custom] of shemirah [watching over a dead person’s body], for Amir to be guarded by a stranger who meant nothing to him, would have been a missed opportunity for a much deeper religious experience. Thus, the Lopatins insisted that only close family and friends should watch Amir, even though it meant that Sarah and Uri would walk over nine miles. For Amir, being true to yourself and being honest about who you are, are prerequisites to being a human being. To be truthful is to emulate G-d to the highest degree. “Emet hee Chosamo shel Hakadosh Baruch Hu” – “Truth is the signature of G-d.”
The second part of his name the “Y” “R” – reminds me of the word “YoReh” – to teach. Amir was a successful computer professional. He succeeded at every task any job could throw at him. However, one day he realized that he wanted more. He began studying with inner city children to help them achieve academically. Then one day, in a blink of an eye, he rerouted his entire life. He left his lucrative positions in the computer world to begin a degree in computer education – to teach people through his love – computers. His own self-actualization was not enough for him -he needed to transmit knowledge to others, to help other achieve their aspirations in life. He was a Moreh par excellance.
Shoshana told me how he would chat with his students about their relationships with girls in order to form a bond with them. When discussing his own relationships with Shoshana he would often jokingly quote the theories of his very young students as if they were his own, impersonations included. His desire to be the ultimate teacher afforded him the ability to bond with his students to such a degree that their words became his own, and that their lives intertwined with his.
“Moshe Emet VeTorato Emet” – “Moshe [Moses] is truth and his teaching is Truth.” Amir was our Moshe [Moses].
He had these two dreams, to be an exemplar of Emet [truth] and to be a creative Moreh [teacher]. Most people have dreams and they are granted the time and the opportunities to make those dreams reality. For some reason, which we can never understand, Amir was not granted that opportunity. But he was a magnificent dreamer. It is incumbent upon me, everyone else who knew Amir and all those standing in this room today to make an unbreakable promise to Amir, to swear to him that his dreams will be fulfilled. Every time we holdfast to Emet [truth], when we act honestly with our family, friends, G-d and with our own selves, we will make Amir’s dream a reality. Every time we think creatively about the education of our children, our community and the world, we will transform Amir’s vision into existence. Amir had very high standards for himself for what it means to a person and a Jew, and we must not and we will not let him down. We will realize his dreams.
[Besides for my family, I cannot think of anything I have ever done that I am more proud of then going this past Shabbat as a representative of the Englewood and Teaneck communities to be with the Lopatin and Wolfson families. I would be remiss if I did not mention the courage and kindness showed over the weekend by three very special people. Dr. Jonathon Sussman – no words are large enough to describe how much he did for the Lopation family. Beyond his medical prowess, which was invaluable to the situation on many levels, his compassion and support saved their lives and mine. D.A. and Stephanie, you are clearly children to Sarah, brother and sister to Shoshana and Uri, and your bond with Amir remains so very deep. Your presence and support for the family was essential, and thank you again D.A. for Friday night.]