Lessons From My Grandfather

Yesterday my grandfather Rabbi Shlomoh Schneur Zalman ben Michoel passed on. He radiated an ethereal glow, with Rabbi Solomon Shechter’s daughter, a professor in Judaism describing him as a Baal Shem Tov in our times.


But mainly my grandfather’s self description (upon my personal request) was genuinely very simplistic. “I am not a great scholar (though he had pretty much studied ninety years straight) I am not a great Oived (though his heartfelt prayers were melodious) I am a simple person, I do what a Jew is instructed to do.”


This mirrors a similar statement I asked him – trying to uncover the secret to how such a noble loving person is fashioned – so I asked him what he took from his education by the Chassidic giants of yesteryear in the Chassidic homeland of Russia? “When I was ten” he replied “Michoel Teitelbaum taught me that within our minds we have both a good and evil inclination (the Yetzer Tov and Yetzer Hara) thus we need to observe our thoughts and beat the evil.”


And thus ninety years of beating his Yetzer Hara had a most beautiful effect, like a diamond polished for ninety years, his face, demeanor and presence, radiated genuine warmth, love, care and unconditional concern for all people.

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July 2011
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