Death on Simchas Torah

Sometimes I decide what my column will be, and sometimes life events decide for me. Sadly enough, real life has intervened.

Thursday, October 4th, 2007, was the Jewish holiday of Simchas Torah. Simchas means “joy.” It is one of the most festive nights in the Jewish calendar, as people sing, dance and drink to excess. Judaism actually has two drinking holidays. On this day Jews are commanded to drink “until they cannot distinguish Mordechai from Esther.” Yes, there are Jewish people who ignore the rules all year and then declare themselves religious on this night as an excuse to imbibe, but for the true believers, it is a night of letting loose.

I do not drink, for no other reason than I do not like the taste of alcohol. I prefer soda. Yet in years past, on Simchas Torah, I have been “the goalie.” People would spill out into the streets, and I would kick them back into the temple and away from oncoming traffic.

One of my friends once got so blasted that he pointed and yelled out, “Who is that Amish guy, and why is he wearing the Rabbi’s pants?” I explained to him that he had had enough alcohol for one night.

I laid down for a nap to pace myself for a long night of partying. I then remembered that there was this young lady I was supposed to call. A man keeps his word, and in a sleepy haze I called her. There is something about hot women that just makes them a joy to talk to on the telephone. So between a hot girl and a night of partying, life was good.

Then the phone call came. It was my friend from Miami, who I used to work with. We were stock traders, and kept in touch long after we scattered across the country. He asked me how I was, and I replied in typical classy fashion, “Hey bro, can I call you back, I’ve got a hot girl on the other line.” He said, “Eric…Zack died this morning.”

After a triple take, where I was positive he said anything but that, I told him, “Ok, let me get rid of this girl on the other line.” I was polite with her, but I quickly told her what happened, and she more than understood. Perhaps it is because she is a registered nurse. More likely, it is because she is a decent human being.

The conversation about Zack was less than five minutes. In short, he had just been given bad luck in life’s lottery. He was a professional athlete, a tall and handsome Israeli fellow, and a former Israeli army soldier. He was also somebody that was just born with a bad heart. He had open heart surgery before, but I thought he was fine. Now, at age 42, he is gone. This was not about drugs, alcohol or anything else. It was just a good hearted human being who was not given the heart he needed to survive.

I do not even think the bond was about our being Jewish. I think it was because we are stock traders. To trade stocks, you have to be a little off kilter, and every one of us that worked at the firm we were at were slightly out of wack. Some jobs people leave, and they never communicate with anyone again. This job…we were like a family. We kept in touch. We hung out. Again, on tough days financially, we had each other.

I remember one of our guys getting so frustrated that he yelled out, “That’s it! I’m trading pantsless!” He then yelled out, “I’ve already lost my shirt to the market, I might as well give it all up! I’m dropping trou (sers)!”

Zack used to tease me because he was a big trader and I was a little trader. Not just in terms of height, but in terms of size. Yes, when trading, size matters. He would joke that the hundred shares I was trading would mess up the market if he was trading a couple thousand shares of the same stock. I was good at picking stocks to trade, but never had the guts to go balls out. He did. When he had a losing trade, he would say, “Ricky, quit messing up the markets!”

My name is Eric, but he used to call me Ricky. I never knew why, but it beats being called an expletive. His name was Zach, So I called him “Zachariah.” To me Zachariah is the name of an old guy with white hair, and it bothers me that he will never become that guy.

People think of trading as stressful, but life is as stressful as you make it. Zack was a calm guy, probably because he had bigger worries than the stock market. Also, people think of the stock market as constant action, but there are times when things are very slow and uneventful. To me, most of the action was in the first couple hours and the last hour. During the middle of the trading day, several of us would do what all bored men do when not trading stocks…surf the internet for women.

I preferred Jdate, but Zack preferred because it was a larger pool. I remember once during the trading day Zack got angry, and banged his fist on the table and said, “I don’t believe this, are you kidding me!” I asked him what stock he was trading (assuming he had just lost money), and he replied, “No man, this girl on just declined my instant message. Who does she think she is?” We all laughed.

One odd thing I used to do was inspired by a bizarre commercial where a waiter rubs a customer’s head in the restaurant while singing to the customer, “You don’t know how many times I wish that I could hold you.” I adopted that as my theme, and whenever that song came on, would walk over to a different coworker and sing that one line. I tried that with Zack once, and he said, “Ricky, get a woman and hold her, but if you try to hold me we are going to have problems.” I told him I already had plenty of problems and he replied, “Yes, but you trying to hold me makes your problems my problems. Now when you go back to your desk, don’t mess up the market. Tell me what you are trading so I can trade something else.”

It is still hard to fathom that Zack is gone.

I have said many times that I believe in God. I do not understand God’s motives, but I believe God has a plan. Yes, I have free will, but God is going to do what God is going to do. One could make a speech about being responsible for their own actions, but that does not apply here. Zack was simply born with a medical defect, and that defect cheated him out of the old age that people feel they are entitled to having.

As soon as I get the information, I will send a condolence card. I will then do what I always do in a situation like this…call my parents, tell them I love them, and be grateful that I still have them.

I will sit, have a beverage, and think about what it all means, and try to make sense of it. I could try to make myself feel better by claiming that God takes the ones he loves and needs most first. That is a copout. It does not help.

I will say a prayer for Zack’s family, and then keep my mouth shut, because there is nothing I can say to make the situation better.

I lost a friend. I only hope that as soon as he got to Heaven, he told God to start pouring the drinks, and bring on the ladies, because it was Simchas Torah.

Take care Zack. May every day in the afterlife be Simchas Torah for you.



4 Responses to “Death on Simchas Torah”

  1. Jersey McJones says:

    Ah, the Jewish Saint Patty’s Day!

    What an interesting and personal piece. Now I know why you don’t engage in too much of the post discussion. You get people thinking and enjoy the evolution of those thoughts. As I read this, and noted you’re sincere grasp of the luck of life, it made me realize just how much we all have in common. As I always say, life is roughly half luck, and half what you make of it. I hope your friend Zach made the best of it. Good luck, Zach. Keep up the thoughts, Eric.


  2. illa morales says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Simchas Torah to Zack and to you Eric.
    All My Blessings

  3. Lord Nazh© says:

    G-d bless all his friends and family. Praying for you E.

  4. Carole says:

    Mo, g…. {{{{eric}}}}

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