I used to joke with my friend Zelig Leader that he reminded me of the Woman of Valor of the last chapter of Proverbs, who “gives a portion to her maidens”—the able household manager who assigns them their daily tasks. It was Zelig who would email or call every month to tell me which section of the weekly Torah portion he wanted me to read at the special minyan—which became known in time as the Leader Minyan and is the forerunner of what is known as the “partnership minyan” today—that he, his brother and his son founded nearly twenty years ago. After I read, Zelig would critique my reading with a gleam in his eye and a smile, and I welcomed his corrections.
I loved to hear Zelig read Torah. He had a rare combination of great learning and a superb sense of humor. His plays on words—in several languages—were brilliant. He was a champion Scrabble player.
I used to call Zelig my birthday buddy. He and I were born on the same Hebrew date more than two decades apart, and as the seventh day of Passover approached, we would call or email to wish each other a happy mutual birthday.
Late last summer, Zelig emailed my reading instructions to me with a short note saying that he would not be at the minyan because of back trouble. Unfortunately—devastatingly—it turned out that what he had was not back trouble, but a serious illness... an illness that, after taking all his strength, took his life yesterday, the first day of Rosh ha-Shana.
I can still hear Zelig’s deep, distinctive voice in my mind. I can’t believe that from now on, my mind is the only place where I will ever hear it again. I can’t believe he’s gone.
(Zelig [r.] at the wedding of his son Ebn, August 2006)
May Zelig rest in peace, and may his family and friends be comforted.