In honor of his sheloshim, the twelfth of Kislev, I
write these words to galvanize the remembrance of our beloved
friend, Reb Yitzchok Hirsch, o.b.m. I write on behalf
of his many close friends in Yeshiva Torah Ore.
He was just an ordinary person, good, caring, with a sense of
humor. I still remember when he first came to yeshiva. I had
been married just a few months when I contracted mono.
Luckily it wasn't severe and I was able to return to the
yeshiva after about a month, although on condition that I
rest frequently. As it was, there happened to be an empty bed
in my former room to fill the need. That was until Yitzchok
arrived; he needed a bed. Now what was I to do? Yitzchok
solved the problem by allowing me the use of his bed when he
didn't need it.
Yitzchok was in the yeshiva for five years, first as a
bochur and then as a yungerman, until they
diagnosed his dreaded disease just a year-and-a-half ago. It
began on Shabbos. His family was invited to eat by one of the
chevra. He began to have terrible chest pains and it
was decided to call for medical assistance. He was rushed to
the hospital where he underwent many medical tests.
His diagnosis shocked us all. It was decided that he should
travel to America for further testing and treatment. After
two lengthy operations and many months of aggressive
chemotherapy, it appeared that Yitzchok would recuperate.
After more months of recovery, he decided to return to Eretz
Yisroel where he so desired to continue his spiritual growth.
With his new lease on life he couldn't wait to get back to
his chavrusas in yeshiva.
But it wasn't long until he began to suffer from terrible
back aches. Once again, he found himself undergoing a
thorough medical examination. The dreaded disease returned,
fiercer that before. Although the doctors told him that his
chances were not good, Yitzchok was relaxed knowing that it
was decreed in heaven and he trusted in Hashem that
everything would turn out for the best. Yitzchok found
himself returning to the States. The disease ravaged his body
and caused him tremendous suffering, but his faith stood
He had originally only planned to learn in Eretz Yisroel for
a short time, but he, like many others, was imbued with the
kedushoh of the land, which inspired him to strive for
shleimus in avodas Hashem.
He couldn't stop learning. He would rise early in the morning
to start his day with a seder before davening.
His chavrusas testify to the fact that he would
try his hardest not to interrupt the time allotted for
On the bus, you would find him totally immersed in a
sefer. He made it his duty to study halachah every
day. Even on his many hospital visits for treatment he would
be found with a sefer, not wanting to miss a precious
moment of learning.
Tefillah was no less important to him. After his early
morning seder, he made sure that there was the
necessary time to prepare properly for davening neitz.
His custom was to use a gartel belt for
davening and he would not daven unless he had
one, even in trying times. When he was only wearing a
hospital gown and too weak to reach for his gartel, he
made sure to reach for something that lay nearby, whether a
towel or sheet or belt of a robe. He made it his duty to make
a list of and daven for other sick people, especially
the other patients.
The last chapter of Tehillim states, "Praise Him with
the blast of the shofar. Praise Him with lyre and harp.
Praise Him with drum and dance. Praise him with recorder and
flute. Praise Him with resounding cymbals, Praise Him with
resounding teru'oh." Rav Avigdor Miller zt"l
explains that different instruments arouse different
emotions and that we are obligated to praise Hashem with all
of our emotions. Yitzchok served and praised Hashem with all
of his emotions, in joy and happiness.
Well-known religious singers dedicate some of their time to
visit patients in medical centers and uplift them with song.
They often came to sing songs that are tefillos, like
Ovinu Ov Horachamon, Racheim, and others. When
Yitzchok was so weak that he was hardly able to utter
anything, he used a letter board to spell his request to hear
Tov Lehodos Lashem, ulezamer LeShimcho Elyon (It is
good to praise Hashem and sing to Your Supreme Name). It
became extremely difficult to use his hands when they were
severely swollen with water and he was unable to lift them.
He still found the strength to bring his hands together in a
It states in Pirkei Ovos, "Three things serve as the
foundation of existence, Torah, Avodoh (tefillah), and
chesed." Each of these activities provides essential
nourishment and sustenance for the entire universe, without
which the world we live in would cease to exist.
Yitzchok's passing was more than a personal loss, he
personified all three; he kept the world going. His character
was no less great. Besides being a friendly, gentle, smiling
individual, he exemplified honesty.
Rav Sholom Schechter related the following story to emphasize
this point. During early check-in for an international
flight, Yitzchok was informed that his baggage was overweight
and would incur a charge prior to boarding. However the
charge was eventually overlooked both by the airline and by
Yitzchok. Later, Yitzchok took the time to write a letter to
the airline requesting to be billed for the forgotten charge.
A copy of the letter was only discovered after Yitzchok's
Yitzchok followed in the ways of the Ovos. He passed away
erev Shabbos parshas Lech Lecho. He followed in
Avrohom's footsteps: "Go from your land, from your
birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land that I
will show you" and he exemplified Avraham's attribute of
chesed, "Please use my bed." He shared the name of
Yitzchok Ovinu and sought to serve Hashem with temimus
just as a korbon to be brought before Hashem is
required to be tomim -- without blemish. He
exemplified Yitzchok Ovinu's attribute of gevurah and
the way he davened revealed his yiras Shomayim
and yiras cheit. Sadly, this time there was no
"ram caught in the thicket"; Hashem desired his precious
child, our Yitzchok. He exemplified Yaakov Ovinu's attribute
of emes with his impeccable honesty.
We prayed for his recovery. The name Yerachmiel Yitzchok
Zelig ben Shaindel was circulated to as many people as
possible. He wanted people to daven for him, but
requested that it should not be done during learning
seder. From his chaveirim he requested that
they daven for him at the Kosel, but not during time
set aside for learning.
We went to say Tehillim at the Kosel. We accepted upon
ourselves one hour of learning without interruption. We
brought in Shabbos five minutes earlier. We shared in his
suffering. We shared in his pain. We pleaded, "Don't take our
"I'm in Hashem's hands. He knows what's good for me."
"Mitzvah lihiyos besimcha tomid" - it's a mitzvah to
be happy all the time. Should it not have said, "It's a
mitzvah to be happy" since there are always sad periods in
our lives? What is the meaning of "all the time"?
If we truly believe that everything is orchestrated by Hashem
and everything that Hashem does is for our best we would
always be happy knowing that we are fulfilling the will of
Hashem. Yitzchok was besimcha tomid.
May the remembrance of Reb Yitzchok Zelig ben Yisroel Shlomo
HaKohein's virtues be a ner tomid in our hearts.