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A Life Of Triumph: Mrs. Irene Klass


When Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch started dating his wife, they realized she was four years his senior. She, being a good German woman, suggested that maybe they call if off because she was older than him. He looked at her and said, “Lady, for what I have planned I need a mature woman.”

I can only envision that when Rabbi Sholom Klass, zt”l, and Rebbetzin Irene Klass, a”h, were dating, he looked at her and said, “For what I have planned I need a mature woman.” And he had a mature woman. Probably from the day she was born she was a mature woman.

The Gemara prepares us as individuals for the great interview each of us is going to face one day. It’s the interview the Beis Din HaGadol - the Beis Din Shel Ma’alah – gives every individual. Together, Rabbi and Rebbetzin Irene Klass accomplished tremendous things for Klal Yisrael and when they are judged, it will be as a unit.

I can only visualize Rav Sholom greeting his wife and taking her into the throne room in front of the majesty of the Beis Din Shel Ma’alah. The Gemara tells us the first question will be, Did you deal honestly, did you treat peopleproperly? I think they will be able to answer a resounding Yes. It’s a legacy they leave. Everyone knows the Klass family as honest and upright people. Yes, they’ll be able to say together, we treated people fairly, equally. The proof is in the children, the progeny. Advertisement

The next question is going to be, Did you set aside time for Torah studies? Rabbi Klass was a self-made man, but that’s a term that really needs to be fixed. There is no such thing as a self-made man. He had a wife who helped make him, helped form him. The Responsa he wrote and all the Torah he knew are theirs. And when the question will be asked of the both of them, she and he will say: Yes, we did. We accomplished. And we left the imprint of Torah in our family.

The next question will be, Did you toil in propagation? The Maharsha explains this refers to carrying people. I believe people who carry others on their shoulders, as the Klasses did, are a vanishing breed. You don’t see it anymore. People give tzedakah and then insulate themselves from the situation. Not the Klasses. They carried yechidim, they carried couples, they carried families, they carried neighborhoods, they carried shuls, they carried projects. So together their answer to this question will be, Yes we did – and our children continue to do it for us.

Next they’ll be asked, Did you hope for salvation, did you look toward Mashiach, the geulah? I would submit that the Klasses, through The Jewish Press, arguably did more for Eretz Yisrael as a nation, as a hope for the geulah, and for Klal Yisrael as a people than almost any other institution. And the Klasses shouldered the burden when it was not in vogue. They were first, they blew that trumpet first. So I think the answer to this question is obvious as well.

They’re also going to be asked something that’s not so simple: Pilpalta b’chochmah? Though there is more to it, in a literal sense the question means, Did you enhance the Torah, did you delve into it and bring out chochmah? And obviously the Klasses can say they indeed advanced concepts in Yiddishkeit. One his many legacies is that he championed the concept of Ask Your Local Orthodox Rabbi. It was something he stood for; asking sheilos was something he pushed people to do. Pilpalta b’chochmah? Yes.

The last question is, Did you anticipate, did you understand A from B?

When the Beis Halevi was a young rav in Brisk, somebody came to his door erev Pesach and asked, “Rebbeh, can I do the four cups of wine with milk, as I don’t have wine?”

The Beis Halevi responded, “Halachically yes, you may do it with milk.” He then asked his wife to cook a meat meal and bring it, along with matzos, to the person’s house.

She asked, “How do you know he needs meat?”

“Well,” the Beis Halevi said, “if he’s asking whether he can drink milk for daled kosos, he obviously doesn’t have meat.”

It took somebody who was mavin davar m’toch davar – somebody who, given a small amount of information, can build on that and understand what the need is. And the question people will be asked after me’ah v’esrim is, Did you understand, did you put two and two together – or did you isolate and insulate yourself? The Klasses will be able to answer this final question with a resounding Yes.

Yes, Yes, Yes to every one of these questions.

Irene Klass, together with her husband Rav Sholom, lived a life of triumph. They go as a unit in front of the Kisei HaKavod and are able to say Yes to everything. It is a zechus for Klal Yisrael that we had such people.

Rabbi Moshe Plutchok is the rav of Congregation Shaarey Torah in Brooklyn and a rebbi at Yeshiva Derech Chaim.

About the Author: Rabbi Moshe Plutchok is the rav of Congregation Shaarey Torah in Brooklyn and a rebbi at Yeshiva Derech Chaim.


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More Articles from Rabbi Moshe Plutchok

When Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch started dating his wife, they realized she was four years his senior. She, being a good German woman, suggested that maybe they call if off because she was older than him. He looked at her and said, “Lady, for what I have planned I need a mature woman.”

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