It was a joyous event this past Shabbat. Hashem made great miracles for Dr. Shlomo Zalman (Saul) Bodenheimer, and the time came for him to recite Birkat HaGomel (from a safe distance). I told his daughter Debbie Shushan that her father looked so much better. Debbie responded that appearances are not the determining factor. The blood tests, she said, are what tell the true story.
Debbie’s insight struck a chord. The external aspects of life are not where the truth lies. The truth is found in the internal side of life. שֶׁקֶר הַחֵן, וְהֶבֶל הַיֹּפִי אִשָּׁה יִרְאַת-ה’, הִיא תִתְהַלָּל.
Kalev ben Yefuneh is the only one of the 12 spies who visited Chevron. For the others, Chevron is a hole in the wall. It is, as Chazal describe it, טרשין בארץ ישראל, the lowest quality of land in Eretz Yisrael. Kalev visits Chevron because he discerns the inner quality of Chevron. The others sadly chose not to look beyond its deceptive outer appearance.
Sadly, the same reality continues today. Observant Jews, generally speaking, make the effort to visit Chevron (exercising proper caution), but most non-observant Jews do not make the effort. I actually heard an Israeli government minister describe Chevron as a “chor,” a hole in the wall over which it is not worth making a fuss.
The religious personality sees beyond the secular veneer of the world and discerns Hashem hiding behind the latticework. הִנֵּה-זֶה עוֹמֵד, אַחַר כָּתְלֵנוּ—מַשְׁגִּיחַ מִן-הַחַלֹּנוֹת, מֵצִיץ מִן-הַחֲרַכִּים.
This week has been exceptionally difficult for Shaarei Orah. After a long struggle, our beloved Shimon Aiash was taken from this world.
Externals do not capture the essence of Shimon. One who met Shimon simply saw a friendly man with a smiling family surrounding him. However, at his funeral broadcasted from Israel we discovered part of the inner life of Shimon.
It turns out that Shimon was exceptionally giving. Rabbanim in Eretz Yisrael reached out to him to help them support struggling individuals and Shimon responded generously.
When reflecting on the funeral with our gabbai Shalom Shushan, Shalom revealed that Shimon was the anonymous sponsor of many occasions at Shaarei Orah.
Who knew all of this about Shimon? I spoke often with Shimon and he told me many things, but he never revealed all of these mitzvot he performed under
Hashem is a model of modesty. Yishayahu HaNavi describes Hashem as א-ל מסתתר, a hiding God. Many sing the Pizmon א-ל מסתתר בשפריר חביון celebrating Hashem’s modesty at se’udah shelishit. The power of Hashem lies in His subtlety.
The high priority we accord צניעות is due to its reflecting Hashem’s צניעות. When we dress and act with צניעות we empower and ennoble ourselves by emulating the secret to Hashem’s true strength.
At the funeral, the rosh yeshiva of the kollel reported that when Shimon visited the kollel he helped, he sat down quietly to learn Torah in the back of the room. Shimon’s behavior runs counter to the prevailing culture where the conventional wisdom is “if you have it flaunt it.” But we believe that סוף דבר הכל נשמע, only at the very end is the full picture to be revealed.
Shimon’s modesty never detracted from the esteem in which we held him. Just the opposite is true. We now hold him and his family in even higher regard due to his modesty. We praise and admire Hashem’s modesty and we similarly hold Shimon in great esteem.
אדם יראה לעיניים וה’ יראה ללבב. Human nature is to see only the externals but Hashem sees the heart, the inner life. Our task is to transcend human tendency and elevate ourselves to Hashem’s way of looking at the world.
Sefer Mishlei speaks of תפוחי זהב במשכיות כסף, golden apples encased in silver mesh. While the silver mesh is valuable, the true worth is left hidden on the inside. This pasuk captures our beloved Shimon. During his lifetime we valued him as silver. In his passing, we now appreciate the gold.
Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.