In the heart of election season, with scandals breaking left and right, please forgive me if I take a few paragraphs to write about a close friend who passed away recently. Isaac Meyers, a graduate student in classics at Harvard University, was struck by a tractor-trailer early Monday morning in Cambridge, Mass. He died a few hours later. Isaac was 28 years old.
Isaac was simply a phenomenal person. He was ridiculously literate — his love for literature and philosophy was infectious. He was a scholar of Greek and critic of Hebrew poetry. He had quirky tastes in music and movies, and a similarly quirky sense of humor. He dressed in tweed jackets and rimless glasses and often wore his frizzy hair in a Jewfro. I used to joke that Isaac was the most Marxist-looking political conservative I had ever met.
Isaac was also one of the most tolerant people I have ever met. He got along with virtually everyone — his group of friends ranged from gay divinity school students to right-wing law students to moderate political philosophy scholars. His apartment was rarely devoid of fascinating conversation.
When we lose someone close to us, it is difficult not to question God’s justice. I have nothing but sympathy for survivors of the Holocaust who have left religion — how can we blame someone who has seen ultimate tragedy for questioning whether there is, indeed, a cosmic plan?
By the same token, it takes vast reserves of strength to retain belief in an existential plan in the face of absurdly horrific events. It takes a leap of faith. When good people die young — when life provides no evidence of an overarching plan — it takes blind faith.
It takes blind faith to believe in the face of death. And it takes the same faith to live with dignity and honor.
Isaac Meyers was an observant Jew. He wasn’t a foolish ignoramus — he asked tough questions. But he also accepted the ultimate sovereignty of God. Back in 2003, Isaac wrote a piece for Forward.com on the Biblical prophet Habakkuk. Habakkuk’s third chapter, Isaac wrote, "is a beautiful and unified psalm that testifies to human power to speak with God and yet live, to submit to the divine and stay sane — sane and even creative." And he praised Habakkuk for his faith, even knowing the imminent revelation of God’s awful power: "After all that — after the threatening promise of the Torah, the terrible and true signs — can he still live with his faith, and even, in full knowledge of that horrific wave of destruction gathering force to bear down from the East, continue in his work? His answer is yes, of course. Of course he can; that is his weakness and his strength; he is human."
Isaac’s life was a testament to his Habakkuk-like faith. He explored the world of culture; indeed, he reveled in it. At the same time, he celebrated both the mercy and justice of God. As we who mourn Isaac remember him, it is comforting to reread his words: "And lastly, nothing could express simple, stubborn confidence in the future better than Habakkuk’s final brief professional note, ‘For the Choirmaster. With my string-music.’"
Isaac is now with the Choirmaster. May the string-music of his memory never stop singing to us all.
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