Baruch Dayan Haemet – In the zechut of my dear father Dr. Theodore Saltzberg z”l. 6 Nisan.
Birshut my mother, my family, rabeim and all of you here today.
I feel so inadequate, how do you speak about someone that was larger than life, who we thought was indestructible and invincible? It’s as if a mountain is suddenly missing.
I know that it is not the norm for me to be up here speaking to you, but to quote my Dad “Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission”.
I have often said that I hope I can attain half of my Dad’s wisdom in my life. My Dad was SO smart. Not just book smart, but he had so much wisdom. I often think, what would my dad do in a certain situation and then would call him just to validate even though I really knew what he would say. If there was ever any question of doing the “right “ thing, even if it meant doing it the hard way, that was the way to do it. We always measure ourselves against his measuring stick because if we measured up on his measuring stick then we knew that we had surely succeeded.
Dad was an engineer and a Motorolan at heart and he led his life with a six sigma philosophy where quality was the value. Whether it was in how he treated others, friends and family or in the jobs he did – there was only one right way to do it …usually his way…but that meant that whatever it was that Dad did was going to be great and certainly of the highest quality. He also taught us to always ask for a supervisor because he learned at work that the higher up you go on a corporate ladder the more the employees care about and are invested in the company and are more willing to help.
Dad was an incredibly hard worker – his work ethic was unprecedented. We think he may have worked harder after he retired than before although that’s a tough call. He was constantly helping out organizations and family – and he often had a clear vision and plan for how things should be run. People sometimes didn’t like Dad’s method because it almost surely meant that the job was going to take longer, but all the planning, hard work and effort always paid off – If Dad did it, it was going to be great. Dad was a big believer in being precise. He would measure kreplach dough with a ruler to make sure they were all exactly the same size (we had the only six sigma quality kreplach in the city), and when together we built our sukkah that’s capable of withstanding gale force winds, he insisted that we first build a to-scale model with legos.
He also was a big believer in living up to your potential. Talents, gifts, capabilities weren’t to be wasted – everyone had so much to give. He lived what he preached and made sure that everything he did was planned and executed to the best of his abilities – he never did a sub quality job and expected that if you committed to something you gave him and everyone else your best. He also believed that people judged you by your actions not just your words. It’s easy to make promises or statements but in the end its actions that count. And, if he didn’t think even your words were worthy you got one of his famous wave offs always delivered with love on the way out.
Dad was the definition of integrity. We often discussed integrity and he felt that once he gave his word it was binding unless the person he made the promise to released him. It often meant doing difficult things, but you always knew that he would do exactly what he said he was going to do, and not a half- hearted effort either – his integrity, and by definition his identity, was at stake. Everyone trusted him and relied on him because he was defined by his impeccable integrity.
Dad also would quietly help individuals that needed it. Sometimes it was helping with reworking resumes to ensure that someone would get a much needed job – and he knew just how to get to the persons specific marketable skills in the resume and highlight and emphasize what the hirer wanted – a skill he got from his many years in corporate life. He would quietly bring food to someone who needed it, or even roll up his sleeves and work in the shul kitchen or actually pull out his tool box and fixing things in the Shul himself – even when he could call someone else to do it. He knew that if he did it, whatever it was, he would give the attention to the details so that the job would come out right. He lived his life doing chesed b’seser.
He valued Jewish education, especially for his grandchildren, helped support the Jewish Day School system, and he had clear vision for how many of the organizations that he was on the board or president of should be run – and he was always willing to help and always had time when asked. He never said no. He was a true Baal Chesed. My Dad touched the lives of people not just in Chicago. His loss is felt worldwide and by each one of you here today. Even the sky is weeping. You heard the loud thunder this morning? Alan said it was Dad fixing the benches in the Beis Medrash in Shamayim.
Dad didn’t have the opportunity to study Torah growing up the way our kids do today and he loved going to shiurim at the Shul and Kollel and loved to challenge the Rabbis with thought provoking questions. He often spoke of his love for his learning and how much he enjoyed being given the freedom to ask questions and learn in these shiurim. Thank you to the baalei shiur – you gave him so much enjoyment.
My Dad was also a not-so-secret chef and love talking about and sharing his recipes – each which were his personal culinary science experiments. Who will make the horseradish this year Dad?
To Dad his in-laws weren’t in-laws. His son-in-laws were sons and daughter-in-law a daughter and machatanim were not in-laws, they were just family.
Dad’s favorite title wasn’t Dr. it was Zaide. His grandchildren meant everything to him. For a long time when asked how many grandchildren he had he would answer “not enough”. He wasn’t a sidelines grandparent – he was right in the middle of the chaos. Our boys especially were so blessed. He would come over nearly every day to listen to them practice layning for their bar mitzvahs. He didn’t know how to layn but he worked through the layning with them anyway to make sure they were ready. He would drop everything he was doing to come over and help tutor our kids in Math or Physics or any other subject. He was so smart that after so many years away from these subjects he was still incredibly sharp and able to help. Sometimes it was hard – Dad’s way meant a LOT of work…but you definitely knew the material when you were done and the process meant spending time with Zaide which was incredibly special to all our kids.
Zaide would make the rounds twice on Shabbos. Once visiting all his kids Friday night to say good Shabbos and to shnuker some of our Shabbat food, and then again on Shabbat afternoon to grab a few games of backgammon with his grandkids. He so valued that time. It didn’t matter what he was doing as long as he was with his grandchildren. Zaide made sure that his New York grandchildren were a significant and important part of his life. He and Mom always made sure to be in NY for every important event, and every Thanksgiving. Zaide didn’t want gifts or money or trips – when his birthday came around he wanted a photo “COllage” with all his grandkids and when you come by the house the walls are covered with what he valued most – pictures of him with his grandchildren.
To Zaide’s grandchildren: If ever you are wondering what to do in a certain situation, just think about what Zaide would do. We all know what that is because Zaide never kept his opinions and values a secret. You have such a bracha that you were so close to your Zaide, and it is a comfort to us – he lives on in each of you.
Oh Dad, I can’t believe you aren’t here with us all. I know that you would love that the whole family is together – you made it your business to be at all the family and extended family events…happy and sad, and everyone loved you for it.
We’re all still in a state of shock. How can this be? How will we go on? We need your advice Dad. We need you to guide us – we’re not prepared. It would take dozens of people to take care of the things you quietly look care of single handed. You always said you didn’t sleep – how could you…there was always so much to do. You weren’t just a man, you were a force.
Dad, I hope that you are mochel me for anything I might have done or said to upset you. I love you so much.