a hot week

looking out from our backyard, Nechama

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.

some cats take the side road

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.

a modest cat

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.

Nechama checks to see who’s coming to join us

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.

הרב אלישיב
the rabbi

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.


64 responses to “a hot week

  1. Thank you, Shimon…I hope you have a quiet Sabbath, as well….

    • And thank you too, Scott. It was very good to turn off everything, and to enjoy a beautiful day with friends. Feeling much better today.

      • You are most welcome…it is almost a little miracle when we can disconnect and simply be among real people…or ourselves, on a beautiful day. I’m glad you are doing much better. 🙂

  2. Shimon, I am so sorry to hear of the death of this great man. What an amazing life he had, and how wonderful the impact was he had on so many lives. 102 years, how incredible! His teachings and thoughts will carry on through his writings and students. One this great is never forgotten.
    Thank you for sharing the story of this life; yes, on this side of the world we hear about the killiings and bombings, but not usually the good stories of love and a life well lived.

    • Well, Angeline, we have to be realistic. It is no tragedy when a person that old dies… especially if he’s lived a good and satisfying life. I mentioned that even so, I was sorry to see him go, but it is a sorrow that is also an acceptance of the nature of life on this earth. It is good though, to contemplate the simple life of a great man.

  3. This summer has been unusually cruel this year, its july should rain but sun still scorching life down here.
    Sorry for the loss Shimon, wish peace to every one

    • Thank you, Soma. Your wish of peace is much appreciated. Sorry that your summer is harder than usual. We don’t usually have rain in summer… but it does seem that it’s unusually hot these days. Still, we’re well equipped to withstand the heat. Best wishes to you too.

  4. Happy w/e , Shimon … I enjoyed your article as always … kisses and purrs for Nechema 🙂 … and peace to you and yours … always, cat.

  5. I met him when I lived there; he was a gentle soul. I am sad that religion is so politicized everywhere. Instead of offering solace, it is more often the source of conflict. As for what people do after we pass on, we have little control over others when we are alive, so we probably should assume that after we are gone, everyone will act according to his/her inclinations — we are unlikely to object.

    • Politics may emphasize conflicting views… but that has nothing to do with religion. And those conflicts that you mention, are the key to democracy, and freedom of speech, and other basic rights that you Americans hold so dear. Perhaps the real problem is a lack of respect for differing opinions, and for the next man, in discussions of such subjects. Usually, when enlightened people discuss differences of opinions, they don’t let their emotions carry them to extremes. Thank you for your comment, Marilyn.

  6. A lovely testament to an exemplary life; thank you, Shimon, and the blessing of cool winds.

  7. Thank you for sharing this story, Shimon. I am so sorry for your great loss. It is good to hear of a man living as he did, for this is the example I think many of us need. Peace

    • It is not such a great loss, Melissa. We know that no one lives for ever, and he did have a good, long life. But, as you say, he was an example to many of us, and that’s why I chose to tell his story. Thank you for your comment.

  8. I’m so glad you shared this with us Shimon. I’m sorry for the loss though having reached the age of 102, I can imagine Rabbi Elyashiv was very tired and perhaps ready to rest at last. He leaves a legacy through his writings and his wisdom will live on through his students. What an incredible man. Enjoy your Shabbat Shimon. My thoughts are with you.

    • Thank you very much, Chillbrook. You’re quite right. It is a wonder that he lived this long, and continued to study and teach till the end. I appreciate your good wishes, and am glad to report that I had a beautiful day off, and am returning with renewed strength, to start the new week.

  9. It surprises me that so many people can attend a funeral on such short notice. Amazing and very sad for the loss of someone special.

    • Our city, is in many ways, a large community. And such an event, is usually handled quite well. As it happens, it is also the capitol of our country, and so sometimes city streets are blocked in the middle of the day as some foreign president or other VIP makes his way from place to place accompanied by a big entourage. That is a little harder to take, for all of us have our own business to take care of. But we try to suffer with a smile.

  10. Thank you for sharing this small portion of Rabbi Elyahiv’s life with us. It uplifts me to know there are/were people like him.

    • Yes, Genie. There are others like him, still living, and still enlightening us with their wisdom. They might get less publicity than certain ‘celebrities’. But they are well loved in our town. Thank you very much for your comment.

  11. – To me it seems like Jerusalem is always hot, but then the sun goes down and the wind comes blowing up the hill side…

    – That’s a thing I like about Judaism & Islam (if you compare them to Christian customs): they bury the dead immediately after they’re dead. There’s more emotions in the funerals.

