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Friday, January 21, 2022
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I would like to thank the doctors, nurses and medical staff at Mount Sinai, who treated my father with the utmost love and respect. I would like to thank all the people who helped us set up the funeral, the trip to and from Israel and to all the friends and relatives with the outpouring of love and support over the past couple of days. To Francis lots of love, thank you for your dedication and concern for both of my parents.

I would like to thank Robert and Rita, David and Gita, Alb and Nancy and Russel and Ronallee. You have treated my parents as your own. I could not have asked for better brothers and sisters. You have helped them in ways I can’t even describe. Your devotion, daily help and love have made my parents feel at home in Miami over the past 19 years.

The Gemara tells us at the rav’s funeral, one of his leading students, Rav Adah Bar Ahavah, tore kriah as he was very close to his rabbi. Upon the return from the funeral the student ate the seudas havrah, the mourner’s meal on two sides of a river. When they were going to bentch, no one was sure if they could join together for Zimun. At that point RABA tore kriah again, saying, “We need our rabbi. We are not able to deal with simple laws without him. We need his guidance, and yet now we are a generation without a leader.

When I graduated law school, I was asked to give the invocation. Not only did I not know what to say, I really had no idea what it was. I called my father and asked for some help. After telling me that a child of 3 knows what it is, he explained the concept and then proceeded to dictate my speech on the spot, no questions asked. No prep time needed; everything was stored in his brain. No need to consult Google. Abba, I really could have used some help today with my speech.

My father was the ultimate orator. He could elucidate, articulate, illuminate and then postulate. When my great-aunts died, Aunt Sarah in Mobile, Alabama and Aunt Celia in New Orleans, we flew down, did shmirah with the body and then he amazed them with his speech. Abba, unfortunately I will never be able to do you justice. The only one able to do you justice is you. I ask mechila for my inept attempt to sum up your greatness in the six minutes I have been allotted.

In this week’s parsha the Torah says, “And these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt with Yaakov, each man and his family came.” The Chofetz Chaim asked why the Jewish people took the spiritual risks of going en masse to Egypt. Egypt was known as being an amoral society and an amoral land. One would have thought that, given such a reputation, it was not the type of place where one would want to raise a nice Jewish family.

The Chofetz Chaim said that the pasuk answers this question with two words: “with Yaakov.” Since they went down with the presence of the Patriarch Jacob, they had an anchor and an antidote to guarantee that nothing detrimental would happen to them spiritually. Yaakov would be a shield in the face of the influences of Egypt.

The importance of the presence of Yaakov can be illustrated with the following story: The Chofetz Chaim wanted to live out his final days in Eretz Yisroel, and decided that he wanted to make aliyah several years before he died. However, Rav Chaim Ozer told him that he was not permitted to leave Europe. Rav Ozer asked: “What will happen to all the Jews in Europe without you?” The Chofetz Chaim responded that he was already an old man who was no longer able to go around and speak to people and have an impact. “I can no longer do any good for anybody in Europe.”

Rav Ozer answered: “When the grandfather sits at the head of the table, everyone seated at the table acts and behaves differently.” The grandfather does not need to raise his voice or threaten “I’m going to send you to your room.” The mere presence of the grandfather at the head of the table has an effect on everyone. Rav Ozer told the Chofetz Chaim, “We need you in Europe—not to speak, not to write, not to give classes, but we need you to sit at the head of the table.” As long as the grandfather is seated at the head of the table, everyone is kept in line.

In our family we had several zadies who have changed our lives. My father’s namesake, Label Gordon (his maternal grandfather), was a melamed in Virginia for seven years prior to moving to New Orleans. He moved there around 1890, and met his wife shortly thereafter. Side note: At their wedding, my father’s paternal grandparents attended the wedding of his maternal grandparents. This man was a powerhouse. He remained frum and brought up five frum daughters in pre-1900 America. My grandmother Shayna Dulitz was just as powerful. The reason we are all frum today is due to their determination. My father, following in their footsteps, was just as determined. Our zadie guided us, taught us how to live a life as a Jew.

My father, Avii Moriri, HCM (Hareni Kaparas Mishkavo) was born on August 1, 1933, Tisha B’av, in New Orleans. When he was 6 years old, he had an eye infection and lost the sight in his right eye. Despite his limitations, he was able to see more with his one eye than most people can see with two eyes. He now shares a yahrzeit with the Rambam, 20 Teves.

