Photo Credit: Rabbis Shimshon Hakohen Nadel and Yishai Fleisher

Rabbi Moshe Tendler was treated as a “rock star” wherever he went to speak all over the world, and most notably at the conventions of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists where he was a keynote speaker. He was surrounded by scientific and rabbinical groupies wherever he went. (Non-scientists were permitted to attend – and speak. One of the reasons I attended was in order to hear and interact with my teacher once again.)

Rabbi Tendler’s work in cancer research was featured in Time magazine (when it was still a major staple in American) referring to his work on a substance he named refuin.

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At Yeshiva University, Rabbi Tendler was known, admired, and loved for inserting scientific information into his Gemara shiurim, and Jewish information into his biology classes.

He is the only teacher I can recall, in any school on any level, who arranged for a chartered bus to take a whole class to his home – in Monsey – for a memorable Chanukah chagigah!

One time he came late to class, and our class was a bit unruly while we waited for him to come, which resulted in our whole class being “suspended” by the administrator. I wrote a petition to the administrator arguing that the students who were well behaved should not have been punished with the others. It was my first “case.” As we waited in the classroom to hear the verdict – which eventually came out in our favor – Rabbi Tendler finally came and said, with his ever-present twinkle in his eye, “I hear you are to be suspended today – okay; I’ll teach; don’t listen.”

(Who ever heard that dare from a teacher?) Of course most of us listened. It was a joy to hear him speak on any subject, and after a while the suspension was rescinded.

Rabbi Tendler famously quipped that when Yeshiva University would grant smicha to its students, more important than the words on the front was the phone number on the back of the klaf of his father-in-law, the great posek Rav Moshe Feinstein, ztl.

I organized a Yavneh convention centered in Rabbi Tendler’s shul in Monsey in the early 1970s, but it turned out he had to be away that Shabbat. My disappointment was tempered by the other guest in his home that Shabbos: filling in for him at his Shabbos table was Rav Moshe Feinstein.

Rabbi Tendler was the wittiest teacher I had at Yeshiva University – secular or holy. I used to whip out my notebook to record the witticisms of all of my teachers at YU for posterity. Like a baseball pitcher tipping off which pitch would come next, he used to form a subtle expression on his face just as he was about to come up with a wisecrack. He is the only teacher I had who noticed what I was doing, one time actually commenting, as I grabbed my special notebook: “This one is off the record, Reichel.” Of course it went into my notebook after the class was over, though it will remain in pectore, off the record, for posterity, as instructed.

Years later, my dear daughter, Ariella, was in the biology class taught by Rabbi Tendler’s daughter, Mrs. Fried, at the Central Yeshiva University High School. I had been unable to take his biology class due to a scheduling conflict, but sure enough, when I showed my daughter some of the biology-related witticisms from his Gemara shiur in my notebook, she said her teacher had said the same thing on one occasion! Imagine the teacher’s amazement when I produced my notebook at the next parent-teacher’s meeting!

To say that Rabbi Tendler will be missed is an understatement. He was one of a kind.

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Rabbi Reichel is available to speak at book launches and other programs about this book, and/or as a scholar-in-residence to discuss this book and up to three other books which he was involved in writing or editing and/or supplementing. All of the books show how the protagonists enhanced the practice of traditional Judaism in modern times, with creativity and adherence to Jewish law. Two of the books were published in 2017, and two of them focus on people who influenced Rabbi Cohen in various ways, Harry Fischel and Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein. Reichel can be reached at Reichelaa@aol.com.