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{137}

Aharon Eliezer Zack of Blessed Memory

by Moshe Goelman of blessed memory

Translated by Jerrold Landau

        I confess that I am writing about this personality with awe and love [1]; however since there is no one else to perpetuate his name in our Yizkor book, I have taken this task upon myself. I hope that the readers will accept my words with favor.

        My first meeting with Aharon Eliezer was in the summer of 1909, in the Yeshiva of the city of Krynki that was under the direction and supervision of the Gaon Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Sender Kahana Shapira of holy blessed memory, who served as the rabbi of Krynki for many years.

        This Yeshiva was noted for its special learning style. Each of the students had to choose what tractate he wished to study, and the rabbi presented his lecture only once a week [2]. Most of the students were older than I, and their knowledge of Talmud was greater than mine. Salvation came to me from Aharon Eliezer, who took me under his protection by promising the supervisor of the Yeshiva that he would teach me the customs of the Yeshiva and help me advance in my studies. Therefore, thanks to him, I was able to remain as a student of the Yeshiva of Krynki for four years. As far as I remember, he left the Yeshiva after about one year. He did not go to another Yeshiva, but rather remained in Stawiski to assist his ill father in running the store. I met him again in our town during the years of the First World War.

        While he was still in the Yeshiva, he amazed the students with his expertise, sharpness, quick grasp and phenomenal memory. He was able to review the lecture of the rabbi – which was a tapestry of sharpness, breadth of knowledge, and difficult and convoluted questions and answers – almost word for word to those students who had difficulty in understanding it as it was given.

        During the first summer of my sojourn in Krynki, I entered not only its splendid Yeshiva, but also the world of in-depth study, not only of Gemara and Tosafot, but also of the other commentators of the Talmud [3].

        It is interesting that Aharon Eliezer was not one of the diligent students. He did not sit attached to his bench and his open Gemara, as did the other students. He also was not present for most Mishmar (the all night study sessions) that took place each Thursday evening. He did not need this. It was sufficient for him to look into the text. He also studied quietly, without the traditional melodic hum of the students. After a short time, he was able to delve into the depths of the Talmudic section more so than the students who dedicated an entire day to their studies. He was regarded as one of the elder students of the Yeshiva, not due to his age, but rather due to his ability to explain matters of Gemara and Tosafot to those who had difficulty in their understanding.

        Aharon Eliezer was one of the humble ones. He never set himself up with a place among the benches of the large Beis Midrash where the Yeshiva sessions took place. He particularly avoided the eastern wall, the place where the more experienced scholars sat. His place was next to the long table that stood at the edge of the Beis Midrash, next to the large bookcases. He was able to study by sitting, standing and walking in the Beis Midrash.

        He was good hearted, had a fine character and a pure conscience. As he would pass by one of the students, he would glance at him, smile, and ask: “What is it? Is something difficult?” He would then immediately explain the subject matter clearly and go on to see other students. He knew which of the younger students were in need of help, and he did not wait until they would come to him to ask, as did the other senior students. Rather, he would pass by them as if by chance, tarry in front of any one of them who seemed to be having some difficulty, and explain the matter as best he could.

        It is fitting to spend a bit of time discussing the origins of Aharon Eliezer. His father was Reb Zeev the judge, who served in the position of judge not to receive a reward, during the time that the Rabbi, Gaon and Tzadik Reb Chaim Aryeh Myszkowski of holy blessed memory served as Rabbi of Stawiski. He had a store that sold iron implements, run by his wife. He was a Torah scholar. He had a corner in the large Beis Midrash, where he sat and studied on his own. He founded the “Magen Avraham” organization, in which various well-known scholars such as Reb Meir Kac, Reb Mendel Lewinowicz, Reb Motka Shapira, my father, and others participated. They would gather on Sabbaths and festivals by the large table next to the entrance of the Beis Midrash, and study their lesson in Magen Avraham [4].

