web analytics
July 2, 2015 / 15 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Torn Garments And Warm Memories


“Rebbi.” One of the most beautiful words in the Hebrew language is “rebbi” – “my Torah teacher.” It is a title earned through Torah knowledge the teacher must possess and then transmit, through love, to his students. The word is said with respect and affection of the highest nature. It bonds rebbi and student together like no other word.

I write these thoughts 32,000 feet above the earth as I fly back to Dallas after having spent an emotionally draining afternoon in New York where I attended the funeral of my rebbi, Rabbi Alter Hanoch Henach Leibowitz, of blessed memory, the rosh hayeshiva of the Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva in Queens.

Thirty-eight years ago I had the privilege of being a talmid in the rosh hayeshiva’s “Blatt” shiur. I still remember the first time I asked the rosh hayeshiva a question and prefaced it with the magical word “rebbi.” Feelings of awe, love, and warmth flowed through my body, all triggered by that one word. For the next 38 years, every time I spoke or wrote a letter to the rosh hayeshiva and used this hallowed term, I felt elevated and truly blessed.

How did Rebbi command the respect, reverence, loyalty, and love of thousands of talmidim across the globe? For starters, Rebbi was a world-class scholar and pedagogue. His in-depth analysis of a Talmudic passage or a commentary on the Torah would illuminate hidden nuggets of beauty that the talmid would otherwise skim over and miss.

He would challenge us by giving us the texts to study before class or before his lecture, and then create an atmosphere of give-and-take between us to tackle a difficult Torah topic. He listened keenly to our questions and approaches and gently guided us to a sound Torah answer. He would take off his jacket and roll up his sleeves, and would learn with us with gusto. He gave us the keys to sharpen our abilities of in-depth analysis and an appreciation for the exactitude with which the commentators wrote their interpretations.

When Rebbi saw the study was becoming too difficult and intense, he would laugh, sing, launch into stories of the Gedolim, or speak about the Torah approach to modern-day issues. We then would return to the Torah topic at hand mentally and emotionally refreshed.

And Rebbi loved us. Once I drove Rebbi to the barber. After entering the shop, I gently and respectfully helped Rebbi take off his coat and I hung it up. The barber came over and asked me, “Is this your father?” I proudly answered, “No, he is my teacher.” Rebbi told the barber, “But he is my son.”

Rebbi taught us how to be caring and sensitive with one’s spouse. Over the years, a number of the older single talmidim would dorm in the Rebbi’s basement. I enjoyed this phenomenal privilege for close to two years. Coming home from yeshiva and seeing how Rebbi interacted with his first rebbetzin before her passing left an indelible impression on me. Their relationship was defined by respect, love, and modesty. I never heard one ever raise a voice to the other.

I remember the rebbetzin telling me that her job in life was to take care of the rosh hayeshiva. The rebbetzin didn’t want Rebbi to wash the dishes. Once, she had an appointment that prevented her from cleaning the dishes. Before she left home, she put a sign on the sink: “Please don’t wash the dishes. There is a problem with the water faucet.” When she returned home, she saw that the dishes had been removed from the kitchen and that Rebbi was washing them in the bathroom sink.

Rebbi taught us honesty. He would stress the importance of clearly understanding the basic steps of the Talmud before delving into the commentaries of the Sages that would then catapult the topic of Talmud at hand to an entirely new level. Rebbi would tell us not to fall into the trap of fooling ourselves and then trying to impress others by how intelligent we appear to be.

Rebbi taught us patience. Though he would inspire us to appreciate spreading Torah to our fellow Jews, he urged us to complete the rigorous yeshiva program that spanned up to 15 years of post-high school intense study. When we would mention to him that since there was a tremendous need to reach so many fellow Jews, would it not be better if the program were shorter, thereby enabling us to start teaching sooner, Rebbi would smile and say, “If they send out a medical student before he completes his studies, they are sending out a butcher and not a surgeon.”

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Torn Garments And Warm Memories”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Windows on the Jerusalem Light Rail smashed by Arab stone throwers.
Jerusalem Arabs Attack Light Rail in Shuafat, Again
Latest Indepth Stories
wedding cake

When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel

ISIS leads captured Egyptian Copts in death march.

Israel, like the non-radical Islamic world. will be happy see the ISIS beheaded for once.

Dr. Michael J. Salamon

Kids shouldn’t have “uninstructed” Internet access, better to train them how to use it responsibly

Gerstenfeld-070315

What if years from now, IS were to control substantial territory? What world havoc would that wreak?

Rambam writes the verse’s double term refers to 2 messiahs: first King David; 2nd the final Mashiach

The Gaza flotilla has been rightfully and legally blocked by Israel’s Navy, with greetings from Bibi

The president described the attack as “an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress…”

“The only [candidate] that’s going to give real support to Israel is me,” said the 69-year-old Trump.

And whereas at the outset the plan was that Iran would have to surrender most of its centrifuges, it will now be able to retain several thousand.

Now oil independent, US no longer needs its former strategic alliances with Gulf States-or Israel

In addition to the palace’s tremendous size it was home to the “hanging gardens,” which were counted among the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Rather than asserting Jewish rights on Temple Mount or protecting Jewish lives Israel chooses soccer

Nothing in the NEW Paris Proposal differs much from what was offered by Olmert and rejected by Abbas

No longer will delegitimization efforts go unchallenged. That’s a silence we will continue to break.

More Articles from Rabbi Aryeh Rodin

I was driving home from New York with my family at the end of our vacation when my cell phone rang. Since we were in Tennessee and I wasn’t sure if it was legal to talk on the phone, my wife picked it up and said, “Hello.”

“Rebbi.” One of the most beautiful words in the Hebrew language is “rebbi” – “my Torah teacher.” It is a title earned through Torah knowledge the teacher must possess and then transmit, through love, to his students. The word is said with respect and affection of the highest nature. It bonds rebbi and student together like no other word.

“The source of blessings is You, Hashem, our A’Mighty, King of the Universe who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this time.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/torn-garments-and-warm-memories/2008/05/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: