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Parshas Vayakhel - Coming Together             23 Adar I 5779

02/27/19 21:01:12


This Dvar Torah is L’ilui Nishmas Mr. Emanuel (Manny) Mittelman Pinchas Elimelech Ben Yaakov Shmuel Z”L

During the last 20+ years that I’ve been in San Diego I have witnessed hundreds of visitors who have come through the doors of our shul, Beth Jacob. Some visit for just a short brief time while others choose to stay longer. There is the person who drops in to catch a Mincha and those who flee the cold weather, enjoying our community for a few months. The duration of a person’s stay doesn’t necessarily leave an impact; some who stay a while and hang around may not add or contribute more than someone whom I may not even get to know by name. Sometimes, within the range of time that guests stay, I try to get to know our visitors a bit - some more some less. For many years we had a group of guests dubbed the “Snowbirds”, a group of older retired or semi-retired couples who joined us for a few weeks to two months.

A week ago Shabbos, on the 11th of Adar, Mr. Manny Mittelman left this world after ninety four years, leaving over one hundred direct descendants after he and his beloved wife, Bessie, of seventy years, YB”L, survived the holocaust. I watched his funeral from Eretz Yisrael and was moved deeply by the ninety minutes of hespedim/eulogies that were so aptly delivered by current and past communal leaders from the Detroit community in which he lived. I highly recommend that everyone take the time to listen to the entire service, or at least to some parts of it. I’m not going to repeat the eulogies here, but I will add an insight into who he was based upon the funeral itself.

A community is called a ‘kehilla,’ which stems from the first word of this week’s ParshaVayakhel Moshe”, and “Moshe gathered”. As I was viewing the funeral, not only did I pay attention to the eulogies, but to the people who delivered them. Mr. Mittelman was involved in all aspects of the Detroit Jewish community. He belonged to and associated with Jews from every spectrum across the Orthodox world. He was a part of Shuls, schools, kollelim, from the left to the right, from the modern to Chasidish and everything in between. The Maspidin/Eulogizers were from every camp within the Jewish world. The same could be said within his own family of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren, as they all grew up in his house and are all religious, observant Jews representing all kinds of stripes and colors. His own children, from Chasidic to modern, made up an incredible microcosm of the Jewish people. He accomplished all of this with the help, support, love and encouragement of his partner, Mrs. Bessie Mittelman, who should live and be well, who contributed actively and meaningfully to the shared life they built together.

Throughout the eulogies the video camera remained stationary, focusing on the podium from where the Rabbis and family members spoke. I am sure that had the camera been rotated, scanning the overflowing crowd of people in attendance, we would have seen a similar image of members of the entire Jewish community from one spectrum to the other. Mr. Mittelman had the uncanny ability to not only relate to everyone but to bring all factions together for one primary purpose: the honor of the Ribono Shel Olam, the Creator of the World. This ability was not limited to religious differences, it included people of all ages, from those who were older than he to young children. I have an eternally memorable picture of my own grandson reading to him from a siddur. He taught wisdom through the pearls of Torah that would spew from his lips; he demonstrated how to live as a Jew by being a role model for everyone, always displaying his Yiras Shamayim and Ahavas Yisroel.

Manny Mittelman’s ability to bring Jews together is consistent with the purpose and goals that Moshe aspired to in the desert with the Jewish people, particularly regarding the service and role of the Mishkan. In this week’s Parshas Vayakhel the Torah states in Shmos 35:1 “Vayakhel Moshe Es Kal Adas Bnei Yisrael, Vayomer Aleihem……And Moshe gathered the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and said to them….” The Sokotchove Rebbe says that the introduction to the Mishkan is the understanding of Vayakhel and gathering. The Jewish people stood at Har Sinai gathered together as ‘Ish Echod’ - like one man. Up until the Mishkan, independent, private altars known as ‘Bamos” were permitted; anyone could bring a sacrifice anytime at any place they wanted. Once the Mishkan was erected, however, the individual private ‘Bamos’ were outlawed, becoming forbidden. Everyone was required to bring their sacrifices to the Sanctuary. The existence of the Mishkan brought everyone together. The Mishkan rallied the entities to one place. But this was regarding the building of the Mishkan prior to sin of the Golden Calf. The Shem Mishmuel explains that after the sin of the Golden Calf, the only way to build the Mishkan was through the power of togetherness, by bringing Klal Yisrael together as one. Before the sin it was possible to build even with the strength of one part, even with the effort of one single individual. The Midrash states in Teruma, “Hashem said to Moshe that even one Jew is able to build the Mishkan.” The verse states: “any man who gives from his heart” can build the Tabernacle. Therefore, in Parshas Teruma which is prior to the Eigel HaZahav, the Golden Calf, there is no mention of ‘Vayakhel”.

The word VaYakhel -when Moshe gathered the nation - is identical to Mitzva 612 called Hakheil of the Torah whereby once every seven years, on Chol HaMoed Sukoos, the King of Israel would gather Klal Yisrael, all of the men, women and children, and read selections from the Torah. The Mitzva of Hakheil was all-inclusive. There were no distinctions between one Jew and another. The Mitzva reestablished a certain togetherness of Am Yisrael and acceptance towards one another. This was the unique ability, the rare quality that Mr. Mittelman possessed. Perhaps it was his witnessing of the horrors that took place against our people that created his open love of every Jew, independently and collectively. Many people speak about Ahavas Yisrael, but Mr.Mittleman demonstrated it throughout his life. That was the tribute he so deserved and received by the people who spoke about him and the people who were there to listen. His life was underscored by this attempt to build a Mishkan that we could all live within and be a part of. Yehi Zichro Baruch!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Sun, May 24 2020 1 Sivan 5780