        Aharon Eliezer's mother was a pure and modest woman, generous and pleasant to everyone. One of the things she kept busy with was Matan Beseter [5], which distributed charity to poor families prior to every Sabbath and festival. It is told that once a well-known person came to her and told her: “You should know that your son Avraham Eliezer does not put on his tefillin (phylacteries) and does not recite his prayers”. She answered him in her simplicity: “This is impossible, for if that was indeed the case, how would he be able to eat his breakfast?”. [6] She lived a long time after the death of her husband, and continuing running the store with the assistance of her son and daughter.

        As is known, Aharon Eliezer was a good and swift chess player, and it was difficult to beat him. He inherited this skill from his ancestors. The famous chess player Akiba Rubinstein [7] was his uncle, and a native of our town. During the time of the war and before it, when Akiba would visit Stawiski, he would play simultaneous games with the chess players of Stawiski, in order to encourage them to particpate in this stimulating game.

        I have already written about the activities of Aharon Eliezer with the youth during the First World War in the Hatechia organization, in a different part of this book under the chapter entitled “The Jewish Youth of the Town During the Years of the First World War and the Founding of Hatechia” [8]. However his influence was not only significant upon the youth, for adults and scholars as well would ask for his assistance in explaining a difficult issue, not only in the Talmud but also in the affairs of the world. In the landscape of people in Stawiski, it was common to see Reb Shabtai Friedman of blessed memory and Aharon Eliezer walking together in the marketplace, both of them so deeply engaged in conversation that they did not notice who was passing in front of them. The joke passed through our town: Why was the Christian church in the center of the marketplace built with a tall fence surrounding it? So that Aharon Eliezer and Reb Shabtai would know when to turn back, for if not for that, they would continue walking all the way to Lomza…

        Aharon Eliezer Zack, along with his wife Frumka of the Silbersztejn family and their young son, perished in the Holocaust. May G-d avenge their blood.

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. An Aramaic expression denoting deep respect, often used in reference to G-d. Return
  2. The implication is that during the remainder of the time, the students would be studying on their own. In most Yeshiva curricula, all of the students study the same tractate at the same time. Return
  3. Talmud is divided into two parts – the Mishna, which is the terser, older legal code, and the Gemara, which is the long, detailed commentary on the Mishna, replete with questions, discussion, and cross-examination of the contents. The Gemara also contains aggadaic material – stories, legends and vignettes. Gemara is also used as a generic term for Talmud. Rashi and Tosafot are the prime commentators that appear on a folio of Talmud. Return
  4. The Magen Avraham (literally Shield of Abraham), is the pseudonym of one of the major commentators on the Code of Jewish Law.Return
  5. Literally “giving of charity in secret”, the name of an organization that distributed provisions for needy people without the recipients knowing who the specific donor was. In Jewish Law, it is considered a higher degree of charity to give charity when the donor is anonymous, and even more so when both the donor and recipient are anonymous, as that protects the feelings of the poor. Return
  6. In Jewish law, it is considered inappropriate to eat breakfast, or even to eat anything, prior to reciting one's morning prayers. Return
  7. See article on Akiba Rubinstein on page 144. Return
  8. Page 157. Return


{141}

Dr. Aryeh Remigolski of Blessed Memory

by Moshe Goelman of blessed memory

Translated by Jerrold Landau

        Aryeh Leibl Remigolski was the son of Rabbi Remigolski of blessed memory, born to him later in life [1]. He was born in Alita, Lithuania in 1908. He spent his childhood in the town of Tristina, where his father held his first rabbinical position, and later in Stawiski, where Rabbi Remigolski sat on the rabbinical chair for eight or nine years.

        During his childhood, Leibele, as he was known to everyone, excelled in his sharp intellect, his quick grasp, and special sense of humor, which endeared him to everyone. He was beloved by the youth who used to frequent the house of the rabbi. All of them loved to chat with him and to hear his sharp answers to the difficult questions that they asked him. He was my student in Hebrew and Bible for many years, and he excelled greatly in these studies.

