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Back to Factory Settings
In Memory of Mr. David Harris z"l
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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Back to Factory Settings --

In Memory of

Mr. David Harris z"l

Although my siblings and I grew up in Belle Harbor, Queens, and despite the fact that Monsey is where we raised our children over the past quarter-century, in many ways Scranton, Pennsylvania, is still home to me.

Scranton is where our paternal grandfather, Reb Yakov Moshe Horowitz, z"l, settled when he emigrated from Europe in the 1930's. Our parents spent the first years of their married life in Scranton, three of our aunts and uncles raised their families there, and many Yomim Tovim during my formative years were spent in that 'out-of-town' community.

One of the distinct pleasures of visiting Scranton is spending a few moments with the members of "The Greatest Generation" who were the dearest friends of our parents a lifetime ago. Their family names alone evoke warm memories of a simpler time. Ganz. Fink. Harris. Stahler.

They were a diverse group, but all cut from the same rich cloth. Simple and elegant. Regal and humble. Proud Americans and even prouder Jews.

There were no "chochmos" in their lives. They had only one sink and one oven in their kitchens - but far more importantly, they only had one set of books in their financial and spiritual lives. They were bewildered and even bemused at our generation's fascination with things like "shlissel challah" -- for to them, the best segulah for parnasah was to be honest and work hard. No "chumros" could be found in their religious practices, but their emunah pishuta (simple faith in Hashem) is something I draw inspiration from even after all these years.

When the smartphones, we have come to rely on malfunction, we are often advised to store the information we have accumulated in its memory elsewhere and perform an operation that returns it to its "factory settings." Well, that is how I often feel when returning to Scranton and interacting with the friends of our parents - like my settings are getting a sorely needed recalibration.

Earlier this week, Mr. David Harris, one of the humble giants of that beautiful kehila, suddenly passed away at the age of 89. He was simply a princely human being who embodied every one of the virtues noted above - and then some. The sense of mesameach b'chelko (contentment) that he exuded was a living lesson in Pirkei Avos and watching the love and respect with which he treated Norma ylc"t, his beloved wife of sixty-four years, was far more effective than any shalom bayis class could ever be in transmitting the values of family and derech eretz.

David loved life, and loved people even more. He didn't "work the room" like so many of us do; multitasking our conversations with several people simultaneously. When you spoke to David, it was as if you were the only person in the room with him. Moreover, he had that unique ability to make everyone he spoke to feel valued and special. As Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, Rav of The Riverdale Jewish Center, eloquently said at the funeral, those who had the privilege to see themselves through David's eyes walked away elevated and inspired.

Or worded differently, ... back to their factory settings.

May his memory be for a blessing.

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