A few days ago my wife and I celebrated the bris of our son. We named him Shmuel Tzvi in memory of someone who had a big impact on my life.
Tzvi was the middle name of Naftali Tzvi Hakohen, Nathaniel Cohen z”l. Nathaniel was the first student I worked with after I graduated college, in my first job at SINAI Schools….and at the risk of sounding corny and cliche, I can guarantee you that I learned much more from him than he ever learned from me.
Nathaniel was a big Mets fan, and as seems to often be the case in my life, that leads to an instant connection! I distinctly remember a conversation we had during the 2001-02 offseason as we were unwrapping tefillin one morning, where he was enthusiastically telling me how excited he was for the upcoming season, as he listed off their new starting lineup: “We have Roger Cedeno leading off, Robby Alomar, Mo Vaughn, this team is going back to the World Series!” While we Mets fans know how that turned out, that optimism continued for the entire time I knew him, no matter how difficult the obstacles. Nathaniel was feisty in the best way possible – when he had a strong opinion on something, I knew I was facing a losing argument and I was always proud of how strongly he defended his position. I can remember learning Gemara with him, and I can remember him enthusiastically helping Ed Gandler coach some of the athletic teams.
I was always in awe of how upbeat he always seemed; how he had such an optimistic view on life…and even the Mets! I pray that our Shmuel Tzvi carries on that optimistic approach to life, that he finds the good in bad situations, that he finds the positives in the people he encounters, and that he is a credit to his namesake.
Pictured above: the author (center) with Nathaniel’s parents, Ruvan and Shelley Cohen; Baby Shmuel Tzvi.