At this time each year, while I anticipate the joy and celebration of Purim, I also commemorate the yahrtzeits of two of my students – Ari Seidenfeld, A”H (11 Adar 5765/2005) and Aharon Halley, A”H (12 Adar 5768/2008). The pain I feel over losing them will never go away, but over time I have achieved a sense of nechama – comfort. Our rabbis teach us that the shoresh, root, of the word “nechama” comes from the word nachem, which refers to a change in perspective. Through this etymological insight, the Torah teaches us that true consolation results from a change of perspective which naturally arises as time passes. Shortly after a tragedy occurs, we are often too numb and hurt to reflect on our loss beyond our immediate pain and sorrow. With time, however, we are blessed with the capacity to consider the tragedy from other perspectives, and in our limited manner to appreciate the greatness and goodness of Hashem.
Many years since their passing, I am able to experience some level of nechama by remembering Ari and Aharon for the uplifting and inspiring qualities of their personalities.
Both Ari and Aharon, who were best of friends, epitomized the attribute of perseverance. Despite significant challenges, they each approached life with unbridled strength and determination – which in retrospect was quite remarkable. They could have used any number of excuses to retreat from effort and to withdraw from engaging in their own personal growth. Yet both of them, each in his own way, plowed through the tough soil of their lives and lifted the yokes of the adversity they faced with a robust conviction to plant and bear fruit not only for themselves but for others as well.
Somehow, human nature is that as we age we allow complacency to settle in, and our drive to overcome life’s challenges wanes. Too often, we seek reasonable justifications to rationalize our inaction. My memories of Aharon and Ari remind me that we must always find within ourselves the courage to resist complacency and to drive ourselves to struggle for personal growth.
With the gift of time, I have reached a new level of nechama – an appreciation for a fresh perspective of Ari and Aharon’s lives that yields true inspiration. The picture here of Aharon and Ari, depicting their sincere simchas hachayim (joy of life), is hung beside my office computer as a constant reminder that complacency is simply not an option.