        He received his general education from the Tachkemoni School and the Druskin Gymnasia in Bialystok. He completed his secondary education and received his matriculation in the Epstein Gymnasia of Vilna. He received his higher education from various universities. He attempted to study mathematics in Warsaw. From Poland, he went to Cologne in Germany, where he studied medicine, for Warsaw did not accept Jews in the faculty of medicine. From Cologne, he moved to Koenigsberg and from there to Bern and later Basle in Switzerland. He concluded his studies in Switzerland and became licensed as a physician.

        He made aliya to the land in 1936. He spent some time in Tel Aviv and its vicinity. On account of the troubles that broke out in the summer of that year, it was difficult to become settled in that city, so he moved to Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar with his wife and three children, who made aliya in 1938.

{Photo page 142 – uncaptioned, apparently Aryeh Leib Remigolski.}

        He did not work in agriculture. He received living quarters and sustenance on the kibbutz in return for his medical services to the kibbutz members. He also took care of the ill from the surrounding area. Dr. Remigolski was a physician who was dedicated to his patients. The residents of all the moshavim and kibbutzim of the Upper Galilee held him in esteem and loved him. During the eight or nine years that he lived in Ayelet Hashachar, his home was always filled with sick people, for he would tend to them at all hours of the day or night. His fame spread far and wide, even to the Druze and Arab residents in the Galilee and Huleh valley. He contracted tuberculosis during the course of his tending to the Arabs. This caused his death in 5708 – 1948 when he was only 40 years old. He was brought to eternal rest in Ayelet Hashachar.

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. The Hebrew 'ben zekunim', literally means 'son of old age'. It refers to a youngest child, or a child that was born when the parents are already older. It is taken from the Genesis, where Joseph is described as the 'ben zekunim' of Jacob. Return


{144}

Akiba Rubinstein of Blessed Memory

by Akiva Fett [1]

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 144 – uncaptioned, Akiba Rubinstein}

        Akiba Rubinstein was born in Stawiski in 1882. He was the fourteenth child in his family. He was born approximately eight months after his father died of tuberculosis, and he was named Akiba after his father.

        His father was one of the outstanding students of Rabbi Shimon Sofer of Krakow. He was the son of Rabbi Yaakov Yonatan Rubinsztejn, the rabbi of Grajewo, one of the students of the Chatam Sofer [2] who received rabbinical ordination from him at the age of eighteen.

        His mother Reizel was the second daughter of the well-known philanthropist Reb Aharon Eliezer Denenberg, who became rich through the forestry business and donated a great deal of his fortune to the benevolent societies of Stawiski. Reb Aharon Eliezer Denenberg visited the Land of Israel and built a synagogue in Jerusalem that stands to this day. Every Wednesday, sixty Yeshiva students ate at his table, in honor of the birth of his son who was born after three daughters.

        When Akiba's mother became a widow, it was very hard for her to take care of her many children, who were weak. Indeed, most of them died in their childhood or youth. During his childhood, the Rubinsztejn family moved to Bialystok after his mother married Rabbi Heller, who was known as “The Genius (Illuy) of Pinsk”. Akiba was educated in Bialystok along with Chaim, the son of the Illuy of Pinsk, who was the same age as him. Chaim was also a genius, who later became known as Professor Chaim Heller, a researcher into the sources of the bible in the traditional style. In his time, he was known as one of the spiritual leaders of Orthodox Judaism in the United States.

        Due to his physical weakness during his childhood and youth, and out of fear for the tuberculosis that was prevalent at that time, he was not sent to Yeshiva as was customary in those days. During his many free hours that he had at his disposal, he played chess in one of the inns that was close to his home. He would often “play with himself”, that is to say he would study detailed chess operations that would later bear fruit. Within a short period of time, he made a name for himself as an expert chess player. When the famous chess player of Lodz, a place known as an important chess center, visited Bialystok, Akiba presented himself before him. As the guest evaluated him, it was proven that the young Rubinstein was a gifted chess player, and the guest invited him on the spot to participate in the chess championships of Lodz. During that competition, Akiba beat the best chess players in the city hands down, and to the surprise of everyone, he won the chess title of Lodz. After this brilliant victory, Akiba Rubinstein became a well-known national chess personality. He was invited to competitions in other cities, and he continued progressing until he was invited to the Russian national chess championships in St. Petersburg in 1909, where the most experienced chess players in all of Russia participated, including the world chess grandmaster Dr. Emanuel Lasker. To the surprise of everyone, young Akiba Rubinstein tied for first place in this national competition along with Lasker, and became a known chess personality in the entire world. From that time on, he was invited to the most important international competitions.

