I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. I remember asking my chassan if his rebbe was going to test me on Chumash!
We went to Rav Lifshitz’s apartment in Washington Heights. What I remember first and foremost was that Rebbe refused to give us a berachah for our engagement until he first gave a berachah to my older sister, insisting she should get married first. (She did.) Only then did we receive our berachah.
Rav Dovid had been the bochen (official examiner) of the boys who attended Yeshiva Rabbeinu Chaim Ozer elementary school in the Bronx. My husband was a student there, so Rav Dovid had been part of his life since he was a small boy. When my husband’s father passed away in 1955, Rebbe made sure that both my husband and his brother had everything they could possibly need.
My husband continued on through the YU high school and college system so Rav Lifshitz, a rosh yeshiva at YU, remained a constant presence in his life.
In my home, when my mother had any concerns she would call a rav, and I similarly felt that if I had any questions or if any issues came up before my chassunah I could either call Rav Dovid or go over to his house, no questions asked. He was always available to me.
Customarily, Rebbe would go to Eretz Yisrael around Elul, which, it just so happened, was when our chassunah was scheduled to take place. He could not be our mesader kiddushin but he sent us a letter informing us that he went to all the makomot kadoshim (holy places) to daven for us on our special day.
The years passed and I gave birth to our second son. As Lubavitcher chassidim, we had named our oldest son Yosef Yitzchak, the name of the previous (Frierdiker) Lubavitcher Rebbe. The date of our second son’s bris fell on the 5th of Menachem Av, the yahrzeit of both the AriZal and Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski. It seemed fitting to give our second son the latter’s name as the Frierdieker Rebbe and Rav Chaim Ozer had been close friends.
I wanted Rav Dovid to be my baby’s sandek since he had personally known Rav Chaim Ozer. My husband was too shy to ask Rav Dovid and actually dared me to call him myself, which I did. In my broken Yiddish I asked him to be the sandek and he replied that he would be happy to if my husband could arrange a ride for him, which of course he did.
Each year when we called Rav Dovid to wish him a shanah tovah, he always asked after his “sandekel,” our son.
A few years later, it was time to celebrate Chaim Ozer’s bar mitzvah. I had invitations specially printed just so I could send one to Rav Dovid. Sadly, he was niftar a few weeks prior to the simcha.
Who would have thought that a European gadol like Rav Dovid Lifshitz, the Suvalker Rav, not only would have had such an impact on the lives of generations of yeshiva bachurim, but also would have enriched the life of a second-generation American young lady?
Rav Dovid Lifshitz, zt”l, a humble, caring, and gentle Torah giant, was my rebbe too. I am truly blessed.