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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Why more than 100,000 attended his funeral

By Jonathan Rosenblum


Partial view of the funeral as it wound its way through Jerusalem's narrow streets


Who was the remarkable man whose passing inspired such grief?


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Two reporters, Israel correspondents from international secular publications, called the other day. Each was seeking the "truth" about supposed controversies within the fervently-Orthodox world.

I told both the same thing: Stop wasting your time on fringe groups and trivial issues. If you want to understand the "ultra-Orthodox" community, first find out why over a 100,000 people attended the funeral of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, with tens of thousands of adults sobbing openly and unashamedly. If you want to understand a person or a community, observe what he or they honor: "[A] person [reveals himself] according to what he praises" (Proverbs 26:21).

Who was the remarkable man whose passing inspired such grief?

When Rabbi Finkel took over the reins of Jerusalem's Mirrer Yeshiva from his father-in-law, Rabbi Beinish Finkel, zt"l, in 1990, he had already been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. Many wondered how he could carry the burden of a yeshiva (rabbinical academy) that numbered 1,000 married and unmarried students. Yet under his leadership the yeshiva expanded rapidly. New buildings were built; another branch was started in a community outside Tel Aviv. One sage quipped that Rabbi Nosson Tzvi might as well put a roof over the entire neighborhood and call it Mirrer Yeshiva. Today, 6,000 students learn in Mirrer Yeshiva's many study halls, making it the largest yeshiva since the closing of the Talmud, perhaps the largest ever.

"Even when I lie down, I can't rest because of the trembling," from Parkinson's Disease, he told one of his brothers-in-law, "so I think of ways to spread Torah." Our Sages say that the Ark carried those who carried it. And so it was with Rabbi Nosson Tzvi. After one long flight to Los Angeles, a crying stewardess told those who came to the airport to meet him, "Promise me you'll never let him do this again. How could you do this to this holy man?" When people accused his brothers-in-law of "shlepping him" on grueling trips, they replied, "We don't shlep him, he shleps us."

He used his debilitating disease to build more Torah and to teach. A rich businessman refused his request for a large donation. "I can't," he said. The sage told him, "I can't either, but I do anyway." He received the donation.

THE SAGE AND THE CEO
Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, was once was brought to see Rabbi Finkel, along with a group of prominent businessman. They had not been told of his Parkinson's, and instinctively averted their eyes when he entered the room. Soon they heard a bang on the table and Rabbi Nosson Tzvi commanding them, "Look at me." "I know you are all busy men," he continued, "so I'll be brief. What is the most important lesson of the Holocaust?"

He proceeded to describe the situation of the Jews arriving in Auschwitz and other death camps, after being packed into cattle cars for days, without water or facilities of any kind, and then being separated from their loved ones. When the lucky ones reached a barracks, they were given one blanket for six people. They could choose to share it or each one could try to grab it for himself. They chose the former. "The greatest lesson of the Holocaust," he concluded, "is the triumph of the human spirit. Now, each of you return to America and share your blanket with five others."


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Someone once asked him for advice on how to learn Torah, even amidst afflictions. Rabbi Nosson Tzvi told him that he didn't know: "I learn with great simcha [joy]." He refused to take the strongest medicines to control his disease for fear they would cloud his mind or rob him of his memory. The sage often learned in a freezing room to be able to meet his daily quotas in learning.

When he mounted the podium in Mirrer Yeshiva to give a lecture in the main study hall, he had to hold fast to two shtenders (lecterns) to remain upright and he never knew whether he would be able to control his tongue sufficiently to speak. Once he was thrown by a violent tremor from his position lying on a couch onto the floor, in the middle of learning with a student. Even before he could be helped up, he was asking his study partner to repeat the interpretation he had been offering.

Just as one would not begrudge the money spent to ransom a loved one, he viewed his ordeals as trivial price to pay for teaching and building Torah, and not as self-sacrifice. Everywhere he went, people of all ages rushed to be within his four cubits and witness a soul that had so transcended the limits of the imperfect vessel of his body.

OUR SAGES GIVE several possible explanations for the tests with which a tzaddik ( saintly person) is afflicted. Sometimes those tests serve to actualize his potential; sometimes to publicize his greatness. I will never forget the first time I saw Rabbi Nosson Tzvi, over thirty years ago, at the wedding of a former student. I had no idea who he was, but I could not take my eyes off of him. A Mona Lisa smile did not leave his lips the entire time I watched. It conveyed goodness and love and joy in a student's lifecycle event. I asked someone, "Who is that man who looks like an angel?" The special qualities were already there.

