On Sunday I attended the funeral of a great man, Rabbi Eliezer Waldman. He was a great public figure, founding and heading the Yeshiva in Kiryat Arba.
For a period of time, he was also a member of the Israeli Knesset – part of a right wing party, called Hatchiya. He was one of the original people who settled the land in Kiryat Arba and the city of Chevron, as well as many of the settlements in the Judean and Sumerian mountains.
The list of great achievements Rabbi Waldman had to his name were great and too many for me to list.
I had my special connection with him and would like to share a few thoughts, in his memory.
The first thing a person remembers about someone is the way they look. And Rabbi Waldman always had a great big smile on his face. It always seemed as if he was smiling just because it was me, however he was smiling at everyone he met.
When I was a young girl I served my national duties in the Knesset while Rabbi Waldman was a member of the Hatchiya party. I remember each day we would meet in the synagogue to pray Mincha. I was the only female and he would always greet me and introduce me to whomever was nearby, with a proud smile as if he was introducing the prime minister himself.
Throughout the years, the numerous encounters my family and I had with him were many and memorable. He personified a gentle, soft spoken soul who cared so much about every one, and especially about the land of Israel. He was a true student of the great Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, who instilled in all the great love for Torah and the land of Israel, as one.
In my mind Rabbi Waldman looked and acted as Eliyahu HaNavi. With his long white beard and deep blue eyes, strong on the outside and so soft spoken to every person he met. He was concerned about me and my children as if they were his very own.
In my early years of marriage, I lived in Gush Katif, in the Gaza strip. How proud he was of me, settling the land. Unfortunately the times turned and that precious piece of land was given away to the hostile and terrorist Arabs. When the people were pulled and torn out of their homes by the Israeli government, many of the residents were arrested for resisting and fighting with the authorities that came to evacuate them from their homes.
My two older children were part of these people who were arrested. They were so hurt and sad from leaving the Gush and yet to be arrested on top of it all. Rabbi Waldman was one of the first people to come to them while they were being held for resisting the officers, who were carrying out their orders. He was so kind and spoke so softly. What hurt so much wasn’t the arrest or the force the police and soldiers inflicted upon their bodies, it was the hurt and sadness of being thrown out of their homes. His presence was so healing and soothing. He was proud of my children for sticking up for their land and promised them in a way that was so convincing, that they would return home one day and settle the land just as before, and even greater.
Throughout my life I had many challenges, some small and other very great, and through them all I always knew I could turn to him and there would be salvation for my sorrow and pain. He was there for me through thick and thin, the good times and the bad. And no matter how low I felt or sank, he was always there somehow to pick me up and lift me high.
The hespedim at the yeshiva on Sunday went on for hours. There was so much to tell about this great man, a public and private person like no other. The funeral went from Kiryat Arba to Chevron and stopped by the steps of Mearat Hamachpela – the resting place of our forefathers. It’s written that their resting place is at the entrance to Gan Eden. How appropriate, that we all stopped there on the way to bury this great Rabbi and leader of our times.
The funeral continued the climb in Chevron till we reached the old cemetery at the top of one of the hills. It was indeed a sight to see. Hundreds of people walking through the ancient city of Chevron, which inhabits so many of our enemies, to enter the ancient cemetery where Yishai and Ruth were buried. I felt as if I was back in the times of our forefathers living through the Tanach, and seeing all the holy figures in our rich history. It was a feeling that was so uplifting and filled with love of the land and of the great people who fought for our land.
Rabbi Waldman’s spirit will indeed live on forever, in his children, and in his thousands of students who will carry on his name and deeds. May his wife and family have the strength to continue without his physical presence, and may they feel his encouragement, good words and smile, just as they felt it in his life time. May his memory by blessed.