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
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), . . . "
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"!