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Thoughts While Walking the Dog
Memories of a Jewish Childhood
By Lynn Ruth Miller

 
3/18/2012    
Michael D. Hanna-Fein
Issue:
13.01

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see
That in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Kahlil Gibran


Early Monday morning, February 27, 2012, this world lost Michael D. Hanna-Feinís presence, but it did not lose what Michael was to all of us who knew him. That energy and goodness that was uniquely his will guide and inspire us as long as any of us are here to remember and honor him.

Thirteen years ago, Michael founded the on-line magazine, THE GANTSEH MEGILLAH to promote Jewish culture. That publication has been an amazingly popular vehicle that spread Jewish wisdom and understanding throughout the world. I didnít discover the Megillah until 2002 and its writings and my contributions to the magazine have enriched my own life ever since. Best were Michaelís editorials. They always brought balance and reason into observations about the month just past, tinged with compassion for injustice and optimism for the future.

Michael was far more than an editor to me. He was a friend in the truest sense of the word. Websterís Dictionary defines a friend as one attached to another by affection or esteem. Michael was far more than that to us all. For me, he was a source of wisdom and perspective. I would often call him with some foolish interpersonal problem and he would cast the light of reason on my upset. Suddenly, it would seem insignificant and unimportant in the larger scheme of my life.

Michael was my favorite arm chair philosopher. We two would talk for hours about the meaning of life and why we had to believe in the value of our dreams. He always understood that we need to keep our eyes pinned to the main chance and ignore the little upsets along the way. I took his advice because I know he lived it. He suffered unbelievably harsh physical and emotional challenges in his life. Yet, he never let them tarnish his vision of creating a huge, loving Jewish family that shared ideas and grew richer for knowing one another. That is what THE GANTSEH MEGILLAH did for all of us who followed it. It made us feel part of something bigger than ourselves.

I am a Jewish atheist. It was Michaelís respect for the tradition that I have ignored for so many years that made me realize how basic it is to my way of thinking. He showed me that although I do not go to a temple or worship in a group, I am essentially Jewish, a part of that great and beautiful heritage. This new understanding helps me through the hard times by reminding me that human beings can do anything and everything because they are human. Jews, after all are humanists. That is a core value of our religion.

Michael always showed me the underlying meaning of each holiday and the joys of observing the rituals that help us remember the sufferings of a people oppressed and hated for nothing more than their belief in a higher power. I honor that tradition now because our forefatherís survival made it possible for me to exist.

Michael and the Megillah reminded all of us monthly of our Jewishness. He made me understand what I am and helped me feel part of a greater familyÖ.the Megillah family. As it is often said, ďThey hated us; we fought them; we won. Letís eat.Ē Thatís the meaning of being Jewish. Thatís the practicality of it. Thatís the fun.

Michael never took his Jewishness for granted. He did not blindly accept its laws or observe customs that made no sense to him. He evaluated each ritual and strove to help us all understand the reason behind our traditions. When he did that, he bound us all together with a common understanding of why we are who we are.

When you think of it that is a huge accomplishment for one man to do. Michael did that for his Megillah family and for each of us fortunate enough to know him personally. We must never forget that Michaelís spirit has not left us. It is up to all of us now to take up where he left off and continue to preserve our culture and allow it to adapt to the demands of each new day.

I grieve that his body has left this earth but perhaps that isnít a bad thing. He was in constant pain and no human being, especially one as sweet and loving as Michael should have to endure that kind of agony. Indeed, I weep that Michael will never console me on the telephone, again; that I will never be cheered by his voice. It saddens me that he cannot pet his puppies or sit across the breakfast table with his ArnoldÖbut I know the essence of who he is, remains with me and with all of us always. He lives eternally in our hearts.

What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose.
All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.
Helen Keller

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