Always with a Smile!

I begin my remarks with a thank you. The thank you goes the Almighty for giving me and my seven siblings the great fortune of being born into, and raised by, the most wonderful, loving and caring parents. My parents o.b.m. were true role models.

My dear mother, Malka, passed away 36 years ago, and my father, Rabbi Boruch, passed away this past Monday October 18th.

I wish to share some reflections of my father’s blessed and accomplished life.

My father was born here in the United States 85 years ago to his parents David and Ida, and was raised in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He attended Rabbi Jacob Joseph School (RJJ) from elementary school through high school where he was chosen as valedictorian. He then went on to further his Talmudic studies and received Semicha.

My grandmother, who was so proud of his accomplishment, gifted him a beautiful gold watch when he received Rabbinic ordination.

He married our mother in 1958 and as children we were blessed to observe what an idyllic marriage is all about. At that time was appointed as the 8th grade Rebbe at RJJ. He retained this position for many years until the school relocated to New Jersey. He then became a Hebrew principal in a high school in Brooklyn.

In the afternoons he studied by the great sage, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein o.b.m. who became his mentor for life. In 1965, upon the direction of Rabbi Feinstein, he became a Rebbe in the Yeshiva of Staten Island where he spent his afternoons and delivered a popular hour long Talmudic discourse each day. He retained this position for the next 55 years.

In the early 60’s my father became the Shul Rabbi of Zeirai Agudath Israel in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn where we resided. He held this position until he relocated to Lakewood NJ twelve years ago, when he became a Rav of a Minyan in his development.

During the summers, my father was the rabbi of Camp Mogen Avraham in the Catskills. For 45 years he led the camp spiritually and with great talent oversaw the daily study groups.

Even with a packed schedule like this, he was foremost a devoted son, husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle.

During the Shiva someone who did not know my father asked if I could encapsulate my father’s life in a few words. I thought for a moment and responded – he wasted no time. He was totally focused on his studies and things that had a purpose. With all his responsibilities he conducted himself with ease and greeted everyone with a beautiful smile.

While delineating his various positions it becomes apparent that he had a talent to effectively relate to the youngest camper as well as senior adults.

My father was a motivator. He had the ability to pinpoint the inner strength of the individual and inspire and stimulate them to develop that hidden skill.

He shared with me that he felt that there was an added benefit for one to attend summer camp.  Living for an extended time with others who are not family teaches one to get along with others effectively and prepares them to be unselfish when marrying and living with their spouse.

We heard many stories from those who needed to be disciplined, whether in a class setting or as campers, and it was done in either a humorous or motivational way.

My wife Malki shared with me an insight she taught to her students. This week’s Parsha begins with the passing of our matriarch Sarah. The Torah tells us Sarah’s age; she was 127 years old, and then the Torah seems to repeat itself saying, “These are the years of Sarah.” What is the meaning behind the seeming repetition? An answer she came across is that the Hebrew word for years is Shenai. Shenai can also mean two. The Torah is telling us that Sarah was able to strike a balance with both her inner feelings and her outer persona.

Imagine, Sarah was barren for 90 years, yet she didn’t allow her personal challenge and feelings get in the way of how she pleasantly conducted herself with others in the most effective way.

My father was faced with challenges in his life. The greatest was dealing with the loss of his young wife and being left with the responsibility of raising six unmarried children with the youngest being only nine years old.

He amazingly adapted and did it! He didn’t let his personal sorrow get in the way of the goal of raising a family and functioning to the maximum in all his responsibilities.

My father was blessed twice. A few years later he married Hindy, who was a wonderful blessing to him and our family. Our father was medically challenged during the past several years and Hindy maintained his health like no other.

Well over a thousand people came and visited us during Shiva and they shared almost identically the way they were touched by our father’s pleasantness and lessons. We heard what we already knew!

He is sorely missed… May his memory be a blessing to all!