Donny’s smile is a motivating force and a catalyst for all of us to do teshuvah and improve, as who knows what the next minute will bring?
The year 5781 will forever be linked to the image of Donny Morris and his smile.
Hailing from the Bergenfield-Teaneck community, Donny Morris met his untimely death at the kever of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai on Lag B’omer, 5781. After the news went out, I found myself looking again and again at a close-up of Donny against the crowds, shortly before the tragedy occurred. Donny’s face is cherubic in its purity; he appears celestial and otherworldly as he seemingly hovers over the masses behind him. It’s a photo of contrasts: both somber and serene, sedate and supportive, simultaneously reminding me of our delicate reality in this world, while also inspiring and uplifting me.
Donny’s beautiful smile and the happiness of everyone behind him now remain an everlasting message to us, warning us never to forget how gossamer-delicate life is. His picture, more than any other, screams at me, “Hashem can change the world instantaneously!”
And so He did at Meron and so He did with the plague of COVID-19.
In this capacity, Donny’s smile is a motivating force and a catalyst for all of us to do teshuvah and improve, as who knows what the next minute will bring?
Yet Donny’s smile ultimately does something else, too.
Donny’s smile is the smile of hope.
The glow in his eyes, the purity of his face, his prominence over all others in the picture say, “I have reached the culmination of a great challenge. I have scaled the zenith of spirituality. I am at peace, and I leave the world with a sense of fulfillment.”
Donny, your smile informs me of the potential for serenity and fulfillment in this world. Your smile implores me to recognize the enigmatic quality and uncertainty of life. Your smile urges me to appreciate life and those I love.
Most importantly, your smile beams with emunah and bitachon. It fills me with hope and banishes my fears. Your smile communicates the calming realization that ultimately Hashem has His plan, and we are but pawns in His hands.
I go into Rosh Hashanah anxious and fearful; yet as I see your smile, a feeling of serenity and calmness envelope me as I know — as you now know for sure — that He is with me.
Rabbi Eisenman is the Rav of Congregation Ahavas Israel in Passaic, NJ, and a Professor at Lander College for Women.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 876)
Oops! We could not locate your form.