Religion & Beliefs

Important to Remember: People Die

I just found out that Sol Milgrome died last month, and it's very sad for me.  Because I hadn't thought of him in a long time, and now I wish I had. I'm not certain that Faithhacker is really the … Read More

By / May 7, 2007

I just found out that Sol Milgrome died last month, and it's very sad for me.  Because I hadn't thought of him in a long time, and now I wish I had.

I'm not certain that Faithhacker is really the place for me to eulogize a man I really didn't know well (a man you likely didn't know at all) but I want to believe that there's a lesson in this, a practical application of some kind. 

There must be… in a life lived well.

If nothing else, I'll offer what Sol might have offered, a bit of advice.  That saying "Good Shabbos" every week will add five to 10 years to your life. Which sounds silly, but Sol was 104 when he died, so maybe he knew something.

Mr. Milgrom's story began in the shtetle of Sokolov, Poland where he recalled poking pinwheel holes into freshly baked matzah. He built houses in Palestine from 1921 to 1929, having met his first wife, Taube, on a Zionist youth march. When the Great Depression rocked the world's economy, they came to Baltimore where she had family.

Knowing but five words of English, Mr. Milgrome became a grocer. During World War II, with rations diminishing his stock, he did manual labor for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyards.

He attended Cheder while the Czars reigned in Russia, before WWI.  He emigrated to Palestine in the fourth aliyah  and fought for the land. This man had a LIFE!

Unfortunately, I never got to hear those amazing stories.  I was always in too much of a hurry to get out of shul (my dad joined Sol in trying to build attendance at a dying synagogue many years ago, which is how we met him).

But what I did learn from Sol was how to keep learning.  Sol was not an observant Jew for most of his life. he was a fighter, a businessman, a father. It wasn't until he was 80 that he felt compelled to draw on his childhood in Poland, his days in the Cheder. It wasn't until then that he began attended shul regularly, began reading from the Torah on a regular basis.

So that is something to remember.

But more than that, what I learned from Sol, just this morning, is not to run out of shul so quickly.  To listen better.

Collect the stories you can.  Talk to the elderly.  It's not just a mitzvah… it's a chance to learn, and a good time.  I feel like a fool now for not asking more questions when I had the chance.  104!  I can't even imagine what he knew…