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Parshas Kedoshim - Be Holy to One Another     4 Iyar 5782

05/19/2022 01:08:45 PM


This Dvar Torah is being sponsored by Ronnie & Susan Masliansky in memory of his grandfather Yehuda Leib ben Yehoshua Heshel, Mr. Louis Bogopulsky a”h on his Yahrzeit 10th Iyar

The world’s population always varies, but in general, I would imagine it grows more than it shrinks. Rarely does the world’s population decrease, rather it is on the rise. Although death is a part of the life cycle, the closer we are to the person who has passed away, the deeper the emotional pain and depth of loss.  Today, readily-available audio and video communication  has allowed us to connect with each other more closely than ever before in the history of the world.

As the cycle of life continues, families lose loved ones. The order of nature, that  older people pass on before the younger, can turn around when the young die before the old.  My older cousins told me that none of their classmates in the 1960’s had more than two grandparents following the early years after the Holocaust. I personally did not have any biological grandmothers from birth, and one grandfather passed away when I was only six years old. The only grandparent I knew was my father’s father, who passed away when I was nineteen. This week marks the 38th year of his passing. Unfortunately, I never had the relationships that would impact my life in any substantial way.  I never had the opportunity to observe firsthand the qualities that I would hope to emulate. We typically mourn, crying  for relatives who have passed away, because they gave us a part of their essence; when they leave us a part of us leaves as well, hence we cry for that loss.

I know that realistically, the rate of people who die and pass on does not fluctuate greatly, but it does sometimes feel that there are great, devoted leaders, contributors to betterment of the world who pass away in greater numbers than the general population at large. I recall, in 1986, Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky and Rav Moshe Feinstein died within two weeks of each other. The Steipler Gaon, Rav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky, was niftar (died) only seven months earlier. This year, Rav Chaim Kanievsky passed away just after Purim, and now, closer to home, three great Rabbonim who were involved in different parts of Klal Yisroel passed away within a week of each other. Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein z”l, involved in Kiruv, passed away from an illness at the relatively young age of 64. The other two giants were men whom my wife and I knew personally. The first, Rabbi Moshe Neuman z”l, was a man who lived and breathed chinuch (education).  He was the dean of the Bais Yaakov of Queens.  Rabbi Neuman educated thousands of young ladies for a half century al Derech Yisroel Saba. Rabbi Neuman’s dedication to Torah education literally changed the terrain of Torah chinuch in Queens.  Indeed, for several families, Rabbi Neuman  educated four generations of students.  Rabbi Neuman was at the helm of Bais Yaakov of Queens from 1961 to 2011. He was the principal during the time my wife Leah and her three sisters attended.Finally, the major blow to the Klal Yisroel of America came with the news of Rav Nota Greenblatt zt”l passing away last Friday. He was the most underrated and under-the-radar Rabbi of our generation.

My wife and I did not know Rabbi Wallerstein.  However, even though I never met Rabbi Wallerstein, I met scores of men and women whose lives were enriched by him. Both my wife and I watched and listened to the hespedim/eulogies of both Rabbi Neuman and Rabbi Greenblatt. My wife listened and cried hearing about her dear principal; I listened and cried hearing and relating to the life of a great gaon/genius, Rav Greenblatt. We cried because we had a kesher/connection to them; both profoundly influenced our lives. This is not the place to describe the greatness of each man. It is sufficient to say they had an extraordinary impact on each of our lives. Even though neither of us was related to either of these great people, we absorbed lessons and teachings for life from both of them. They were not “teachers” in the classroom sense. Rabbi Neuman was my wife’s elementary school principal; Rabbi Greenblatt stayed in our home when he had business in San Diego. Learning and absorbing from a role model leaves an indelible, life-long impression  on an individual. These two Rabbis personified their positions of great role models through their actions, fulfilling one of the most famous and difficult mitzvos in the Torah. This Mitzva, according to Rabbi Akiva, the greatest generalization of the Torah, is the mitzva to love thy neighbor as thy self.

The Torah in this week’s Parshas Kedoshim in Vayikra 19:18 states: "לא תקם ולא תטר את בני עמךואהבת לרעך כמוך, אני ה' "   “Do not take revenge nor bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbor as [you love] yourself, I am God”. The Ishbitzer, Reb Mordechai Leiner, in his master work the Mei Hashiloach,* explains these famous words in a fascinating, unique manner. He explains that through the mitzva of ‘love your neighbor as thyself’ God’s name becomes great! All of the goodness which is the essence of the person that God instilled within him can be transferred and given over to others. When a person influences someone else with the essence of that which Hashem has given to him, he gains the realization that  it is because he/she understands that both the giver/ influencer and the receiver/other person are created by Hashem. Behold, we all have one Father who created all of us. Why would we ever hold back doing kindness towards each other! In addition, a person recognizes that it is not his own strength or his own handiwork that accomplishes, rather it is all a gift from Hashem. By using these talents and giving them to others,we fulfill the will of his Creator. The fulfillment of this mitzva is that a person who comes to love his neighbor as himself makes God’s name great. A second critical understanding goes even more deeply: Just as a person loves himself despite knowing his many deficiencies, so too a person must love his neighbor - even after seeing that person is lacking. This is why the verse concludes in all cases with “I am God”. Hashem loves both individuals with all their drawbacks and weaknesses; we are all called God’s children.

Rabbis Greenblatt, Neuman, and Wallerstein all shared these magnificent qualities. We cried because we lost people who shared and cared for us as close relatives do. Beyond crying, we should cherish the moments and benefits we received and try to give, extend a little bit that we received and recognize Hashem’s presence more and more profoundly in the world!           


*Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica known as "the Ishbitzer" Yiddish: איזשביצע (1801-1854) was a Rabbinic Chasidic thinker and founder of the Izhbitza-Radzy dynasty of Chasidic Judaism. He is best known for his work Mei Hashiloach, a popular collection of his teachings on the weekly Torah portion and Jewish holidays, published by his grandson, Rabbi Gershon Leiner. Usually printed in two volume, it has been translated into English.

Rabbi Mordechai Yosef was born in Tomashov. His father, Reb Yaakov, was the son of Reb Mordechai of Sekul. At the age of two Rabbi Mordechai Yosef wase orphaned.  He became a disciple of Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa where he joined Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and Rabbi Yosef of Yartshev; both were also born in Tomashov. When Rabbi Menachem Mendel became Rebbe in Kotzk, Reb Mordechai Yosef became his disciple there; then in 1839 he became a rebbe in Tomaszów, moving subsequently to Izbica. His leading disciple was Rabbi Yehuda Leib Eiger (1816-1888), grandson of Rabbi Akiva Eiger. His students included Rabbi Zadok HaKohen of Lublin (1823–1900), his son, Rabbi Yaakov Leiner (1828–1878) and his grandson Rabbi Gershon Henoch Leiner of Radzyn.

Mordechai Yosef Leiner is buried in an ohel in the Jewish cemetery in Izbica.

Sat, November 26 2022 2 Kislev 5783