NATTIE, THE CUBS FAN
With love he inspired thousands of young men to reach heights that they never dreamed possible. In Mirrer Yeshiva, under Rabbi Nosson Tzvi, it did not matter where you were from, your family connections, or how high your IQ: Rabbi Nosson Tzvi was prepared to help each student reach his potential. He never forgot that he arrived at Mirrer Yeshiva, a lanky teenager called Nattie from a coed Jewish high school in Chicago, wearing a Cubs hat (though, he quipped, the golf clubs were left behind.) From his days as a young newly wed until he was felled by a sudden heart attack, he made it a practice to establish study sessions with any student who requested one.

A senior sage several decades Rabbi Nosson Tzvi's senior once came to visit him. Despite Rabbi Nosson Tzvi's protests, the older scholar insisted it was incumbent upon him to visit someone who knew 3,000 students by name. "I'm not sure if I know each one by name," Reb Nosson Tzvi said, "but I love each one." All those who entered the Mir found out that it was true.

A ba'al teshuva (one who reclaims his heritage through observance) recently arrived in Mirrer Yeshiva from Ohr Somayach could not find the special penitential prayers in an unfamiliar prayerbook. His humiliation was rising by the second, until Rabbi Nosson Tzvi, who had somehow noticed his discomfiture, came rushing over with a siddur open to the proper page. Such stories are legion: Rabbi Nosson Tzvi checking on young disciples in their sealed rooms during the Gulf War; Rabbi Nosson Tzvi personally taking a lad who fainted in a lecture to a doctor and then insisting that he move into the crowded Finkel home; Rabbi Nosson Tzvi looking for an apartment to rent with a student about to be married; Rabbi Nosson Tzvi, just back from a fundraising trip abroad, crying at the beginning of his Friday Chumash (Bible) class because "I missed you all so much."

Those who were sure the sage would not remember them from years before in the yeshiva were astonished to be greeted as "My Chaim," in a long receiving line, or to be reminded of a difficulty they had posed to the sage a decade earlier. Some sought to avoid imposing on Rabbi Nosson to officiate at their weddings, which entailed him arriving in a wheel chair and being assisted by at least two others to the chuppah. To no avail. Inevitably they would receive a call in the middle of wedding that the Rabbi Nosson was outside and wanted to wish the new couple Mazel Tov. A former student from America begged him not to attend his son's bar mitzvah at the Western Wall. "I missed your wedding fifteen years ago; I'm not missing the bar mitzvah," Rabbi Nosson Tzvi told him.

"Not a blade of grass grows unless an angel strikes it and says, 'Grow," our Sages teach. Rabbi Nosson Tzvi was that angel for tens of thousands of students and dozens of promising young scholars whom he appointed to give classes in Mirrer Yeshiva. But above all, it was his smile, the way he grasped your hand in both of his.

Mendy entered Mirrer Yeshiva after an indifferent career in other rabbinic schools. But Rabbi Nosson Tzvi was always ready to provide another chance. Towards the end of a long five-month winter zman (semester), the sage announced that he would like the unmarried students to commit to studying Talmud 12 hours a day, without any breaks. It never occurred to Mendy that the sage could mean him. A few days later, Mendy was approached and asked why his name was not on the sign-up.

Mendy could not believe that he had noticed the absence of his name among hundreds of names. But when he saw the Rabbi Nosson Tzvi was serious, he too signed up. The first days were very difficult. But after dropping into bed exhausted on the third night of the new regime, Mendy found himself dreaming about the Talmud in his sleep. The next morning he told this surrogate father what had happened. Rabbi Nosson Tzvi started dancing with him spontaneously in the packed study hall.

Now you know why we are weeping.

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JWR contributor Jonathan Rosenblum is founder of the Jerusalem-based Jewish Media Resources. A respected commentator on Israeli politics, society, culture and the Israeli legal system, who speaks frequently on these topics in the United States, Europe, and Israel, his articles appear regularly in numerous Jewish periodicals in the United States and Israel. Rosenblum is also the author of seven biographies of major modern Jewish figures. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Yale Law School.

© 2011, Jonathan Rosenblum