Today, my wife and I travelled into Jerusalem. We went with a heavy heart. We went to say goodbye to a friend. He passed away last night, February 2, 2015, 13 Sh’vat 5775.
Cancer killed him.
His name was Baruch Morgan. He made aliyah to Israel with his wife and daughter in 2013. He came to our city here in Israel. We knew him back in ‘the old country’. We were happy to see him join us.
I remember seeing him during his first week in Israel. I asked how he was doing. In typical Baruch fashion, he replied with a smile.
When I asked how his Hebrew was, he made three claims. First, he didn’t know a word of Hebrew. Second, he was certain that he’d never learn how to speak Hebrew. Third, it didn’t really matter: he’d always get by, he said.
Normally, new Olim who come with weak Hebrew-language skills are either terrified, worried or concerned about their language deficiency. Not Baruch: he was home, he said. What else did he need to know?
Baruch Morgan wasn’t like the rest of us. He didn’t worry the way we do.
He was born in the US—in Wyoming, of all places. For that reason, he called himself a cowboy. He was a Home builder. He built things, repaired things, installed things. His business card announced him as ‘A Jewish Cowboy’. If you needed something built or repaired in your apartment, he’d figure out how to do it—and do it well.
He’d even figured out how to transliterate the word, ‘cowboy’ into Hebrew, for his business card, of course.
I was so fascinated by some of his ‘cowboy’ stories, I wrote an essay about him. I posted it below on October 27, 2013 (go to the right margin, click on 2013-October-“Cowboy logic—and Israel’s leaders”). That essay begins like this:
“I have a friend. He’s a new Oleh. He’s from America. He was born and raised in Wyoming.
If you’ve never heard of Wyoming, that’s okay. Most Israelis haven’t heard of it, either.
Wyoming is in America’s far West. Jews don’t go there. For example, New York City has more than 1.7 million Jews. Wyoming has 1,150. Only South Dakota (345) and North Dakota (400) have fewer Jews.
Wyoming is practically empty. Look at the numbers. As of 2012, Wyoming has a total population of about 576,000. Those people are spread out over 97,814 square miles. That creates a population density of less than 6 people per square mile.
By contrast, New York City has more than 8,300,000 people living within app 302 square miles. The population density of New York City is 27,550 people per square mile.”
In the essay, I talked about his ‘granpa’. His granpa, Baruch once told me, lived by ‘Cowboy logic’. I asked him what that meant. He told me, ‘you don’t survive if you ignore the reality in front of you”.
Riding for days alone on an open and sometimes hostile range, ignoring reality can cost you your life. Riding on the range alone means you carry two guns: a Winchester for four-legged animals and a Colt .45 for two-legged animals.
Cowboy logic says, when you’re alone, you don’t play make-believe. You don’t play if-only. You don’t assume that a man pointing a gun at you is really a friend looking to make peace.
The essay ends:
“Cowboy logic says, you don’t survive if you ignore reality. Our leaders ignore reality.
Cowboy logic says, you survive by defending what’s yours. Our leaders do not defend what is ours.
Cowboy logic says, two-legged animals can be dangerous. Our leaders say, the only dangerous two-legged animals in Israel are Jews in Judea-Samaria.
Our leaders don’t like cowboys. Cowboys are too realistic. Cowboys defend themselves.
Our leaders should visit Wyoming. They might learn something about surviving reality”.
Baruch Morgan wasn’t a politician. He wasn’t a Leftist academician. He was a Shabbat-observing Jew who worked with his hands.
He did a lot of work for me. He was a ‘cut above’ when it came to his trade. He knew what ‘quality’ meant. You could see that in his work.
Baruch Morgan had a future here. In the short time he had before he became too ill to work, his reputation had begun to spread. People could tell: he knew his stuff. He was good.
He was also unique. Just a few weeks before he passed away, as the cancer ravaged his body, he told a friend, HaShem is King. He has a Plan. I have no questions.
He understood reality. He understood his religion. He was a Jewish cowboy who understood cowboy logic.
Goodbye, my cowboy friend. We will miss your commitment to excellence. We will miss your inevitable smile. We will miss your complete faith in HaShem. We will certainly miss the cutting edge of your cowboy logic.
May your family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.