“The crown of our head has fallen, woe to us” (Lamentations 5:16).
As my family and I commemorate the first yahrzeit of our dear father and zaidy, Rabbi Aaron Chomsky, zt”l, the void in our hearts remains pronounced, while our determination to practice the values he imparted to us remains stronger than ever.
Those values seem endless. As a loving and supportive husband to his eishes chayil, our equally loving mother and bubby, Rebbetzin Lillian Chomsky, a”h, and doting role model to his children – Chave, Zephyr, Eli and Iris, and me – and grandson, Benjamin, Dad taught us the true meaning of shalom bayis b’ahava. Like his namesake, the biblical Aharon, Dad loved peace and pursuing peace.
Dad’s constant attentiveness to his family’s needs – which began as a dedicated son to my bubby and zaidy, Louis and Kate Chomsky, a”h, and committed brother to his siblings – matched the devotion he displayed to the many congregants, students, and local community residents from all walks of life that he guided and served during his half century of honoring the pulpit rabbinate. Dad’s commitment to the virtues of Yiddishkeit – in its totality – was unflinching during his lifetime of avodas Hashem. This was reflected by the positive influence he had on the lives of so many. Here are some examples:
Early in my dad’s career as a pulpit rav, a worshipper asked him if he would name his new grandson during the tefillah’s Torah reading. Explaining that this rite can only be done at the newborn’s bris, Dad politely refused. The perturbed man challenged Dad by offering a large sum of money to implement his wish. Dad calmly stuck by his refusal, teaching his kehillah that psak halacha has no price tag. (Just to be sure, Dad – always thorough – called his rebbe, Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, zt”l, after this incident to confirm the correctness of his decision. In sum, Rav Henkin had one more reason to be proud of his student.)
During his last rabbinical stint in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Dad regularly visited the local Jewish home for seniors. Bringing cheer and meaning to the lives of the elderly, Dad’s influence on the residents was so manifest that after his passing, one female senior pledged to honor Dad’s dedication to Judaism and to her and her fellow residents’ welfare by lighting the Shabbos candles every Friday night – something she did not regularly do before.
Dad would have appreciated the fact that others followed his conviction that it’s never too late to start observing mitzvos. This poignant act by someone touched by Dad’s religious earnestness in many ways capped his many successes of bringing several students and worshippers to their religious roots.
For my part, I try to reinforce this important Torah trait by continuing to visit the seniors in Dad’s absence. This is my tribute to Dad’s life work.
Dad was a firm believer in the importance of peaceful communal coexistence. Throughout his distinguished career, he maintained neighborliness with the local populace. In return, he was respected by those very same populaces. One such sign of that admiration, exhibited moments after Dad’s passing, will always be cherished by my family and me.
Upon returning home following Dad’s funeral, I realized that Perth Amboy city flags were flying at half-mast. Inquiring about this oddity, I was told that Mayor Wilda Diaz had ordered this touching act of respect for my father. According to the mayor, Dad’s many endeavors on behalf of the city of Perth Amboy and its citizens earned him this tribute.
These recollections are but a few of the many, seemingly endless illustrations of the virtuous ways that Dad lived his life – and taught us how to live ours. As a loving father, caring teacher, and emulative role model, Dad – with Mom once again at his side – will still and always lead us (spiritually, if not physically) in the avodas Hashem he practiced so well.
While the crown of our head has fallen, Dad’s many crowning life achievements will be fondly remembered forever.
May my dad’s neshamah have an aliyah.