        During these competitions, he reached heights that very few people reached in the annals of chess. He won first place in the four largest international chess championships, as he brilliantly defeated the chess giants. Apparently, he reached the height of his success in the San Sebastian competition in Spain (1912).

        His many fans raised his standings in the world chess championships. However, the world grandmaster, Dr. Emanuel Lasker, ignored the opinion of the international chess community and invited the chess expert Schlechter to compete against him for the world title. This refusal of Dr. Lasker to invite Rubinstein, who was regarded as one of the chess greats in those days, was never forgotten. When the world chess championships were reinstated after the Second World War, this incident was brought down by the grandmaster Botvinnik as a convincing reason to disallow the chess grandmaster from deciding who his competitor would be for the championship.

        Akiba Rubinstein made many innovations in the theory of chess, and a collection of his plays that was published serve as educational material for chess players until this day. His brilliant games were included in the chess textbooks (e.g. in that of Dr. Euwe, a former chess grandmaster).

        He married a woman from the Lev family of Szczuczyn during the First World War. He and his wife had two sons, Yonatan and Shlomo. He settled in Brussels, Belgium after the war. Many of the chess experts of the cities of the Low Countries were numbered among his students.

        After the First World War, his health became shaky, and he began to suffer from headaches and nervousness. This affected his game. With the passage of time, his game suffered greatly, and he lost games of the second and third level. Despite this, even then he attained fine accomplishments as he played against great competitors, and he won prizes for the most sportsmanlike game.

        He visited the Land of Israel in 1931. This was an uncommon event in the annals of chess in the Land. His health degenerated completely around the time of the Second World War, and he fell into depression. He became a loner, and withdrew from communal life. His economic situation also weakened, for he made a living from chess for all of his life. Chess institutions published his games in books, and he was supported from the proceeds.

        During the Second World War, he was hidden in Belgium by his fans, and he remained alive. His youngest son was sent to a concentration camp, and survived due to his brilliant game, for the Nazi camp commander, who himself was a good chess player, did not want to forgo such a chess competitor.

        His wife tended to him with boundless dedication, and took care of all of his needs. After her death, he entered an institution where he remained until the end of his life.


{146}

Akiba Rubinstein is No Longer With Us

by A. Cherniak

Translated by Jerrold Landau

        With the death of Akiba Rubinstein, one of the last of the chess leaders of the world at the beginning of this century has passed from the scene. There are only two of these champions that remain alive: Dr. Bronstein and Professor Widmer. Rubinstein was born in 1882 in the Polish town of Stawiski, a scion of a rabbinical family. He became involved with chess when he was fifteen years old, and he quickly became an expert chess player. His first accomplishments included a victory in a duel with Silva, the third prize in the Russian chess championships in 1930, and a tie for first prize with Duras in a competition in Armenia in 1905 (first with Lasker) [3]. The year 1912 was the year of his most brilliant victories – three first prizes in international competitions. During this era, he was regarded as a serious competitor for the world grandmaster, and if not for the outbreak of the world war, he might very well have merited this.

        Rubinstein visited Israel in 1931 and conducted a simultaneous game. During his visit, he wrote an article about chess in clear Hebrew, at the request of the editor of the “Chess” (“HaShachmat”) periodical that was published at that time.

        Rubinstein, a quiet and modest man, would leave the competition hall at the conclusion of the game without asking about the results of the other players, and without studying the changes that took place on the competition ledger. The prize did not attract him. In his eyes, the properness of the game, the correct ideas, and the exacting moves were what were important. When he spoke about his most brilliant games, he would customarily point out: “this was a logical game”.

