There are many stories behind the creation of my new website, Aish Haolam (www.aishhaolam.com). One is an old story, the love of the written word. However, there were some towering figures I came across in my life whose impressions have not been lost on me.
One such figure is Rav Avrohom Genechovsky, zt”l, my father’s first cousin who was the previous rosh yeshiva of Tcshebin. Interestingly, his last name is transliterated as Genechovsky though many in America would more likely know the name “Genachowski” (i.e. the previous FCC chairman).
I had the privilege to know Rav Avrohom over a four-year period when I studied in Israel. He was close with Reb Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, and his sefer Bar Almugim has a haskama from Reb Chaim. It’s hard to explain his greatness. Rav Avrohom was the classic story of a man of genius wrapped up in humility and I saw it firsthand.
His personal words to me at a Shabbos table inspired the name of my website. Aish Haolam means “Fire of the World.” He said the makeup of the world should be the model for one’s behavior.
The world is covered by water on the outside to teach that just as water is bending and flexible so must man be flexible and harmonious on the outside with others. The center of the world is aish, symbolizing the Torah, which must be at the center of one’s existence; the inner core of the world is rock, from which we learn that one must be rock solid in his inner beliefs. These words never left me and provide the framework by which I see the world.
On the website, I translate a small piece of Torah that Rav Avrohom wrote on Pesach and I include on the homepage a link to sheets in Hebrew that were put together to discuss his Torah on Purim – along with a video that captures his essence.
Each new issue will feature a newly translated piece of Rav Avrohom’s Torah. I will also constantly provide insights he shared with me and will bear testimony to stories I witnessed that continue to guide me.
Due to the fact that Rav Avrohom and Reb Chaim were so close, I present Reb Chaim’s weekly parshah sheets, Divrei Siach, to read and print out. Whenever Rav Avrohom took me to see Reb Chaim, Rav Avrohom had such reverence for Reb Chaim even though Reb Chaim would stand for him when he entered the room.
The genius of the Genechovsky name transplanted itself to America. Within the rabbinic field Rabbi Genack carried on the name, achieving global fame. I have the privilege to work with him every day and his humility matches his genius. He does hidden chesed for the klal and remains a force in the Jewish world. It’s an honor to present his Torah.
My first cousin in Israel, Rabbi Yaakov Nagen (originally Yaakov Genack), heads the Otniel hesder yeshiva kollel and is a very influential figure in the movement to achieve peace between the conflicting religions in Israel. (His writings often appear on Arutz Sheva.) Not long ago he published a bestseller in Hebrew, Awaking to a New Day: Stories and Insights from Life (Koren Publishers, 2014), to which I provide translated excerpts.
In addition, my great-great-great-grandfather Rabbi Levine (our original last name), zt”l, authored the Yad Eliyahu which is featured as well.
In our day, when many hide their religious identity, the guest writer for the first issue of Aish Haolam not only proudly expresses his religiosity, he does it on a worldwide scale. Tamir Goodman, an internationally recognized basketball player, dubbed “The Jewish Jordan” by Sports Illustrated, travels the globe to share his skills and the lessons he’s learned with thousands of other religious sports enthusiasts in addition to carving out substantial time to coach and mentor children with special needs. On the website, he shares ten important lessons to teach our children when they lose in sports; as he writes, “even the best of the best lose.”
The writing team includes, among others, author Aleeza Ben Shalom on “Dating and Texting,” Chana Kaiman, LCSW, on “Mood Dysregulation in Children,” and Rabbi Binyomin Adler, a talmid of HaGaon Rav Tzvi Kushelevsky, on “Shabbos.” My lovely wife is a contributor as well.
As a child graduating from eighth grade, I was presented with a set of Hamek Davar written by Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin. Only later would I learn that an inside page indicated the set was published by Shlomo Yosef Genechovsky and his sons who, as it turned out, published many Talmudic books in Israel. Shlomo Yosef Genechovsky was my great-grandfather. I am named after him. I hope and pray that I will continue in his tradition and stay true to the mission he began many years ago.