Monday, March 28, 2011

Bentching people on Erev Yom Kippur - by Goldie Mellul-Narboni

when i was in seminary i went for yom kippur to your house, for the meal before and i had two friends who didnt have where to eat, so i took them along, at the end of the meal, by bircas habanim, ur father bentched me and he bentched them both too, they were so touched, and i found it amazing that he cared even about people that had nothing to do with him

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Breadth of learning

During Shiva someone noticed an אור שמח on the shelf, which was torn from use. He commented that this may not be the only copy of אור שמח in Crown Heights, but it's surely the only used copy!

Broad knowledge - by Chaya Simon (as told by Yehuda G.)

. The Shabbos before my wedding I spent with Zaidy and the family. During the Shabbos afternoon seudah there were various guests coming. One of the guests said over a chasidishe story and he began the story by saying, "In Stalin's times" etc. etc. and he went on to say his story. As he was speaking I noticed a twinkle in Zaidy's eye. When the person finished the story, Zaidy, with his usual smile, said "the story could be true, however it definitely didn't happen in Stalin's times. The person was adamant, responding to Zaidy that in this and this sefer, which he had just read on Friday, it clearly says this story, and it also says it was in Stalin's time. Zaidy smiles again and he asks one of the kids to go into the next room, and on the third shelf behind one sefer, you will find the sefer this person is quoting. The sefer was bought to the table and the gentleman, with great confidence, opens to the page of the story and shows Zaidy and says, "You see? It clearly says Stalin ...." Zaidy barely glances over at the sefer, and asks the gentleman to read it again slowly. The person realized at that point that the name he saw was "Stalini" not "Stalin", and Zaidy concluded by saying he didn't know the story, he just knew that in that particular time frame there was no way that this story could have happened with Stalin. Zaidy was a tzaddik in every sense of the word. Every person I speak with attests to Zaidy's effect he had on their lives. And the entire world will never be the same without him. May we all be zoiche to see hi soon together with Moshiach

Worked on his Middos - by Chaya Simon (as told by Marcia)

Even more than the way he used his talents, Gedaliah was truly an example in the way to change one's rniddos. You see the person you knew as your Zaidy was very different than the person growing up in our house (and I don't just mean his gray beard). The Gedaliah I remember was always reading. He read at the table, he read in bed, he read while walking down the street. While he did have friends and would spend some time riding his bicycle, he was not a sociable person. It wasn't only that he was filling that remarkable brain with knowledge, it was also a way to avoid having conversations with people. Now that I think of it, I could say that he was a very reserved person and it was simply his natural way to use books as a screen between himself and other people. All that changed after he met and married your wonderful Bubbie. She helped him overcome that quiet reserved nature and enabled him to reach out to people, befriend them, listen to them, help them and even entertain them. While he still read avidly, he was now willing to put down his books and connect with people. He was a wonderful conversationalist who loved to share knowledge with others, both in giving and receiving information. He truly transformed himself. We all must know that the hardest thing to do is change one's middos. Even with all the love and encouragement of others (as your Bubbie gave him) a person can only change his Middos if he truly desires to do so and works against his innate nature. When you think about your Zaydie, I hope you can see how hard he worked to make himself the person he became.

High grades - by Chaya Simon (as told by Marcia)

Now it goes without saying that all of our abilities are a gift from Ha-Shem. In those rare cases where someone is extraordinarily gifted, he has the responsibility to use those gifts in the best possible way. In Gedaliah's case, it was a true Kiddush Ha-Shem. You see, at that time when we Shaffers went to school, there were very few frum families living in Boston. The people of my parent's generation who had experienced World War II and the holocaust went off the derech. My father A.H. was a very rare individual indeed, who was committed to giving his children a Torah education. But he had to face constant criticism from people who told him that he was ruining his children by not giving them a complete education and they would never be able to get into college or get decent jobs. So when Gedaliah became a National Merit Scholar, got the highest possible score on his college boards and was accepted at Harvard and MIT, it gave my father the perfect argument. Just send your children to Yeshiva and they will get a better education than at the fanciest public schools.

Leonard Bernstein - by Chaya Simon (as told by Marcia)

Another example of his modesty is that when he was about 13, the Boston Lubavitz yeshiva was having a very special guest for their annual banquet. Their guest speaker was Leonard Bernstein, the world famous composer and conductor of the New York Philharmonic orchestra. Of course they wanted to show the high scholastic level of the school to their famous guest, so they asked Gedaliah to make a speech. Maestro Bernstein was so impressed with Gedaliah that he went up to him afterwards, shook his hand and spoke to him personally. It really was quite an experience for a young man and I watched Gedaliah's face glow with pride. But he never mentioned it because he didn't want his brother Benzion to feel upset. You see, Bentzion, our musically talented brother, was supposed to attend the banquet as a guest. Since he had dreams of becoming a composer/conductor himself; it really meant a great deal to him to see Maestro Bernstein in person. Unfortunately, a day or so before the banquet Bentzion got sick and had to stay home while his little sister (me) had the unexpected pleasure of going to the banquet and personally witnessing the story I just told you.

Humility - by Chaya Simon (as told by Marcia)

We all know that your Zaidy was a genius, he was a star student at school from the earliest grades. But even though he excelled at all his studies, Gedaliah was always very humble- never ever a show off. It is remarkable because many of his accomplishments were so very outstanding yet he just took it in his stride and concentrated on continuing to do well. In fact, I remember that whenever he took an important exam and my mother A.H. would ask how it went, Gedaliah would always answer that he "flubbed it" - which was our way of saying he had made a mess of it. Of course, when the results came out, he always had the highest scores. The family joke was that as long as he "flubbed it" , he would be fine- we only had to worry if he said that he did well.

Travel - by Chaya Simon (as told by Judy)

In his different travels, for many years he would stop by and see us in Paris on the last Shabbos before going back home to NY. We were very lucky because he would be so excited about all of his adventures and we would hear about them first hand. What always amazed me was how so much of what impressed him, wherever he was, and no matter how many sites or museums he had visited, were the people stories, the yiddel he met in a shul, or the family by whom he had stayed, etc, on whom I am sure he made an everlasting impression.