        Rubinstein excelled in all aspects of the game. There is almost no opening move which does not bear the mark of some of his ideas: for example, the opening of the four knights, the Tarrasch move of the queen's gambit, several methods of the French defense, the Nimzovich defense, and others. However, he attained eternal fame in his endplays, which he conducted with virtuoso.

        Rubinstein's two sons are counted among the best chess players of Belgium, and in accordance with Dr. Euwe: “Only the great name of their father disadvantages them”.

From an article in “Haaretz”, April 14, 1961.


{147}

The Engineer David Tovia (Dobrzyjalowski) of Blessed Memory

by Sarah Tovia

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Strong roots anchored him
Sent their vigor to his body and soul,
A very bright vigor.
The brilliant forehead of a genius
Shining and desirous of life.
Modest grace and pent up silence were the weights
For the heat of his temperament and his vigorous character,
And humbleness against pride
On the plates of the scale.
He sowed around him the light of wisdom
He went around in celebration in his world:
The world of a builder, a judge, and a friend
One of the righteous of the generations.
Justice and duty ennobled his character.
He was like Hillel [4] who controlled his character.
He needed nothing for himself,
He only loved his people, he loved this land
He loved his fellowman, near and far.

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. There are many articles about Akiba Rubinstein on the world wide web. If you do a web search for Rubinstein & chess, you will find them. Three such pages are as follows:

    http://starfireproject.com/chess/rubinstein.html
    http://www.msoworld.com/mindzine/news/chess/rubinstein2000.html
    http://misc.traveller.com/chess/trivia/r.html

    Return
  2. The Chatam Sofer, Rabbi Moshe Sofer (1762-1839), was one of the outstanding rabbinical leaders of the early 18th century. He was the rabbi of Pressburg (Bratislava) for 33 years, and was very zealous in defending Orthodoxy from the inroads of Reform. Return
  3. There is something mixed up about this sentence, in that it names two people with whom he shared the first prize, the second one being in parentheses. Also, the word 'Armenia', is 'Arman' or 'Urman' in the Hebrew. I am not sure if Armenia was really intended, but I could not think of another major locale that matches that name. Return
  4. A reference to the Talmudic sage Hillel, who was known for never getting angry.Return

{148}

Chaim Granit (Brzostowiecki) of blessed memory

Some lines about his personality

by Zelig Broshi

Translated by Jerrold Landau

        My brother Chaim was born in 1900 in the town of Stawiski, close to Lomza. He received his general education from the Russian school. He also spent some time at the "Cheder Hametukan", and studied Torah from our revered father Reb Moshe Ari Brzostowiecki of blessed memory, who was known as a scholar and expert Talmudist.

        M. Z. Goelman introduced him to the world of Hebrew literature. He revealed to his students the glory of the language of the prophets, developed their hearts with faith and inspired in them a thirst for reading.

        Chaim was fortunate, in that even in such a forlorn town as this there was a library next to the "Hatechiya" organization, which collected the best of the poetic and prose works of Hebrew and Yiddish literature of those days.

        My brother read with thirst everything that came his way: Brenner and Brszdaski, Berdichevski and Frischman, Kabak and Nomberg, Asch and Reizin, as well as many other writers who influenced him greatly.

        At the time of the outbreak of the First World War, hunger and want fell upon the Jewish people. The town groaned under the yoke of the German conquerors, and the Jewish youth who were cut off from the ground dreamed about bread, work, peace, aliya to the Land of Israel, and going out to the wide world.

        In 1917, at the time of the Balfour Declaration, a monthly called "Eglei Tal" was published, dedicated to literature, Zionism, and the issues of the day. The editors were Albos (the penname of Chaim), Niger (Y. Y. W., today a pharmacist in New York), and Z. B. who served as the secretary of the organization.

        This monthly was written and edited in the living Hebrew language and served as an expression for the effervescent energies of the youth. It had a great influence upon the youth of the nearby villages due to its significant content and its pleasing presentation.

