This column is a literary bridge between two people who have never met, never even heard of each other.
On the surface, they could not be more different.
Dave Boyles is a Westerner, with all that means; Rabbi Perr is an Easterner, with all that means.
Dave Boyles is president of a bank, Rabbi Perr is dean of a yeshiva.
Dave Boyles is a Christian, Rabbi Perr is a Jew.
Dave Boyles exercises a lot, Rabbi Perr does not.
Dave Boyles reads the Bible in English, Rabbi Perr reads it in Hebrew.
Dave Boyles has one grandson, Rabbi Perr has a a slew of grandchildren, even great-grandchildren.
Dave Boyles’ passion is mellow, embracing, understated. Rabbi Perr’s passion is fiery, principled, overt.
If Dave Boyles were a Biblical figure, he would be Ruth: gentle, yet unstoppable. If Rabbi Perr were a Biblical figure, he would be Joshua: independent, yet a faithful disciple.
Dave Boyles has one idiom, Rabbi Perr another.
Why am I writing about these men together?
I could answer that I am honored to call both my friends. I could answer that both are philosophers. Not book philosophers. Not academics — neither writers nor consumers of “philosophy,” of Plato, Spinoza and Kant.
The banker and the rabbi are philosophers in the truest sense. Thinkers, ponderers, reflectors on the human condition, manufacturers of ruminations and speculations, searchers for meaning. But their philosophic bent is not why I am writing about them together, or why I am writing about them at all. I am not “doing philosophy,” I am doing something much more simple.
When I see Dave Boyles at the bank, yes, of course, he talks about Collegiate Peaks Bank. But about so much more. When I talk to Rabbi Perr by phone, yes, of course, he talks about the Yeshiva of Far Rockaway, but about so much more. One gets the idea that for both men their professional foci, although consuming, are nonetheless only extensions of a larger vision of life that each man holds.
I am writing about Dave Boyles and Rabbi Perr together because each man is so refreshing, so honest. Each man is a seeker.
And a sharer.
One sign of this is that conversations with either man can go anywhere, can shoot off in any direction. Neither the banker nor the rabbi bind themselves by the rules and limitations of their profession or their background.
The other day, I dropped in on Dave Boyles, and he tells me, in response to a inquiry about him and his family:
“When you get to 60, you become grateful for every day. How am I? Fine, because I have today. And if tomorrow I will also have today, what a blessing.”
The other day, I picked up the phone to Rabbi Perr, and he tells me:
“A 96-year-old woman, the last living grandchild of the elder sage of Novorodock, told me a story:
An old woman gets up in the morning and looks in the mirror. She says, how awful I look, how old I look.
She turns to her husband lying in bed and says, Say something nice about me.
He says: You have excellent vision.
“The main thing is, always to have a sense of humor. A smile. Not to let age beat you down. In Novorodock they used to say: King Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes in his youth and the Song of Songs in his old age. The essence is the opposite of the reality. In youth, when you are celebrating life, think. Ponder. Look at Ecclesiastes. In old age: Write the Song of Songs.”
Dave Boyles tells me:
“We have a story in Christendom. When a person dies, we say it’s like a ship going over the horizon. It goes and goes and pretty soon it disappears and is gone . . . But on the other side there is another shore, with other people, waiting to greet that ship.”
Rabbi Perr tells me, in response to a ridiculous question of mine as to whether I should buy a very old and inexpensive, but drivable, Rolls Royce:
“My father used to visit our yeshiva and not sit at the Mizrach [the eastern wall, the position traditionally reserved for senior rabbinic scholars]. My father-in-law would sit there, my father would not.
“I urged him to.
“He said: You know, I never sat in the Mizrach back in my own synagogue.
“I said: But this makes me look like a bad son — like I’m not properly honoring my father.
“He said: Nu, nu [i.e., how things look are not critical].
“You want a Rolls Royce? The main thing is, you should own it, it should not own you.”
Dave Boyles asks me about Isaac, the son of Abraham.
Rabbi Perr asks me about Isaac or Job — whomever is on his mind, and a Biblical figure is always on his mind. And always on Dave Boyles’ mind, too.
Dave Boyles, with a twinkle in his eye, tells me: “Want to hear a coincidence? It just so happens that the handsomest and smartest grandson in the world is . . . my grandson. Isn’t that a coincidence?”
Rabbi Perr tells me: “We’re all amateur psychologists.”
Dave Boyles: “I love the Biblical phrase for death, ‘gathered unto his people.’ When I have to send condolences to Jewish families, I use this phrase. It says so much.”
“Once again Israel is surrounded by bloodthirsty enemies. Seven wolfs surrounding the sheep, taking bitefuls out of it.
“Obama weakened America’s standing in the whole world, particularly in the Middle East. America has ceased to be the strongman of the world. I don’t know if you can restore that without another world triumph, like World War II.”
“Bag ladies come up to my wife and open up to her, revealing the most personal information. People stop her in stores. It’s amazing. And you know why? People know that they’re not being judged.”
Both men, no doubt, are not wondering why I am writing about them together; their concern is prior: Why am I writing about them at all? I hope I do not upset them, but my motive is simply to let people in on a little secret: There remain wonderful people out there. Passionate. Thoughtful. Open. Capable of getting upset. Capable of taking a moment amidst the rush to savor life. Tenacious in doing something about the ills of the world, each in his own way.
More than all this, capable of friendship.
That is a rare blessing indeed.
I am blessed by both men for their friendship, for the moments they take to share their flights of fancy and their deepest thoughts.
Both men give me excellent vision.
Both gather me into their lives.
Copyright © 2012 by the Intermountain Jewish News