Tuesday, November 30, 2021

I was mesmerized by the family hespedim and those of Rabbi Dr. Berman and Rav Herschel Schachter. Rabbi Berman “nailed” it with his comment that Rebbe took out the vav in Torah u’Madda. Rebbe had no need for this vav. To him, it was all just Torah, his unique synthesis of the Brisker analysis of his Rebbe, Rav Yosher Ber Soleveichik, zt”l, and the Halachic applications of “the schver,” the Posek haDor HaRav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l. The madda was not incremental or complimentary to the Torah, rather it was one and the same.

I learned nothing new per se from the insights of the maspidim because Rebbe was a “book” and “WYSIWYG”—what you see is what you get. He never shied away from controversy and spoke his mind freely in shiur and over any medium just the same, irrespective of who was listening or might feel uncomfortable with his position. If he felt it, he spoke it, and you heard it. Over the years, I have spoken with shiur alumni both older and younger than me and I’ve heard the same themes over and over again. Rebbe was who he was, he taught the same, and imparted the same knowledge and values (and jokes) regardless of the decade in which you were in his shiur.

I noted to myself the way in which his sons and sons-in-law referred to “Daddy,” as he was affectionately known to them. We basked in the presence of his greatness daily. We knew of his brilliance in all matters, had access to (and from) Rav Moshe Feinstein, and at times would miss shiur for a few days due to some “emergency” in the lab (at the cusp of a cure for a dreaded disease), a meeting with Congress or some other critical communal need. We would hear “Boys, I haven’t slept since you saw me last.” Keeping in mind that I was in his shiur when he was already in his sixties, he had more energy than those less than half his age. Nevertheless, similar to being “Daddy” or “Sabba” to his family, to us, he was (just) “Rebbe”. He was our Rebbe; we loved him, he loved us. We called him and he attended our simchas as he would his own family’s. We could, and indeed did, speak with him unfettered and unintimidated, about anything.

Shiur was “alive”—entertaining due to Rebbe’s wit and sense of humor, but the most amazing part was that it was Halacha l’ma’aseh. All of it. Every second of it. There was no aggadata or obscure Gemara that did not have a l’ma’aseh point. This highlighted Rebbe’s “realness”—he was a true and honest and real person. Everything was about the metzius and that metzius impacted and reflected Halachic reality. Is Shabbos over? I don’t know. Poke chazi—go look outside. Do you see three stars? OK. Shabbos is over. The guy next to you does not see three stars so, for him, Shabbos is not over. Simple.

This was Rebbe’s essence. He was a “real” and pragmatic person, posek and rebbe. He will be missed by all. May he be a meilitz yosher for all of us. Yehi zichro baruch.

Danny Wisotsky
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