        Chaim wrote poetry, lead articles, and stories. Aside from his work as editor of this monthly, he was active in the Hechalutz and Tzeirei Zion movements of Lomza.

        He arrived in the United States in 1921. It was difficult to become acclimatized to the new country, however he slowly became accustomed to the new environment and conditions. He got his first job as a teacher in Gloversville. The first steps were difficult for this young Eastern European man who was not fluent in English. He arrived with an empty sack and a head filled with dreams, hopes, faith, and longing. The cruel reality was not favorable to him. His working conditions were difficult. Most of the parents of his students were German émigrés, who were not desirous of a Jewish education. Nevertheless, Chaim did not become discouraged. He decisively forged a path for himself in the community, he prepared the way, and started courses for adults. On festivals he would lecture in the synagogue, and with his heartwarming words spiced with homiletic interpretations and the words of our sages, he ignited hearts and won over souls to the national idea.

        From there he moved to Jersey City, New Jersey, where he taught for eighteen consecutive years in the Ohev Shalom institution. He also taught in the Yeshiva of Rabbi Soloveitchik[1]and in the last seven years of his life he was the principal of "The University Heights Center".

        He dedicated thirty years of his fertile life to Jewish education.

        A special area of his energetic activity – not for the purpose of receiving a reward – was dedicated to the "teacher's union", which became part of his life. Thanks to his activity, the Yiddish newspapers began to discuss the problems of the Hebrew educator. There was not one week in which an article, did not appear – a review or an accounting of the happenings in the "union", something about educational styles, about the economic situation of teachers, their problems and struggles. In his articles, he delved into the professional life of Hebrew teachers, he raised their stature both personally and communally, and made the community aware of the physical and spiritual needs of teachers.

        He also wrote evaluations of school books, people, literature, etc. in the "Morgan Journal" ("Morning Journal"), "Das Yiddishe Folk" ("The Jewish Folk"), "Eltern Un Kinder" ("Parents and Children", "Kol Hamoreh" ("The Teacher's Voice"), "Di Yiddishe Shtime" ("The Jewish Voice"), "Hadoar" ("The Post"), and "Shvilei Chinuch" ("Pathways of Education").

        His enthusiastic connection to the Yiddish language inspired him to write two schools books in that language: a) "Di Ershte Trit" ("The First Step") for beginners, and b) "Funem Yiddishem Lebn" ("From Jewish Life"), under the influence of Kalman Witman of blessed memory.

        Prior to his death, he was working on compiling a schoolbook in Hebrew for beginners. He passed away when the manuscript was ready for publication.

        Chaim loved order and discipline. His books rested on long shelves, sorted by their content and type: poetry, science, and history. He would always say: "There is no thing which does not have a place" (Pirke Avot, 4, 3).

        My brother was very careful regarding interpersonal matters, including with his own family. For example, if he arranged a meeting or was supposed to be somewhere, he would certainly show up – even if there was rain, snow, cold, or ice. He was never late even by one minute. On the contrary, he was always early, saying that it would be better that he wait rather than have others wait for him. He was disgusted by those who would trample those "simple" niceties with their heels.

        He was meticulous in his dress, and was always very careful about his physical appearance. This was not due to haughtiness or coquettishness, but simply due to his natural tendencies. He gave expression to his well-developed sense of esthetics.

        Sometimes this behavior seemed a bit strange to me: From where did he, a young man from a Polish town, have this sense of esthetics? Once I asked him:

        "Reb Chaim, this meticulousness – why is it?"

        He explained to me in detail:

        "I could have answered you about this "strange" behavior with a quote from our sages. A scholar who has a wrinkle on his clothes…[2]. However, if I answer you in that manner, it would seem like haughtiness on my part. I will tell you that it is my opinion that every Jewish person – and even a poor person who goes begging at the doors – and how much more so a Hebrew teacher, is required to be meticulous in his dress, for in such a matter he raises his esteem and importance in the eyes of his pupils.

        He approached the table upon which rested my slightly crushed hat, felt it and continued: "You should know that it is different with food, for I eat modestly. No person will look into my stomach to see what I "cooked upon the oven". However with clothing and garments – this should be no small matter to you."

