On the 28th of Tammuz (4 August), the Far Rockaway (NY)
community lost one of its most distinguished members, HaRav
Dovid Sofer zt"l.
Rabbi Dovid Sofer, zt"l was born on a ship, the SS
Olympic, in 1922, escaping Communist Russia. He received
semichoh from the Lomzha Rov, HaRav Moshe Shatzkes,
zt"l, in 1945. He was a rebbe in the Hebrew Institute
of Long Island for over twenty years. The last four years of
his life he was bedridden after losing both legs to the
effects of diabetes.
In the Musaf of Rosh Hashonoh and Yom Kippur we say a
very moving prayer called Unesano Tokef which
describes how awesome and frightening the judgment of these
days really is. After declaring "Repentance, prayer and
charity remove the evil decree" (ArtScroll R.H.
Machzor p.483), we describe Hashem's greatness and
compare Man to a broken shard of clay: moshul kecheres
hanishbar. Man is likened to broken pottery.
Rabbi Reisman, shlita, rov of Agudas Yisroel of Far
Rockaway, in his hesped for my grandfather o"h,
asked: How do we understand the comparison of people to
He explained that clay vessels are special. They are the
cheapest objects to make, being hardened clay obtained from
the ground. With respect to the laws of purity, clay vessels
are different from all others. If a dead rat touches the
outside of a clay vessel, it does not become tomei.
Only if the contact is inside the pot, does the pot become
impure. To purify a clay vessel, koshering or
tovelling does not help. One needs to break it and, if
possible, remold it.
This is a human being. The essence of Man is not his looks,
his external appearance or his strength. In Yiddishkeit,
the content is what is important. This is what defines
who a person really is. It is one's character traits that
The ultimate purity is attained when the vessel is broken. A
person reaches purity when he breaks his exterior physical
drives and desires. My Zaide's physical body was broken. He
had his first heart attack some thirty years ago, and
subsequently underwent three open-heart operations, a number
of heart attacks, both feet amputated, dialysis, and was
permanently bedridden with all that goes with that. He lived
in this world in a broken physical body, but he attained the
purity of a cheres hanishbar, a broken piece of
He always had a smile, a good word to say and never lost his
sense of humor. He had every reason to be depressed, but he
wasn't. His physicality was broken but not his true
How did he reach such a level, bearing so much pain, yet
never complaining? So much suffering yet never asking "Why
Whenever we asked him "How are you Zaide?" he would reply
And if we asked (which we sometimes did), "Really, how are
you? Boruch Hashem what?" He always said, "Couldn't be
He once replied to my question, "I am getting better." So I
asked, "Really?" And he said, "If I am not getting worse, it
means I am getting better!"
At his fiftieth wedding anniversary (about five years before
his first amputation), he spoke about bitochon —
trust in Hashem. He noted how the Patriarchs were tested in
many ways, yet they demonstrated a tremendous amount of
bitochon. He said that we all have our own individual
tests as we go through our lives. If we merit to live a long
life, there are sometimes sicknesses and, G-d forbid,
sometimes tragedies. The most important lesson that we can
learn is to face all the difficulties that we will encounter
and come out of them as strong people. Our only real strength
is bitochon, trust in Hashem. We cannot, we must not,
take golden opportunities for granted, but we must realize
that they are a gift from Hashem Who could, chas vesholom,
reverse the situation at any time.
The key to life is how much trust in Hashem you really have
inside of you. If you are strong in your trust in Hashem,
then you will definitely be strong in overcoming anything you
will have to face. If you are not strong then, when faced
with adversity, you will feel shattered and you will feel
that your problems are insurmountable. The only way to
develop and acquire bitochon is by learning more Torah
and yet more Torah. This is part of what my Zaide said, and
this was the way he lived his life.
He said that trust in Hashem brings us to a state of
calmness, whatever the situation. When he was told that his
second foot had to be amputated, a grandson called him in the
hospital and asked him how he was feeling. He responded:
"Boruch Hashem, couldn't be better!"
The grandson asked him: "How could you say that?"
To which he responded: "If Hashem wants it to be this way,
then it couldn't be better."
This conversation took place only a few weeks after he had
his first leg amputated, and he was suffering terribly from
the phantom pains and knowing that he would go through all
this again and be completely bedridden. Yet he was still able
to say: "Boruch Hashem, it could not be better!"
It was not just lip-service. He felt a degree of calmness to
the point that he could even joke about his situation. When
he was being wheeled into the theater to have the second foot
amputated, my father was with him and witnessed the
When the doctor asked my Zaide: "Are you allergic to
anything?" He responded with a smile: "Yes! To leg
We are now on a journey. It starts with Elul, proceeds to
selichos, Rosh Hashonoh, the Ten Days of Repentance,
Yom Kippur, Succos and finally Simchas Torah. There is one
thread that connects all these days together.
Elul is preparation for Rosh Hashonoh, accepting Hashem as
our King. He is our King and we are His very special
servants. It is a time to connect to Hashem, to regain and
feel a closeness to Him.
Yom Kippur is teshuvoh, returning to Hashem. Succos is
living with Hashem under His protection.
Finally there is Simchas Torah. When we begin to dance with
the sefer Torah, we proclaim, "It was shown to you,
that you may know that Hashem, He is G-d, there is none
beside Him." At that time, at the climax of our journey, we
should genuinely feel that there is only Hashem, He is the
only Power; all that I need, and all that I have is
My Zaide o"h had this connection to Hashem and this is
why he never complained throughout his great suffering. May
his life be an inspiration for us to grow in our own
connection to Hashem and through this closeness may we all
merit to have a Kesivoh vechasimoh tovoh.