web analytics
April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

We Mourn And They Mourn


Share Button

They rise early and we rise early. We rise early [to study] words of Torah, they rise early for wasteful things. We toil and they toil. We toil and receive reward, they toil and do not receive reward. We run and they run. We run to a life in the World to Come, they run to a pit of destruction. – Berachos 28b

The morning of November 8 (11 Cheshvan) was an unusual one for me. I had awakened early in preparation for a flight out of town to deliver a presentation at a teacher in-service program in the New York area. I scrolled through my inbox only to learn that Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, rosh yeshiva of Mir Jerusalem, had passed away hours before.

I was devastated by the news, as were so many others. An estimated 100,000 mourners attended the funeral. Many thousands more mourned – individually and collectively – throughout the world.

My relationship with the rosh yeshiva was not particularly close, at least by conventional measures. By the time I arrived at Mir in October 1993, the yeshiva boasted an enrollment of over three thousand students (a number that would double in the subsequent two decades). I had been studying in a smaller “American” yeshiva elsewhere in Jerusalem for the previous three years and was a bit overwhelmed to be making the transition to this citadel of Torah study.

I had decided that in order to make a place for myself in the yeshiva, I would do what I could to be in the main beis medrash as much as possible (at that time, securing a seat there for either of the two primary sedarim was nearly impossible). One commitment I made was to daven each morning with the yeshiva in the beis medrash, and to sit in the front.

Naturally, the front row was where the rosh yeshiva sat. But accessing his corner seat adjacent to the aron kodesh was not as simple as one would think. Each night, the cleaning crew serviced the beis medrash, which held many hundreds of wooden shtenders (lecterns). In order to clean the floors, the crew placed the shtenders on top of the benches and left them there overnight.

As you can imagine, the task of clearing this corner of the shtenders was not insignificant, particularly for an older gentleman who had suffered for years from a severe case of Parkinson’s disease. I took it upon myself to arrive early each morning to arrange the space so that the rosh yeshiva could sit comfortably.

I was humbled to have this opportunity to help the rosh yeshiva begin his day with a bit more comfort and ease. The rosh yeshiva expressed his appreciation each morning as I walked past him on my way out of the beis medrash. He even agreed to learn with me a few times b’chavrusa during Elul zman. It was an honor and a privilege I will never forget.

Rabbi Finkel was known for his unique combination of Talmudic erudition and gentility. Despite the ever-growing size of the yeshiva, his physical frailty and a challenging learning and travel schedule, the rosh yeshiva never made anyone feel as if he were an imposition. He warmly encouraged each student to approach him in conversation and to seek his counsel.

These were the thoughts that crossed my mind as I read the news of the rosh yeshiva’s passing.

But there was another thought that ran through my mind that day as I made my way to and from the conference. The night before, the world had lost an individual who had gained international fame in the late 1960s and 1970s: Joe Frazier, who went toe to toe in three epic battles against Muhammad Ali.

I had to do a lot of driving that day, to and from both airports. In the many hours I spent in the car, conversation on the radio centered on Frazier. And while he was widely extolled as a great person in addition to being a great fighter, I could not help but contrast their mourning to ours.

Even in his heyday, “Smokin’ Joe” impacted the world from a ringed-in space of no larger than 20 feet squared, and for no more than a few hours at a time. He was a man who had sacrificed his body, and perhaps his mind, to the art of beating another man into submission. For this contribution, he was being mourned throughout the world.

By sharp contrast, the Jewish people had just lost a Torah giant, a man who had also sacrificed his body for his craft. But the rosh yeshiva was a very different kind of champion, a champion of spirit who demonstrated, day after day, year after year, what true mesiras nefesh looks like and what Hashem truly demands from us. If he, racked with pain and convulsing routinely, could immerse himself fully in the study of Torah, how could we do any less?

I am often struck by the contrast between the ephemeral ideals of our broader society and the timeless values we hold so dear. While we may enjoy watching competitive sports, we recognize they represent no more than a diversion from the daily grind rather than an end unto itself. “We run and they run. We run to a life in the World to Come, they run to a pit of destruction.”

As we prepare to mark the shloshim of the rosh yeshiva, let us remember what true greatness looks like. A true champion is not someone who can dominate another through brute strength, but rather a person who – through lifelong commitment, tireless effort and boundless love – can uplift and inspire an entire nation to dream big, lasting dreams.

Rabbi Naphtali Hoff is Head of School at Torah Day School of Atlanta. He can be reached at hoff@torahday.org.

 

Share Button

About the Author: Rabbi Naphtali Hoff is president of Impactful Coaching and Consulting (ImpactfulCoaching.com). He can be reached at info@impactfulcoaching.com.


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.

No Responses to “We Mourn And They Mourn”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Flyers ordered Jews to appear at a designated location in Ukraine, in Sept., 1941. The next day, the Jews lined up at the Babi Yar Ravine.
‘Jews Must Register’ Flyer in Ukraine an Echo of Babi Yar
Latest Indepth Stories
matza

If itis a mitzva to eat matza all Pesach, then why is there no berakha attached to it?

Masked Palestinian Authority Arabs hurl blocks at Israel Police during and after "worship" at Temple Mount mosque. (archive photo)

When we are united with unconditional love, no stone will be raised against us by our enemies.

Haredim riot after draft-dodger is arrested.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

Bitton-041814

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

When the state was established, gedolim went to Ben-Gurion and asked him not to draft women and, later, yeshiva bachrim.

More Articles from Rabbi Naphtali Hoff
Front-Page-032114

I can testify from experience, however, that despite such experience and/or training, top-tier leaders often begin their tasks unprepared for the rigors of their new position, particularly when the experience and training focused on instructional leadership (such as classroom observation and curriculum) rather than organizational stewardship and management.

Front-Page-011714

Humility is perhaps the least understood quality a person may possess. Often it is perceived as a form of meekness, a reticence that stems from a lack of self-confidence or an unwillingness to stand up and assert oneself. But that is far from what true humility is.

Throughout the past week we have thanked Hashem for the improbable defeat of the powerful Seleucid forces by a small, untrained band of Jewish fighters. We also celebrated the story’s one open miracle, when the menorah’s lights burned for eight consecutive days following the Temple’s rededication.

The exchange was brief and simple in its content, yet profound in its implications.

One morning this past summer, I davened at a shul in Passaic, New Jersey. Passaic was our new home as of mid-July, following nearly a decade of school leadership in other communities. After tefillah, I opened a conversation with someone who had also just concluded his tenure as a principal out of state. He informed me he had left the field of education entirely and had moved to the tri-state area to go into business with a relative. In the course of our talk, he mentioned that another colleague, also young by comparative standards, was not returning to the school he had helped found out west.

Throughout our nation’s long history we have resided in countless countries and lived under numerous governmental regimes. For the most part, our existence in the diaspora has been difficult at best, intolerable at worst.

Earlier this month the London Games were all the rage. Tens of thousands descended upon Great Britain’s crown jewel to witness the Olympics and cheer for their respective countrymen.

After three-plus years of economic challenge and uncertainty, we remain anxious for positive news, the kind that will finally let us believe the worst is fully behind us. Unfortunately, the outlook for the 2012 global economy remains uninspiring: recession in Europe, anemic growth in the U.S. and a sharp slowdown in China and other emerging-market economies all weigh on economist forecasts.

Asara B’Teves, the 10th of Teves, commemorates the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar that ultimately culminated with the First Temple’s destruction on the 9th of Av the following year.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/we-mourn-and-they-mourn/2011/11/30/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: