S P E C I A L S

For the week ending 5 January 2013 / 22 Tevet 5773

A Time To Cry (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer
Our Sonís Bar Mitzvah without Rav Weinbach, zatzal
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Over thirty years ago I was privileged to find myself in a shiur given by the Rosh Yeshivah of Ohr Somayach, Moreinu v’Rabbeinu Rav Mendel Weinbach, zatzal. It was a shiur on the Parsha and there was one week – it was Parshat Noach – that I actually asked a question. I do not remember the question at all but the reaction of the Rosh Yeshivah is indelibly etched on my soul. The most enormous smile appeared on his face and he danced a few steps of joy and told me that he didn’t know the answer. I was a little confused at the time (being rather young and inexperienced) and I couldn’t understand what there was to be so happy about. But the Rosh Yeshivah was filled with a spiritual thrill since he now needed to seek an answer and reveal more layers of Torah understanding.

The Rosh Yeshivah was one of the most focused people I ever had the privilege to be exposed to. His passion was to be able to reach out further and further to the affiliated and the unaffiliated alike and to show them the beauty and the majesty of the Torah and of Judaism. But he was also one of the most multi-faceted and talented people that I knew. He was a man of intense passion – when he spoke his audience was swept up and transported to spiritual realms that would have remained inaccessible to them otherwise. But despite his passionate approach to anything Jewish he was nearly always in control of his emotions. I, personally, can remember the Rosh Yeshivah crying tears only twice. The first time was at the Bar Mitzvah of one of my sons. My thirteen year old son made a Siyum on the entire six Orders of the Mishnah, and the Rosh Yeshivah was so overwhelmed with such pure joy at his achievement that he cried. The second time that I witnessed him crying was in my home when another family member made his first Siyum on the whole Babylonian Talmud and, again, he cried tears – tears of such happiness because of the spiritual achievements of others.

At the funeral I also cried and I am still crying.

Not — to my intense sorrow — tears of joy, but bitter tears because I will never again witness that look of absolute joy when he heard a Torah thought that he approved of. I am crying because I am no longer able to speak with one of the preeminent educators of our generation. So many times over the years that I was privileged to have almost daily access to the Rosh Yeshivah, I would often take a thorny and seemingly impossible problem to him after having invested much time in trying to solve it myself, and within a few moments he would touch on the very essence of the problem. More often than not, by identifying the real core of the issue he would come up with the solution in a seemingly effortless fashion. I am crying because that intense clarity that was his is no longer. But, most of all, I am crying because I will no longer merit to see the tears of the Rosh Yeshivah – the tears of untarnished joy as more and more Torah is learnt throughout the world.

This Shabbat is my dear son’s Bar Mitzvah. Throughout the last nine years (since our last Bar Mitzvah) it has been one of my greatest hopes that the Rosh Yeshivah would be able to join together with us as he did in the past – to inspire my children and all of us with his fiery words of Torah and to inspire us with his tears as my son joins his older brothers and makes a Siyum on the entire Mishnah in honor of his Bar Mitzvah. The Rosh Yeshivah’s invitation is still sitting forlornly on my desk and I cannot bring myself to put it away.

I have no doubts whatsoever that we will all be thrilled and inspired when my son makes his Siyum and I am sure that many tears of true happiness will be shed. But I also know that my tears will be tinted with an intense sorrow that one of the most important personalities in my life is no longer together with us in this physical world. My source of solace is that the Rosh Yeshivah’s part in what my children have achieved and what they continue to achieve is immeasurable.

It is my greatest hope and desire that I will be able to cry many, many tears in the future – tears of pure, unadulterated spiritual joy. Tears that reflect the intense yearning that was the Rosh Yeshivah’s – to reveal more and more of G-d’s Majesty in the world until we are all able to greet the Mashiach together in Jerusalem. May his memory be blessed.

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