Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Shevat 5765 - January 19, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Inside and Out: A Tribute to R' Yechezkel ("Chezi") Goldberg, Hy"d

By Rabbi Pinchas Kantrowitz

A victim of the horrible bomb on the number 19 bus line last year, on his first yahrtzeit

The long awaited Shabbos finally arrived. We had tried so many times to arrange this Shabbos, that now that it had finally come it was hard to believe. One Shabbos one of the girls couldn't make it, so we set a date for another. Right before that Shabbos rolled around something came up with another one of the girls, and we had to put it off again. But it was worth waiting for I told myself, as these were very fine girls from the excellent new Midreshet Tehillah branch of the Neve Yerushalayim Seminary. I was confident that they would really hit it off with my wife and kids.

I heard that our neighbor Mrs. Goldberg was overseas visiting family, while her husband (Chezi) and most of her children had stayed home. I mentioned it to my wife, and she readily agreed that we should invite the Goldberg family for a meal that Shabbos.

Chezi fit right in. In fact, he was so comfortable in the situation, that he soon had everybody laughing and having "a grand old time." Pretty soon all the heads were turned to the other end of the table where Chezi sat comfortably, elbows on the table obviously enjoying entertaining everyone so thoroughly. I also sat back and began to enjoy the show, happy that everyone was having such a good time.

Chezi noticed quickly that "the tables had turned" (or at least the heads at the table had turned to him), and immediately remedied the situation by asking me some questions and "putting the ball back in my court," so to speak. The remainder of the seudah was more balanced, with heads bouncing back and forth like at a ping-pong tournament, Chezi and I "lobbing" juicy subjects back and forth to one another.

What amazed me was Chezi's sensitivity and mentschlikite. Not that I was surprised, knowing him as well as I did. But this incident demonstrated to me a special degree of sensitivity and mentschlikite. I thought they were gifts that Chezi definitely possessed, but certainly not to the degree that I had just witnessed. I was deeply impressed (even a bit jealous — the kosher "jealousy of the righteous," of course).

When the seudah ended, he was quietly but firmly directing his kids to assist in the cleanup, and Wow, they really helped! One was clearing the table, another sweeping the floor, a third was busy washing dishes, even the little ones were really helping. Wow! I was deeply impressed (even a bit jealous — the kosher "jealousy of the righteous," of course). This was a well-disciplined family. But there were no barked commands, no insinuated "consequences," only love, mutual respect, and a clearly communicated understanding of the situation and what it required.

What really touched me however, was the way I saw Chezi relate to his kids in the street, in shul, or when I popped by his house unexpectedly. This was the same Chezi I observed relating to his kids at my house, the same Chezi who interviewed me on the radio, the same Chezi renowned for his beautiful and inspiring articles in the Jewish Press, and the same Chezi who had what seemed to be about half the neighborhood of Beitar in his Succah to sing and enjoy refreshments for an Oneg Shabbos — all occasions when it was clear that he was being observed.

Chazal make much of this middoh tovoh, as it is a middoh difficult to find and even more difficult to acquire. It is called "echad belev ve'echod bepeh," "oneness of heart and mouth" — to say what one feels (of course, only when appropriate) and more importantly, to mean what one says.

The verse states of the Aron Hakodesh, "And you shall cover it with pure gold, from inside and outside you shall cover it, . . . " (Shemos 25:11). The Midrash comments on this verse: " . . . And just as the Aron does not hear and does not speak and does not know what is inside of it, the verse says about it, "from inside and outside you shall cover it," in order that its inside could be like its outside; a talmid chochom who sees and hears and does know what is inside of it, should he not be covered with Torah on the inside and on the outside all the more so? And since it is covered with gold on the inside and the outside, why is wood necessary (in the center, instead of being solid gold)? To teach us that if not for the yetzer hora there would be no praise for the talmid chochom, rather the praise of the talmid chochom is that he conquers his (evil) inclination more (than others), . . . " (Midrash Hagodol).

The goal than for the talmid chochom, and indeed for every Jew, to strive towards, is "to be covered inside and outside with gold." To realize the importance of making our inner and outer voices one and the same. Moreover, to cover our yetzer hora, our evil inclination (albeit "natural" as "wood"), with the gold of Torah, on the inside and on the outside.

This is what Chezi represented to me: a man who had achieved balance, the delicate balance between public persona and private individual, a man strived to speak with one voice on the inside and the outside, a man who tried to cover his yetzer hora, even his "natural" one, with the "gold of Torah" on the inside as well as the outside.

When I mentioned this idea to his widow at the shiva, she nodded her head in agreement and added, "He did so many things so well. I used to ask him if there was anything that he didn't do well. He would respond with a laugh, `screw in a light bulb.'" Ah here, I thought to myself, I can be deeply impressed without being even a little bit jealous, even the permitted kosher "jealousy of the righteous" (of course) — as I was graciously created 6'5"!


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