When he graduated high school, he was valedictorian of the entire city. He was offered full scholarships to Tulane and other institutions. Yet my father chose to pursue Torah in its purest form. He grew up with little Jewish education and within eight years he was a musmach of YU. He was very proud of his connection to his rabbi, the rav, zt”l.

When I was a child, about 6 or 7 years old, I remember being shlepped to Rabbi Soloveichick’s Tuesday night lecture. My father sat on the immediate left of the rav and I, with my book, sat next to him. I remember that the place was packed and that each time the rav needed to quote a pasuk, he would turn to my father and say, “Label, vos is the full possik?” And in turn my father quoted without hesitation the entire paragraph until the rav said, “Enough.”

My father had an amazing memory. Contrary to popular belief, it was not photographic. My father had the most amazing ability to shut out the world and learn Torah. His hasmadah was second to none.

Today is my birthday. I am 56 years old. 47 years ago, my father took me and a couple of friends to Yankee stadium for my birthday. It was Bat Day. I still have the bat in my garage; it is a Roy White bat. It is cracked in many places but has a special place in my heart. Picture this: six or seven 9-year olds screaming at a game. But all my friends said that my father never looked up once from his Gemara during the entire game. When we needed to get drinks, I elbowed my father, and it was as if I awoke him from a trance. He was totally immersed in the sugyah.

In Parshas Vayeshev, when Yosef is confronted with Potiphar’s wife, Rashi says that he sees deyuknu shel aviv. He sees his father’s face, and that helps him overcome his temptation. When I think of my father, I see him sitting diagonally on the edge of the recliner, with his small Gemara in hand. He has a button-down shirt and those weird shorts on. The Gemara is no more than 10 inches from his face. He would do this with the TV on, people talking—he just learned. He had the amazing ability to focus. When we would go anywhere, he always had his Gemara.

The truth is, my father was bigger than life. He taught thousands of students, but he influenced tens of thousands.

Whenever people hear the name Dulitz, I get the inevitable question: “Are you related to Rabbi Dulitz?” In recent years I have responded, “Yes, I am Rabbi Dulitz. Do I know you?” Then there would be a quizzical look, and the follow-up, “But you look so young.” I would of course respond, “Moisturizers can do wonders.” After another moment, I would then say, “Oh you mean the real Rabbi Dulitz; that is my father.” The next five minutes would be spent quoting Manter hall, Shakespeare line and verse, of course. Each conversation ends with the person saying my father changed their life in one way or another. Some students would then complain that their parents were on speed dial and would get the weekly update: “Again you failed.” Not every student could appreciate my father in high school, but in hindsight, all agree that he was the best teacher they ever had.

Even the students who were not privileged to know my father would comment, “I never had him as a teacher, but all my friends had him,” and the storytelling would start. and start. I had a friend in college who went to MTA but avoided my father for obvious reasons. On his last day of high school senior year, he came to my father and asked if he could sit in for one day. “How can I graduate without the ‘Rabbi Dulitz Experience’?” My father kicked him out, but even he understood greatness.

My father “inspired the uninspired.” He was a man ahead of his time. He was able to teach 30 individual students as if each one had a private teacher. When my father and I would bump into students from 25 years earlier, they would say, “Excuse me, Rabbi Dulitz. I was in your class in 19…” My father would look and tell him his final grade. The astonished student would thank him. All students say that Rabbi Dulitz changed their lives in one way or another.

To quote Hamilton, who lives who dies who tells your story. Abba, we will forever tell your story; it will never be forgotten. We will try to live up to your expectation of excellence. Thank you for pushing me when I did not appreciate it. Abba, you changed my life. You molded me and made me into the man I am today. You changed the entire family’s trajectory, and we will forever be grateful.

There are many times that I learn or teach a Gemara and hear your voice in my head. You are giving me a running commentary of what is the next step, how I can improve my teaching and how you would have done it. Zato Bo Dod Ubiyu, BaBetch, God’s phone number. They are ingrained in my mind forever.

We have lost our zadie, but we can never forget what he stood for and his love for Torah. Not only did he teach Torah, but he lived Torah. Everything for the Almighty. I know that I will not ever live up to your expectations, but I promise I will try to get there.

May you be a malitz yosher for our family as you join your parents and three sisters in shamayim. Te-hay nishmaso tzror betur hachaim.

By Rabbi Elchanan Dulitz

 

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