The great Christopher Hitchens has just died. I had such affection for this person I did not know. And why? As a rabbi I suppose I should have been put off or offended by the contemptuousness with which he regarded the religious. Instead I found myself always moved by his breadth of knowledge, appreciative of his deep moral convictions and commitments, and somewhat in awe of his brilliance. In reading Hitchens, there was always a beautiful sense, whether you agreed with him or not, of "so, this is what a human mind can do."
For the meaning of the yiddish shtarker, click here and see the last paragraph of what I think was Hitchens' last piece, a meditation on suffering and it's meaning/lessness.
Wikipedia entry on Hitchens here, a good sense of Hitchen's brutal honesty along with his moral vision (and humor) here, his takedown of Mother Theresa, which gives a good sense of his iconoclasm, here.
It says in the Talmud (Berachot 6a), "The merit of attending a house of mourning lies in the silence observed." It is perhaps the only fitting response to the amazing life of this nearly archetypal man of words.