It’s pretty easy to spot the great ones. Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Shlomo Zalman Orbach, Rav Yisroel Salanter, Rav Aharon Kotler, Rav Soloveitchik, the Satmar Rebbe, the Belzer Rav, the Skverer Rebbe, Rav Ovadia Yosef, The Steipler Gaon, Rav Aryeh Levine, the Chazon Ish, the Lubavitcher Rebbe….
Yet while most of us can only hope to achieve a shred of what these great souls accomplished, each of us – in our own way – can bring the light of G-d into the world.
And as I grow older, I’ve begun to realize that there are many hidden gems that play a vital role among Klal Yisrael. Many serve Hashem without any fanfare, quietly going about the business of serving Hashem and the klal, each in their own inimitable style.
In the community of Hollywood, Florida, there’s a lovely Modern Orthodox woman who purchases prepaid gift cards from Publix supermarket and gives them to those less fortunate.
In Pomona, N.Y., there is an unknown rebbetzin who quietly recites Tehillim for those in need, and even commits to reading Asher Yatzar from a siddur to bring a refuah for loved ones. (No easy task at 3 a.m.)
In my old neighborhood lived Clifford Restler, z”l, who was a soft-spoken gem of a man who was always known to be modest and honest. He was also a self-taught baal teshuva who raised a beautiful family. Yet under the radar.
I never attended a single event in Miami Beach without seeing certain angels like Linda Bogin, z”l, who was constantly organizing and assisting the community with simchas, charities, shivas, school and shul dinners, all while being a devoted wife, sister, daughter, mom, grandmother, aunt and friend.
My beloved Nana Gina used to take a city bus once a week to my day school once every so often just to serve me and my brothers – and countless others. No paycheck. Just love.
My revered grandfather Jack Ciment, z”l, was a quiet, modest, hard-working man who was not accorded a proper Jewish education. Yet that hardly stopped him from becoming the shul president, raising two frum boys, and eventually establishing the first Vaad Hakashrut in the South Florida community some 70 years ago.
I recently discovered that my other grandfather, who I was named after, was once asked to take his younger cousin to a party. Only this particular date was a little bit different because his cousin wasn’t able to walk well so he carried her from the car into the party. I was told that he even treated his own sister who had similar challenges in the same way, and even took his mother out for dinner once a week until his untimely passing. I never knew…
I also remember a very fine and gentle soul named Michael Reinhard, z”l, who was the gabbai in Beth Israel congregation for many years. He had the thankless job of trying to satisfy a large roomful of entitled Jews, yet he did it with grace and humility, and lit up the room with his smile.
I once attended an out-of-town funeral on Friday in another city. The logistics were complicated (this was before Uber). Before I knew it, some older gentleman who was assisting at the funeral offered to drive me to the airport where I made it home for Shabbos. I later inquired and found out that this man was wealthy and would simply make himself available to anyone, for anything, in a time of need. I was very touched by this random act of ahavas chinam.
The truth is that these hidden gems, who often go unnoticed, play a vital role in the service of Hashem. Sure, Neil Armstrong walked the moon, but some unknown dedicated men built the steps and the platform he utilized to get on to the rocket – which they also built. Though unknown, it hardly mitigates their contribution.
Someone has to make calls to raise money for those less fortunate, or make meals every week for those who are in need. When we attend a funeral, a coffin awaits us. Yet just prior to this, a group of unknown people went to a funeral home in the evening to prepare the mais for a proper Jewish burial.
Of course, Moshe Rabbeinu was and will always be the undisputed greatest leader/tzaddik to ever walk the planet. Yet his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam both played critical roles in his success – not to mention his holy wife Ziporah, who stood by his side and sacrificed so much – all enabling Moshe Rabbeinu to reach epic heights.
Yet while these hidden gems remain just that, sometimes their merits come peeking through. I remember attending a Hebrew Academy dinner honoring famed alumni and director Brett Ratner, whose films have grossed over a billion dollars. Incredibly, during his acceptance speech, he diverted his attention to a rebbe in the audience and said: “My connection to Torah and Judaism stems from Rabbi Hochner, who took the time many years ago to reach out to a lost kid and invite me for Shabbos and even purchased me tzitzit!” By the end of his speech, the packed room was standing in honor of that rav who unwittingly became the honoree! All of those years of nurturing the silent seeds of love and Torah that he gave so many years before came sprouting forth.
Recently, a close friend, Reb Moshe Zev, attended a shul dinner. At one point the rav mentioned a certain individual who spent more time in the beis midrash than most, organizing and learning sefarim, while maintaining a rigorous work schedule, a daily two-hour commute to work, and raising a solid, frum family. To his surprise, they called up the name of Moshe Zev, and he suddenly found himself surrounded by friends and family who showed up and stood for him as he received this most unexpected honor. He never dreamed that his quiet service to Hashem would be acknowledged, and I, a close friend, had no clue to his tireless efforts, because like a true eved Hashem, he remained under the radar. (Until this writing of course.)
Yet nothing misses the watchful eye of Hashem. The Zohar tells us that everything we do in this world, good and bad, will be shown to us in the future world when we are judged. Can you imagine the thrill and delight when Hashem reveals many of those hidden gems that are amongst us? Look around and see if we can find the hidden gems in our community or better yet, why not work on becoming one ourselves?