        "Nu, nu Reb Chaim, have you forgotten about the adage – 'one should check into one's food but not one's clothing'?"

        He smiled, and concluded the conversation with great pleasure:

        "Wonder of wonders, to you is due praise! However it appears to me as if there is also an adage 'one should check into one's clothing, but not one's food'."

        We were accustomed to engaging in conversation together when we were in one place together. My brother used to take pleasure in linguistics, similes, learning new words, adages of the sages, and legends.

        In general, we did not discuss issues of the teaching professions. To Chaim, the paths of Hebrew education were clear. He knew many teachers, he knew their situation, he remembered all of the schoolbooks that were published and all of the educational institutions that had closed or were about to close. He had what to talk about in this subject; however, apparently it was ingrained in our subconscious that there was a secret agreement between us not to enter into this stormy subject area.

        However, I once overheard him engage in these matters.

        It was the year after he left his job in New Jersey. We were walking together in one of the neighborhoods of the Bronx. Chaim was subdued. He walked with his head down, and shrugged his shoulders, weighing in his mind whether to open up a window to his soul.

        We passed by a garage. A man covered in filth was lying on the ground inspecting the innards of an automobile.

        Chaim stopped, pointed to that man, and said:

        "Do you see this, Reb Zelig? This man will have remuneration for his activities after many years of toil and hard labor. And I, I have worked for eighteen years – eighteen years – in an educational school, and left without anything. I did not even save one penny. And now, you understand the difference between a Hebrew teacher and a mechanic.

        After his heart attack, when he returned from the hospital, there was a definite change in him and his life. He separated himself from the group, and stayed within his own confines. He preferred to engage in solitary activities, as if he was depressed. His steps slowed and he began to watch himself closely. Some sort of constant fear filled his being.

        One day, we had a conversation about "the psychological foundations of Midrash"[3]. My brother complained that the treasures of Jewish Aggada are still a locked up garden and sealed off well to the youth. They are not as well compiled and explained as the Halacha. He spoke about the vital need for such a compilation, which would serve as enjoyable reading material for students, starting in grade five.

        Going from topic to topic, I purposefully mentioned the Midrash about G-d saying to King David: "You will die on the Sabbath". The Angel of Death struggled with him and had no power over him, since he, the psalmist, never interrupted his learning, until one day a wind came and rustled the trees in his garden. When the pleasant songwriter of Israel went out to see what had taken place – his soul left him…

        "Reb Chaim", I continued, "if you wish, here is the opportunity to construct a wide variety of homiletic interpretations. It was the Sabbath – this means that work stops, there is inactivity, and calm in the life of the spirit. The Torah renews the person and states that as long as a person has a hold upon life, a purpose, an occupation, content – he is assured that he will remain in this world. However if he cuts off the cord that connects him to the present – there is no more rectification. On the Sabbath, the morbid spirituality brings with it physical destruction…" I opened up for him literary and educational content that could be expressed.

        Chaim listened intently. I saw that my words pained him. His gaze looked as if he was looking for a point of exit. Finally, he said:

        "By homiletic exegesis, one can explain any problem. You know that lately I have been working on compiling a book for study, but doubts have overcome me, and I cannot continue. Apparently, this is also vanity, and chasing after the wind[4]".

        He rested for a moment and added:

        "Our sages who looked into all the crevices and wrinkles of the soul explained the verse 'Jacob arrived whole' (Genesis 33, 18) – whole is his body, whole in his money, and whole in his Torah. That is to say, there is a threefold sense of wholeness: health, economic security, and cultural life. These are the urgent needs of man that are required for peace of the soul. However, how many Jacobs are there in the marketplace?"

        "My wings are plucked, plucked – and I am silent –".

        The feeling that "his wings are plucked", did not come upon him suddenly, at one time. In the last years – particularly after his illness – thin doubts began to seep into his subconscious, for "the day has declined", and an angst seeped into his soul and poured onto it drops of poison mixed with fear. This was not due to physical decline, but rather due to a dream, which was not realized and would never be realized. He must become accustomed to the idea that he was "only" a teacher. "Traveled and traveled but not a veteran", he used to say. Then I realized that days came upon Chaim for which he had no desire.