    • Jerusalem sits on a mountain top, so it’s not very hot usually. The weather is quite pleasant, though it does get cold in winter. A heat wave like this is rare, but then it cools down again, and we go on with our lives. Yes, we do bury our dead very quickly. I suppose that the emotions have a life of their own. But it is a good feeling to bury the dead, and get on with life. Thank you for your comment, Cardinal.

      • I lived in Jerusalem for a summer (studied there) and I found it to be quite warm, but of course it’s not the same type of pressing, wet heat that you get in the low lands around Tel Aviv.

  12. What lovely words about a wonderful man. This is such a good example that a worthy life is not about how much money you make or the car you drive. It is about the legacy you leave behind. I am sorry the loss.have a good and peacefulShabbos.

    • Yes, Jacquie. That is exactly what I wanted to share. We are so bombarded by silly commercial messages, that we often forget what is really important in life. So it is to our advantage to study the lives of wise men, and those who are lead by values and ideals. Thank you for your blessing. May you have a beautiful week.

  13. A lovely tribute Shimon. Do you think the family was unaware that he didn’t want any speeches? Perhaps he only told the students?

  14. A very nice, simple tribute to what sounds like a truly amazing person. I hope he was warmed by the knowledge that he touched the hearts of so many people.
    I also enjoyed the pictures of the cats; Nechama looks like a Russian Blue cat that I had as a child.

    • Thank you, shoes. I think he had a very good life, because his work was what he loved most. And the people around him reflected his very positive outlook on life. Yes, Nechama is a Russian Blue, and I’m glad to hear that she reminded you of childhood pleasures.

  15. Thank you Shimon, for sharing this moving story of a humble and well lived life. The measure of Rabbi Elyashiv’s greatness is that in spite of his requests for a anonymous and ordinary funueral …. almost a quarter of a million people came into the streets to honor him. Few people can resist the temptation of pomp and show, few can resists proselytizing and even fewer can resist criticizing those they don’t agree with.

    Rabbi Elyashiv was one of the few teachers I would have been honored to have met and to have sat at his feet to listen to his wisdom.

    Peace to you and comfort on this Sabbath.

    • I think you understand well, what it was that made us proud of our teacher, who was beloved by many. Thank you for your comment. It is always good to hear from you, Nikki. My best wishes for a beautiful week.

  16. The news from Israel is important and shocking and terrifying for the rest of the world. I listen and I am afraid. Israel is such a tiny country in such a volatile world. And, she is important to us in the west.

    That is a beautiful portrait of the rabbi. You are right. It is hard to trust. I followed my husband’s wishes, but few understood. No matter. It was his life and his death and his legacy. The final thing I could do for him was a small thing to me but a significant thing to the community. It is interesting to me that Dean’s wishes and the rabbi’s wishes were identical. A secular man and a holy man share the same philosophy.

    Nechama is beautiful in the photographs. Enjoy your quiet weekend.

    • Thank you, George, for your kind words about my country. Sometimes, it’s very hard for us to see ourselves as others see us… and I hope I’m wrong about the way I feel others see us. Glad you enjoyed my story of the rabbi. I don’t think one has to be a great sage in order to live one’s life by values and modesty. From what I’ve already read about Dean, I get the distinct impression that he didn’t allow himself to be lead by the fashion of the day. Nechama is as beautiful in real life as she is in pictures. She is a source of pleasure. Thank you for your good wishes, and my very best to you.

  17. thank you for sharing what was on your mind Shimon, glad you did and enjoyed learning about this great man..

  18. Lovely tribute to the Rabbi. I am glad you chose to share what you have been thinking. I hope your Sabbath was quiet and peaceful.

  19. I’m glad you chose to write this post, Shimon. It was a touching and informative glimpse into the life of an intellectual who made a difference in the lives of others. I work with older adults, so I know firsthand that families often do just what they want to despite the wishes of the one who has passed. 250,000 people at one’s funeral is an amazing show of respect. I’m sorry for the loss to your town.

    • Thank you very much for your understanding and sympathy, George. Of course, we are well aware of the limitations of mortality. So it wasn’t so much the sorrow, that pulled all of these people. As you said, it was the respect. And this collective respect brought happiness to the hearts of all of his students.

  20. I am sorry for the loss of this beloved and respected man, and hope that your weekend will bring you quiet moments of contemplation and peace. I am especially glad that you chose to write something that reflected your experience in real time. Wishing you a peaceful Sabbath.

