A s he left the office and stepped out into the street, Moshe’s eyes opened wide. The bold, black letters seemed to be moving toward him, and he shrank back in alarm.

“So he was niftar,” he whispered to himself.

Voices that had settled in the recesses of his mind awakened. That face, that name… Moshe hadn’t mentioned him in years, but he was always there, lurking in the background like a foreboding shadow.

“Baruch Dayan haEmes.”

He tried to push the matter aside, to shrug it off and cross the street, but the freshly pasted notice seemed to hold him there.

His eyes ran over the words: “…departed before his time… exemplary mechanech who taught Torah and yirah to the young flock of Israel for more than half a yovel…”

Yes, so it must be him. Rebbi Levy.

“Good!” he said suddenly. “Good!”

Passersby stopped for a moment and looked at the notice. Some bit their lips, some raised their eyebrows with that “I don’t know him” look and kept walking, and others let out that sigh of relief that said, “Well, we’re still alive.”

But Moshe still stood there, engulfed in his own thoughts. And consumed with anger.

On the outside, he looked like any other young man who’d just finished his day’s work, but on the inside, he was shooting sparks of rage at Rebbi Levy, now billed as HaRav Yitzchak Aharon Levy z”l. For a fleeting moment, he even imagined himself tearing down the notice.

As if it hadn’t been 17 years already.

Again he was a ten-year-old, full of boyish energy. He pushed hard on the handle of the green door, burst into the classroom at Talmud Torah Yesodei HaDas, and tripped over the rebbi’s foot.

He was sprawled on the floor, and Rebbi Levy was standing over him, saying, “Go back outside, Moishy, and next time don’t come into class like a gorilla in the zoo.”

So now he had a new nickname. Gorilla. Yet another entry on the list of insulting names the rebbi had affixed to him.

He was still there by the notice board, rubbing his elbow as if the rebbi had just now tripped him, instead of 17 years ago. And the memories kept coming. The time he was banned from the class trip, the month his desk had been moved to the corner as punishment for talking during a lesson. His whole life had been irrevocably altered because Rabbi Levy had chosen to share his impressions of the “gorilla boy” with all the decision makers in his little universe. If Moishy could have taken his teacher to beis din, the charge would have been “ruining a life.”

An idea flashed in his mind. It flashed again, and took hold. He’d do it. He’d go to the levayah. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 705)