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Dav Simcha Wasserman (Zt"l)

* Rav Simcha Wasserman (1899 – October 29, 1992)

Born in the Russian Empire, he was sent before World War II to the United States by his father, Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, to improve the level of Jewish education there.
He established yeshivas in the United States and Israel. He was described as “a pioneer educator.”

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Rav Simcha was the eldest of the three sons born to HaRav Elchonon Wasserman.
He was a nephew of Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzensky.
He married Feiga Rachel, the daughter of Rabbi Meir Abowitz, Rav of Novordok.
Except for him, all of his birth family were killed during World War II.
He and his wife had no children.

Today on Beis Cheshvan we mark the 28th Yahrtzeit of Rav Simcha Wasserman Zt” L
Every year on Beis Cheshvan, I recall my only encounter with him.
The year was 1989; I was staying by a friend in Ezras Torah.
I shared with him a dilemma with which I was struggling.
I was an eighth-grade rebbe and enjoyed my position immensely.
Another yeshiva had offered me a job for more pay; however, it involved administrative duties and less one to one contact with the Talmidim.
I was unsure whether to accept or not.
I enjoyed cultivating a relationship with the talmidim, and I was hesitant to give that up.

My friend suggested I bring my quandary to Rav Simcha Wasserman, whose yeshiva Ohr Elchonon was down the block.
I had heard of Rav Simcha. However, I had never seen him nor spoken to him.
My friend assured me that he was very approachable, and he is known as an excellent Baal Eitzah, especially in areas of Chinuch.

I walked to the yeshiva and noticed an elderly rabbinic figure who was not wearing a long frock; instead, he was wearing a regular short jacket.
I asked someone where is Rav Wasserman and they pointed to the man in the short jacket.
I hesitantly introduced myself.

In less than a minute, we were schmoozing as if we had known each other all of our lives.
I then laid out my problem and asked him which position I should accept.
When he heard that as an eighth-grade rebbe, I had the opportunity to bond with the students, he was emphatic that I should not give that privilege up.

“Chazal teach us that if you teach your friend’s child Torah, it’s as if you gave birth to him!”
My face lit up as I exclaimed, “Rebbe, do you mean to tell me that besides all of your children, Hashem considers your Talmidim as if they were your children as well?”
Rav Simcha smiled widely as he said, “Exactly! That is why I have so many children!”

After thanking Rav Wasserman, I hurried back to my friend’s house and related to him verbatim my encounter with Rav Simcha.

My friend’s face turned white, “Did you say to Rav Simcha that besides his “real” children, his talmidim are also his children?”
I nodded while wondering what was wrong.
“Rav Simcha has no children. That is why he was able to start yeshivos all over America and even in France as he never worried about his own children’s Chinuch!”
I felt terrible. My callous, insensitive statement about his “real” children must have caused him so much pain. I was beside myself with guilt.

After a fitful night of sleep, I resolved to go back and to beg Mechilla.
I arrived after Shacharis and stood to the side as Rav Simcha was engaged in conversation with a Rebbe.

Suddenly he noticed me. I was hoping the ground would open up under me.
Rav Simcha paused his conversation and made a bee-line to me.
I began to stammer, yet, before I could say a word, Rav Simcha said, “I am so happy you returned today. I was hoping you would. When you asked me yesterday if I considered my Talmidim as my own children, I answered, “yes,” as I do. However, my Rebbetzen and I have no natural children. In our private moments, my wife and I are pained. However, even with our pain, we always appreciate our Brochos.” He then added very gently, “My father HY”D was cautious about never assuming anything about anyone. After all, you never know the other person’s peckel.”

I looked at Rav Wasserman with astonishment.
I realized I was in the presence of true greatness.

That is why I recall his Yahrtzeit.

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Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman is rav of Congregation Ahavas Israel in Passaic, New Jersey. His book, “The Elephant in the Room,” is available either directly from the author or at Amazon.com