Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.
This week we read in the parshah about a tzaddik who changed the world forever.
Yes, one man can change the world.
What kind of man? A man who understands so strongly that God is real that he is not afraid of anyone or anything. He is not afraid to proclaim God’s Name and talk about His greatness. As King David says (Psalm 116), “How can I repay God for all His kindness to me? I will raise the cup of salvations and invoke the Name of God. My vows to God I will pay in the presence…of His entire people….”
Our father Abraham enters the world stage this week in Parshas Lech Lecha. He had the colossal courage to leave the world of idolatry and respond to the call of his Creator. He went willingly to a land and a lifestyle that were unknown to him, but he trusted God.
Abraham is the progenitor of the Eternal Nation, Am Yisrael. With all our foibles and frailties, we have followed his footsteps throughout history, and we have blazed a trail of Kiddush Hashem. No other nation is like us; we have brought the presence of God into this mixed-up world, light into darkness. Our father Abraham taught us how to do it.
* * *
On Wednesday night, October 14, in Seattle, Washington, a tzaddik left this world. His name was Joe Russak.
I knew Joe Russak.
We first met in the summer of 1983, when I traveled to Seattle with a relative who was suffering from a dangerous illness. We had an appointment with a renowned physician at 1 p.m. on a Friday, and there was no way we were going to be anywhere but Seattle for Shabbos. So our rabbi, Rabbi Meshulam haLevi Jungreis, zt”l, (who later became our mechutan) called his colleague in Seattle. Where should our friends stay for Shabbos? The rabbi replied, “The premiere address for hachnosos orchim in Seattle is the home of Joe and Adina Russak.”
And so, two inexperienced young men flew to Seattle. We walked into the Russaks’ home at 10 o’clock Thursday night and I can still remember the aroma! Adina was making tongue with raisin sauce for Shabbos. These two holy people took us into their hearts. I was so impressed with Joe, a famous businessman with illustrious acquaintances, but Joe had no airs. He bought a bottle of Chivas Regal “in our honor” and we had a memorable Shabbos.
That was twenty-six years ago. Joe and Adina became our friends. I called him every erev Yom Tov since then. When my wife and I went to speak in Miami, we stayed with Joe and Adina in their apartment. When my first book, From Central Park to Sinai, came out, Joe believed in it, and made some amazing contacts for me, people who helped me greatly and who themselves have since become my valued friends.
Joe had a heart as big as this world. He was an extremely generous philanthropist, whose name you will find, along with the names of his beloved family, on the Dedication page of the Third Volume of the ArtScroll Tractate Sanhedrin.
He never stopped talking about his beloved family, his children, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He never stopped talking about how every one of his descendants was Torah observant. That is what he cared about. He would tell you over and over that every one of his descendants observed the mitzvos. He lived for that.
His beloved partner, Adina, passed away a few years ago. Joe was a fighter, and he told us he was going to keep going, but he was always fighting back a tear. He missed her so much. They were in it together, for life. The hachnosos orchim, the chesed, the tzedakah, the beautiful and holy family – they were in it together.
A few months ago we were in Seattle and had a beautiful visit with Joe. He was still going to work at the age of 90. Who knew we would never see him again? I called him erev Rosh Hashanah and he sounded fine. And then….
A tzaddik really changes the world. It’s not just that he makes people feel good and gives generously of his resources. A tzaddik literally brings the presence of God into this material world. He elevates the world, because those who come in contact with him become aware of their eternal neshamah and realize that they can connect with the Source of all life.
We are so grateful that we got to share this planet with you, Joe. You worked tirelessly to follow the Torah’s way and to show others how beautiful it is. Soon you and Adina will be back and we will all go to the Bais Hamikdash together and cry for happiness. It won’t be long, Joe. Thank you for being our friend and an inspiration to Klal Yisrael.
About the Author: Roy Neuberger's latest book, “2020 Vision” (Feldheim) is available in English, Hebrew, Spanish, French, Russian, and Georgian. An e-edition is available at www.feldheim.com. Roy is also the author of "From Central Park to Sinai: How I Found My Jewish Soul” (available in English, Hebrew and Russian, and Georgian) and “Worldstorm.” Roy and Leah Neuberger speak publicly on topics related to his books and articles. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his websites www.tosinai.com and www.2020visionthebook.com.
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Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.
The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.
Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.
Emigration from Israel is at an all-time low, far lower than immigration to Israel from Europe.
Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters: “‘Klinghoffer’ is justified as ‘a work of art’…This is an outrage.”
Do you seriously think that as you kidnap our children we should medically treat and help yours?
Sometimes collective action against the heinous acts of the majority is not enough. The world should not only support the blockade of Gaza; it must enforce the dismantling of Hamas.
The Arab Spring has challenged Jordan with the task of gradual reform with regard to its monarchy.
Israel offered Syria the entire Golan Heights, only to find that the Syrians were demanding MORE!
Israeli hasbara too can be described at best as pathetic, at worst non existent.
A ‘good news’ story from the Nepal avalanche disaster to warm your heart. Take out your Kleenex.
Journalists see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as morality play: Israel=evil; Palestine=innocent
Warsaw Ghetto: At its height, the Nazis walled in some 500,000 Jews within the1.3 square mile area.
While police officers face dangers every day on the job, Jews also face danger in their daily lives.
In the recent Gaza war and its aftermath, we saw a totally illogical reaction from the world.
The unwarranted hatred among us that caused the destruction of the Second Temple clearly still plagues us.
At the end of the harvest, winter begins. The earth becomes cold and hard, nights are long, and the sun seems far away in the southern sky. The sap ceases to flow in the trees. But in this season of temporary “death” Hashem sends down harbingers of coming life in the form of tal u’matar livrachah – dew and rain for a blessing – upon the earth.
“Logically” speaking, after the millennia of hatred and destruction directed against us, there should not be one Jew in the world today who still keeps the Torah.
They were lining up for gas masks in Israel.
Apparently, at the very time of year we are supposed to be full of simcha, Hashem wants us to be aware of the possibility of danger. Indeed, during the Yom Tov of Sukkos, we read cataclysmic haftaras dealing with the ultimate war, the Milchemes Gog Umagog. Where does that war take place? In the Holy Land, of course, where the eyes of the world are always focused.
At the mikveh they were discussing Egypt.
So many things seem to be unraveling. It’s not just Egypt but the entire Middle East. No, it’s not just the Middle East; it’s the entire world.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/thoughts-on-a-tzaddik/2009/10/28/
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