TBA member Shimon Soferr wrote the following article honoring Kiva Skolnick, may his memory be for a blessing.
NorthShore Sunday Sun, 12 August 2012
All people want to be remembered. This is natural. Because most people tend to forget, most people are afraid of being forgotten, and that is also natural. Many people, therefore, invest a lot of efforts in the fear of being forgotten. Some accumulate a lot of money to leave behind them. Some break records in sports, become famous artist, travelers, scientists, mayors, governors or presidents. Some write books or memoirs, build hospitals or libraries, or dedicate walls in such establishments. Some have airports, streets and whole institutions named after them, and some become war heroes or heroes from Hollywood.
They all do these, and so many other things, lest their names be forgotten in the eternal obliviousness of death. Unfortunately, though their names are inscribed somewhere in books, in accounts, on walls or in annals and records, few of them enter eternal memory. While we are constantly reminded of them, few of them are truly remembered. This is because our human memory is very short and extremely selective.
There are a few people, on the other hand, who do not leave fortunes behind, do not write books, invent things, break records or discover new continents. And yet we make the effort, very often subconsciously, to assign them to memory, and therefore we remember them for the rest of our own lives. Dr. Kiva Skolnick, the dentist from Beverly, who died on Saturday, the fourth of August of this year, is one of those few.
What makes us assign such people to our own, personal memory without any social endeavor to make their remembrance publicly available, and often without even making a conscious decision to remember them forever? We could, of course, make a long list of Kiva’s contributions to Beverly, to dentistry or to his life long devotion to his Temple. We could describe his philanthropic approach toward his patients and the needy, or his humorous attitude toward life and how he embraced living. We could mention the large number of people who knew him, loved him, cherished and sought his company and therefore assigned him to memory and will miss him for a long, long time.
But there are a few other qualities that make Kiva Skolnick so memorable. These are qualities that not many of us are aware of, of which Kiva himself was probably unaware, and he would reject them instantly if it were ever suggested to him that he had them in him.
Abraham, the patriarch from the Book of Genesis, in the Bible, is famous, among other things, for his argument with God. God was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorra, the cities of evil, and Abraham wanted God to spare them for the sake of fifty, forty, or even ten righteous people who might live in those cities. God agrees to spare Sodom and Gomorra; not so much for the sake of a few righteous people who might dwell there, but for the sake of Abraham who presented the argument to Him. Unfortunately for these two cities, not too many righteous persons were found, and we know the rest of the story.
The question in the Jewish traditional commentary is, What type of people would be righteous enough for God to spare places or worlds like Sodom and Gomorra? From this question developed the theory, or concept, or maybe the legend or the myth, that, even though the world is still as evil today as Sodom and Gomorra were in Abraham’s days, God spares us because of 36 unknown righteous people who live and operate in the world secretly in every generation. Thus, if Abraham were to argue again with God, to sway Him from destroying completely the world that is destroying itself, it is very possible that Abraham would present people like Kiva as the argument against such destruction.
Who are those 36 mysterious people for whose sake God has not yet and probably never will destroy the world? They are those who follow the advice of the prophet Micah:”You already know what the Lord wants from you: pursue justice, practice mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” At the same time, they follow also the admonition in the book of Psalms: “Do not seek the advice of the wicked and do not join in a council of fools (or the ‘ungodly,’depending on which translation we choose to depend).” Those who knew Kiva Skolnick would, we think, not hesitate to describe him, in retrospect, as someone who followed the advice, or admonition, of both the Psalmist and the Prophet. That is why they will assign him to memory, in addition to remembering him. People that we remember evoke pleasant or unpleasant images, emotions and feelings in us. People that we also assign to memory become internalized in our “systems” as role models whose ways and behaviors we wish to emulate and imitate. That is what makes the difference, and that is Kiva’s legacy to his friends and children and grandchildren. Perhaps we should all learn to adopt some of his ways to make this beautiful world of ours a better and safer place.