The Fischel, Goldstein and Reichel threads of our family had many ties to Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm over the years, but some were particularly unique. When we published the augmented edition of the life of the pioneering Orthodox Jewish philanthropist Harry Fischel in 2012, we sought a blurb for the cover by Yeshiva University’s past and present presidents, noting Fischel’s role in almost single-handedly saving YU from bankruptcy and dissolution during the Great Depression. Both presidents obliged. Rabbi Lamm’s was unusually nuanced.
The Fischel biography had originally been written in 1928 by Fischel’s son-in-law, Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein, who taught Rabbi Lamm and two generations of YU American-born rabbis how to deliver sermons, and who came to be known posthumously as The Maverick Rabbi. Rabbi Lamm had kind words to say about this one-of-a-kind book (the Fischel book).
When we asked Rabbi Lamm to speak at the shloshim of Rabbi Goldstein’s son-in-law, my father, Rabbi Dr. O. Asher Reichel, in 2012, Rabbi Lamm told me he no longer speaks at such occasions, but he took the trouble to come to pay his respects to “a friend.” His synagogue is 10 blocks away from the West Side Institutional Synagogue. He was clearly also a competitor. But at his advanced age and in frail condition, he took the trouble to attend as “a friend.”
I had some interesting interactions with Rabbi Lamm when I was the national president of Yavneh, and I had some fun with word play on his name when I edited the Yeshiva College Alumni Association Bulletin, but my favorite interaction with him was never put in writing. When I was a graduate student (in three post-graduate programs simultaneously), Rabbi Lamm invited me to write a chapter for a book he was writing. Because I was over-extended with obligations as it was (in addition to those just enumerated), I reluctantly declined (upon the wise and prudent advice of my father). However, this chapter that I never wrote gave me more satisfaction, in a way, than every chapter or book that I did write, because of my great admiration for the person who asked me to write it.
By Rabbi Aaron I. Reichel, Esq.