This has been a very full week for me. We’ve been having a heat wave, and saw temperatures as high as 39º in Jerusalem. That is unusually hot for us. And aside from that, there have been some very shocking things in the news. Of course, everything is relative, and what may be shocking and earth shaking to me, might not seem worthy of much interest somewhere else. In our country, we usually call this time, the cucumber season, and it is well known that sometimes the journalists have to scrounge around for a human interest story to fill the pages of the newspaper. Because of that, it came as even more of a surprise that every day brought screaming headlines, and mind boggling stories from our neighbors and fellow citizens.
And since these things are occupying my mind right now, it is hard for me to write about the subjects that I usually choose to share with my friends on this blog. Yet, at the same time, I find it hard to believe that my readers would have any interest in those things that have occupied my thoughts and feelings for the last week. In fact, I was tempted not to write anything at all. Perhaps, just to share a picture or two, and let it go at that. But I am a creature of habit, and it is my habit to have a little talk with you, at least once a week. So I’ll try to share with you one of these stories… a story that meant a lot to me.
We had a rabbi in our town that was thought of as one of the greatest students of his generation. He dedicated himself to study, and from the time he was a teenager, he used to study all the time. Day and night. His name is Rabbi Elyahiv. You’ve probably never heard of him. Because though he was thought of, as an extraordinary wise man, and a great scholar, he was very modest and never cared much for the spotlight. He married the daughter of one of our favorite Rabbis here, the man we used to call ‘the convicts’ rabbi’ because he was always going to the jail to try to encourage and give solace to those behind bars. Mrs. Elyashiv, used to try and take care of all the work in the house, and all of his routine obligations too. She worked all the time, yet also managed to raise twelve children who all turned out well. They lived a very modest existence. Their home was a small apartment with minimal furniture, and they didn’t change it with the passing of the years. Occasionally, politicians and people of state would visit the man, and they would speak of his very minimalistic apartment; the simple chairs and table. One minister who visited him, mentioned that he was astounded that anyone in the country still lived so simply.
Rabbi Elyashiv was made a rabbi, and afterwards was appointed a judge in the highest religious court of the land. In the 1980s, he disagreed with a majority ruling, and quit. Since that time, he has continued as a rabbi, but has sought no other office, nor has he argued publicly with those who held office, or condemned the decisions of others, or spoken in derision of those he did not agree with. He wrote a number of books, but they were published under the names of his students; books of a religious or scholarly nature. As the years went by, more and more of the people in the religious community would seek his opinion on religious question. His authority became great. But only because he was wise and learned, and not because he held any special office. This week he died, after a difficult case of pneumonia, complicated by chronic heart disease. He had asked of his students, that no one make any speeches at his funeral. He just wanted to be buried like a regular guy. But there was someone in his family that just couldn’t withstand the temptation, and gave a speech anyway. You see, the moment people can, they do whatever they want to do. It’s hard to trust anyone.
He was buried the night after he died, as is the custom in Jerusalem. We usually bury someone on the same day he died. 250,000 people came to the funeral. There were people ~ not family… but those who saw him as a father to the entire community, who tore their clothes in mourning. Many of the streets of our city were completely blocked. He was buried, and then everyone went home. He died at the age of 102.
I’m looking forward to a quiet Sabbath.