        When he went on vacation during his final summer, I came to take leave of him. The conversation was choppy. He was in the midst of a flurry of activity. Chaim was taking measured steps from room to room, deciding what to pack and what to leave behind.

        I suddenly realized that the first item that he put in his suitcase was his Tallit (prayer shawl). He folded it and caressed it. He yearned for it with devotion as would a pious Jew.

        I followed after him, and from behind his back I asked him:

        "Reb Chaim my brother, why did you see fit to pack your Tallit first?"

        His face became serious.

        "I will answer your query with a story that I read or heard: Once the Maggid of Kelm came to town. He entered one house and did not see anybody there. Behold, from one of the rooms he heard a gentle voice of quiet wailing. The Kelmer followed after the voice. Suddenly he saw that on a chair in the corner there was a Tallit. He leaned over it and whispered to it:

        Tallit, Tallit, why are you weeping?

        It answered:

        My owner went abroad. He packed all of his precious belongings, including insignificant objects, but he forgot me.

        When the Kelmer heard these words, he said:

        Tallit, Tallit, take comfort! The day will come when your owner will leave everything behind and only take you[5]".

        My brother spoke a very vibrant Yiddish, and he embellished this story with special language. He added his own style and special melody. With the expressions of his face and the movements of his hands, the Maggid of Kelm became alive, and with his trembling, emotional voice, it was possible to hear the bitter weeping of the Tallit.

        He stopped. I always knew that Chaim would take a pause in the middle, and have something more to say. However, he did not add anything --- ---

        Now that my brother is here no more, it seems to me that he walked through life as an experienced actor. I ask myself: these noble expressions with which he adorned himself and the external peace which flowed from his sublime face – were there not on them any sign of internal turmoil, covering up the storm and fire that were caught up in his heart, and eventually burned him with their coals?

        Who can understand the struggles, setbacks, obstacles, hindrances, wounds and scars in the inner recesses of a person? Who can come and investigate into his soul?

        The choppy words that came out of his mouth inadvertently, gave hints that the breech in his soul was larger than the solid part.

        Chaim was burdened with a primitive sense of poetry and a somnolent expertise in literature. Hebrew and Yiddish walked side by side with him. His soul knew no bounds in his love for them. He collected books of poetry and read them with deep concentration, especially the classics, which imprinted their impression upon him.

        His literary legacy included poems in Yiddish, articles on problems in education and personalities, as well as evaluations of school texts. He also translated some of the Poems of Cohen, Pichman, Tshernikovsky, Schneur, Katznelson, and Efrat, as well as the Hebrew words of G. Shufman.

        However his soul played tricks upon him, in that he did not develop to his full potential and expertise. From here came the thirst, the longing, and blinding efforts to give expression to his restrained abilities. Thus did Chaim battle with his desires, and he overcame – but eventually fell in battle…

        I sometimes think to myself that the fate of Chaim was not private, but rather general – the fate of many: a broken heart.

        One rainy Sunday I accompanied him to his final rest. I did not believe, and I still do not believe that this was the last time. I am pained for you by brother Chaim! Your were very dear to me. My love of you was wondrous[6]. Rest in peace!

        5713 – 1953.

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. Yeshiva University. Return
  2. A statement from the Talmud that a scholar should be careful about the appearance of his clothing, since people look to him as an example of the glory of the Torah. Return
  3. Midrash is traditional Jewish legends and homiletic stories, often found in the Talmud and other collections. Midrash is otherwise known as Aggada. The legalistic material in the Talmud is known as Halacha. Return
  4. An expression from the book of Ecclesiastes (Koheleth), describing futility. Return
  5. Jewish men are placed into the coffin wrapped up in a Tallit. Return
  6. A paraphrase of the elegy recited by David over the death of Jonathan and King Saul (II Samuel, chapter 1).Return
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