    • It was a very beautiful Sabbath, N, And I’m starting out the week with new strengths. Very glad you enjoyed the post, and always glad to share with you.

  21. What a special man he was, he obviously touched so many, including you. I of course started reading your post and instantly thought of Bulgaria, but no you took us somewhere else – a gentle piece of writing Shimon. And reading the comments it seems you did have a peacefull weekend.

    • Yes, it was a very strange week, Claire… and the terror attack in Bulgaria came on top of a number of events that I found really hard to digest. One of the worst is hearing about the slaughter every day, happening in Syria, our next door neighbor. To see a government sending tanks to kill their own people and indiscriminate shooting… and yet the world does not seem to be too troubled by it all. It makes me very pessimistic. But in the end, I chose to write about something that had as little hope attached to it… there still are men and women like the rabbi… Thank you very much for your comment.

  22. Thank you for sharing this story. We need to hear of good men, who live simply and truthfully. In the news, we hear mostly of people who do evil things, so it’s like a cup of cold water to hear about the rabbi.

  23. Shimon you have paid Rabbi Elyashiv a beautiful tribute here. May his soul rest in peace.

  24. Well Shimon,enjoy the cucumber season! Interesting tag i think. Best wishes for the week.

    • I suppose the best enjoyment of the cucumber season, is when there’s no news to trouble us… but that’s not happening. Thanks for your good wishes.

  25. The opening pic of Nechama looking over her domain wasn’t where I thought this post of going. Then again, Nechama looking as if someone is missing is the image. Thanks for the outstanding tribute, however he is not missing because he lives on through his impact of others. Peace to you.

    • Thank you for your kind words regarding the rabbi. Often, my cat stands in for me, when I’m composing a picture… So, here she is… looking out at the beauty of the world.

  26. I am sorry to hear this dear Shimon. Seems that Rabbi was a great soul. Actually he didn’t die, according to your expressions and explanations, he will be alive forever. The death is for the one who wouldn’t be remembered in nice way… Rest in peace for him. I hope you have a quiet Sabbath, dear Shimon. The weather is hot here too, especially with the high humidity! But not 40C degrees… At least not in Istanbul, but in the south and southeast yes… they are same like yours… Your lovely cat and your amazing photography fascinated me again. Blessing and Happiness for you both, and yes, kisses for Nechama! Thank you, love, nia

    • Rest in peace sounds best in such circumstances. Thank you for your good wishes. Even when it gets very hot, I am fortunate enough to have an air conditioner, so it’s something I can live with. Always good to hear from you, and wonderful to visit with you. I hope you know how much I appreciate you… even if I don’t manage to follow your every post.

      • Dear Shimon, you are so nice and I do appreciate you too. You are someone as if I have known you for a long time. You are welcome. I am so glad you are indoor with air conditioner, as me. Thank you so much, I always enjoy and love to hear you. You are one of my great writers in this blogging world. Blessing and Happiness, love, nia

  27. Just today, I found your blog. Your words are eloquent and your spirit, sweet. I look forward to future visits ~ Paula

  28. 102. that alone is admirable, regardless of the accomplishments. was he someone you spoke with? would you know if his mind was still sharp even at that age?

    • I never spoke with him, Rich. I was in awe of him. Awe is used very loosely these days, so I hope you understand what I’m saying as I mean it. But I listened to him… even at that old age, and his words not only made sense, but usually, he used much fewer words to say what made others stumble when they tried to express it. He was a wealth of knowledge till his last day. He was happy in his work, rich in that he was satisfied with all he had; wise, in that he learned from every man… a true sage, and I felt honored to live in one city with him, and at the same time.

  29. He sounds like a great and good man. Thank you for sharing his story. I’m saddened for the world at his loss.

    • Fortunately, Russ, there are others that follow him. Not only has he left many grandchildren in this world, but many students as well… some of which were able to absorb the essence of what he taught. We’re all here for a while, and then we go… he stayed for more than a little while. Thank you very much for coming by and checking out my blog.

  30. This post surprised me. As I was reading it, I was expecting you to say that he died too young, in his 60’s or so, and yet he died at an old age! It made me think that when one fills our lives with love, admiration or meaning, they always die too soon and too young. The loss is always unexpected. Sorry for your loss, and the loss of the community.

    • Actually, I had no regret that he died. I accept mortality without reservation. There is a sense of loss, but there is also a feeling of satisfaction that he lived a good long life, and was an example to his many students who will continue in his work.

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