This past week, the Jewish people lost one of its great leaders, a giant of a humble man, Rabbi Dovid Feinstein o.b.m.
Reb Dovid was the son of the venerable Sage and Halachik authority Rabbi Moshe Feinstein o.b.m. and he assumed that role upon his father’s passing.
Reb Dovid was the address and phone number to seek an answer or guidance for the most difficult and complex Halachik questions. He was decisive and right on the mark.
When I say that Reb Dovid assumed his father’s role, I don’t mean he campaigned for it or was chosen. He was not proud of his position, if anything, he shied from the limelight. He did not accept speaking engagements – he just spent his time at MTJ, his Yeshiva in the Lower East Side of NY, and people found him.
Despite the fact that all in attendance were wearing masks, he had a large funeral, where it was repeatedly mentioned that he was the champion of Chesed. As quiet as he was, he was quite aware of what was going on and what needed to be done, and in his unassuming quiet way he was there for the individual (many times the downtrodden), the organizations and for the masses,
I want to share a personal story. Reb Dovid was a mentor of my father. In July of 2012 my father had heart surgery and before the procedure he called Reb Dovid to discuss various halachik guidelines pertaining to the post op.
My son Shua was getting married less than a week after the surgery and my father was not able to attend.
During the wedding at the Choson’s Tish, I looked across the room and there was Reb Dovid walking in. I sprang to my feet and swiftly went over to greet him – his smile matching mine!
I always invited Reb Dovid to my family’s Simchos as a gesture, not expecting him to attend.
What I realized is that Reb Dovid with his broader view of things put two and two together. He realized on his own that a grandfather would not be attending his grandson’s wedding – he took the time out of his busy schedule and made the effort to come and be there as an extension of my father.
This is the type of man Reb Dovid was and these types of gestures repeated themselves quite often.
This past week I read an insightful article written by Rabbi Berel Wein and I shared it with a few of my friends. Mr. David Epstein encouraged me to include them in my remarks this week. Here are some excerpts of “Inheritance & Legacy”
The nature of people, especially as we grow older, is to think about our influence on the future, when we are freed from the bondage of the challenges and problems of this world. We all wish to live beyond the grave; that is part of our innate drive for immortality and eternity. Many try as hard as they can to believe that this world is all that we will experience and that, therefore, it is all that counts. However, there is a voice that resonates within us that denies this, pointing us towards a future that is unknown and uncertain but which, at the same time, we instinctively feel exists.
In the realm of the physical world and especially the world of material wealth, we deal with this unknown future through laws governing inheritance, estates, wills, trusts and other forms of legal protection. We wish that, even after we are gone, we could still in some way control our wealth and possessions, and that we should be the final arbiters how they should be distributed, and who will be the next owner.
A person can leave both an inheritance and a legacy. “Legacy” implies a way of life, advice on life choices, the formulation of an overarching vision that is meant not merely to instruct but to inspire. The Torah describes itself as a legacy, rather than as a mere inheritance that is meant to be passed on from one generation to the next: it is, in itself, a piece of eternity that is bestowed upon its recipients. Inheritances rarely survive for more than one or two generations at most. But a legacy is always present; a matter of vision and spirit, not subject to the deterioration or loss of value that time inevitably brings to all things physical.
Legacy is thus the most important thing an older generation can grant to its offspring: it is the true gift by grandparents to grand and great-grandchildren. A legacy can be illustrated in the behavior, speech, attitudes, and conduct that the younger generation witnesses in the older one. Many times, the greatest conductor of legacy is the unspoken word, a careful gesture, a smile in a moment of adversity. No book of instructions or of laws, to my knowledge, details the transmission of legacy, even as there are many works that deal with inheritances. Yet, in the long run of life generally, and certainly family life, it is the transmission of legacy that truly counts and determines the future. RBW
This week’s Parsha Chayai Sarah begins by talking about the accomplished life of our Matriarch Sarah – 127 years of devotion to G-d, family and humanity.
Sarah’s legacy lives on not only by her tomb which is still in existence in Chevron, but by her kindnesses and devoted efforts and focus on shaping the Jewish people’s destiny through raising her son Yitzchok in the purest and most profound way.
This week we lost another gem, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (no relation), the former Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth. He was a great orator, author, and an eloquent ambassador for the Jewish people throughout the globe.
At his funeral a rabbi colleague of his quoted Rabbi Sacks’ own words. “When I die, I don’t want to be remembered as the man who wrote lots of books and as a man who was the Chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth. I want to be remembered as the person who gave out sweets to children in Shul.”
Personally I recall our lollipop man in Shul, Mr. Zweig. The sweetness of the Bartons Lollipops he gave out lasted a minute or two, but his smile and cheerfulness in doing so, lived on in me and all the youngsters for decades. In a child’s mind this plays a major part in their motivation to begin coming to Shul.
In truth, King David teaches us in Psalms, Torah is sweeter than the sweetest honey. Torah’s teachings are most productive and enduring when they are taught sweetly, with a smile and with enthusiasm. Avraham and Sara’s son’s name was Yitzchok – laughter, which connotes the basic ingredient for one’s legacy to endure, and that is that it is conveyed through happiness, with a smile and warmth!
Finally, I quote Rabbi Sacks: “Tomorrow’s world is born in what we teach our children today!”