Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Rabbi Monni Weisberger of Blessed Memory

This is the most painful "essay"  I have ever published on this blog.   It is a Hesped (Eulogy) that I delivered at the funeral of my very dear father in law, Rabbi Monni Weisberger ע"ה, this past Sunday.

It is followed by an achingly beautiful tribute written by my dear daughter Diti on this occasion.  This is then followed by the very heartfelt and well-received words that my dear son Shimshon said at the funeral


     As a Rabbi, I have had the dubious honor of writing and delivering many hespedim. People I knew well, people I knew not so well; people I loved dearly, people I had a more distant relationship with…I had to find the right words to say to honor them and the loved ones they left behind at such a tragic time. It was always a difficult task, but I felt Hashem helping me to put the right words in my unworthy mouth.

     But this is different. . . and so much harder.  I feel at such a loss to find a way to write a fitting tribute to the man I loved more than any other man in the whole world, and who I know loved me deeply and totally. . . Words that could somehow capture the essence of a man who was so multi-faceted: kind, generous, wise, funny, deep, gregarious, knowledgeable, eccentric, bold, unselfish, tolerant yet impatient; opinionated yet accepting of others; an amazing Talmid Chochom (Torah Scholar) whose greatest love of all was learning and living Torah at a very high level of amkus (depth), and  yet who could relate to the simplest of people with his sophistication and charm; a tremendous masmid (diligent scholar) who made time for everyone who needed him and to enjoy life to the fullest; a master storyteller who would hold old and young spellbound for hours with mesmerizing and wonderful recountings of episodes in his amazing life; outspoken and ready to stand for principle while simultaneously deeply modest and self-effacing, never taking credit for himself and always careful to never unnecessarily cause anyone bother or delay; outwardly often grumpy ,but always deep down affectionate. . . It is a huge task.  As Ema would always say, “they don’t make ‘em like that anymore”.  But most of all, to honor the most wonderful and devoted husband, father, grandfather, uncle, friend that I ever met  -- I have never witnessed a more loving and devoted father and grandfather --  a man who truly loved Lonni and me and our kids and all of his family and Klal Yisrael totally, warmly, unconditionally.  His loss is truly unfathomable and irreplaceable

חבל דאבדין ולא משתכחין
לא קם בישראל כמשה עוד
Woe to us to lose a person like whom cannot be found.

I had the privilege of accompanying my father in law z"l as he was honored to
recite a blessing at a wedding in his last public appearance, 3 days before his final injury

     Abba – and you were truly an Abba; a real second father to me – you are probably wanting me to get to the point and finish already.   I must indeed be brief, but
פטור בלא כלום אי אפשר

     As others mentioned, it is a special זכות (merit)  that after the long, long last six  months of  ייסורים (suffering)  he returned his holy Neshamah to his Creator at the very beginning of the Rosh Hashanah, after complete כפרה (Atonement)  for any possible shortcoming was surely achieved.  Surely, he was immediately judged in the book of Tzadikkim Gemurim (the Wholly Righteous) as he completed his task in this world.

     But actually, his passing on Rosh Hashana was fitting in another way as well.  There is an enigmatic verse in the Book of Nehemiah regarding Rosh Hashanah.

     Ezra and Nechemiah, without going into the story, were faced with a people that were terrified of Rosh Hashana, and the feelings of inadequacy that was profoundly felt caused the people to experience Rosh Hashanah, Judaism and life in general with great sadness and mourning.   Ezra said to them:
וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם לְכוּ אִכְלוּ מַשְׁמַנִּים וּשְׁתוּ מַמְתַקִּים וְשִׁלְחוּ מָנוֹת לְאֵין נָכוֹן לוֹ
 כי קָדוֹשׁ הַיּוֹם לַאֲדֹנֵינוּ וְאַל תֵּעָצֵבוּ כִּי חֶדְוַת ה' הִיא מָעֻזְּכֶם.

And he said to them, "Go, eat fat foods and drink sweet drinks and send portions to whoever has nothing prepared, for the day is holy to our Lord, and do not be sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

Ralbag comments on the final words 
חֶדְוַת ה' הִיא מָעֻזְּכֶם:

ר''ל המבצר והחוזק שתתחזקו בו הוא שתשמחו במה שרצה ה' יתברך שתשמחו בו

    The stronghold and strength that you should depend on is the joy in engaging in what Hashem wants us to enjoy, 

knowing that we are doing His will

ואפשר שנאמר שהרצון בו שהוא ראוי שתשמחו במה ששמעתם מהתורה כדי שתתישרו לשמרה והוא המעוז והחוזק שתקחו מזה כי שמחתכ' בו תורה שרצונכם לנהג לפי התורה

We might say that it is fitting that you should rejoice in what you have learned from the Torah, so that you will be straight in keeping it and that is your greatest strength -- that your joy comes from Torah and your desire to conduct yourself by the Torah

     This directive, to treat Rosh Hashanah as a כי הוא נורא ואיום, deserving the greatest seriousness and awesome respect, while at the same time, being a time of enjoyment, pleasure, and loving interactions with others . . . is how Abba/Saba/Manoon lived his life, pursued his Avodas Hashem, and taught us by his amazing example.

     I want to express our appreciation for all the amazing caregivers who helped Anna during his long final illness. I want to give voice to the terrible pain of all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will never again feel the nurturing of the magic shoulder and hear his singing and humor to cheer them up and make them feel so valued and important.

     I cannot begin to express the pain felt by his loving children, each of whom is unique and different, but nurtured and encouraged by him to express their own special nature and individuality confident of his love.  The endless longing that Lonni and her siblings exuded at his bedside, hoping for the tiniest glimmer of hope that they could connect with him, just one more time, for just one brief moment was so heartbreaking to watch….and such a tribute to the incredible love that they felt so deeply.

     And אחרונה אחרונה I cannot even imagine how Ema תבדל לחיים טובים וארוכים feels today.  The many hours she spent sitting next to him, holding his hand, caressing his cheek, singing to him and begging him to respond…the pleasure she took when she felt a little pressure or squeeze of his hand, or a tear on his cheek when we sang zemiros for him…after 63 wonderful years together…it is so hard to imagine the depth of her pain

     We only hope, together, to draw strength from each other, and to look forward to the time we are reunited after תחיית המתים  (Reincarnation). Abba always said that when Nanny and Grampy passed he took tremendous solace in the concept of תחיית המתים . . . Is it not fitting that we just read about that yesterday in Haazinu, אני ממית ומחיה, G-d causes Death and grants Life (Devarim 32:39); one of the prime sources in the Torah for this concept!

     It is fitting, as well that we also read on Shabbos the beginning of וזאת הברכה, which contains the verse

'וַיָּמָת שָׁם מֹשֶׁה עֶבֶד ה
And Moshe, the servant of Hashem died there

 A passuk that would describe well this week’s events.

     Finally, Moshe Rabbeinu merited to die במיתת נשיקה  - (Death by the Kiss of G-d).  While you, Abba dearest, had a more difficult challenge at the end, you always signed off your letters to us נשיקות עד בלי די (Never enough kisses)

     We love you עד בלי די endlessly, never enough, always and forever.

     May his memory be a blessing and source of chizuk to us forever

בִּלַּע הַמָּוֶת לָנֶצַח וּמָחָה אֲדֹנָי ה' דִּמְעָה מֵעַל כָּל פָּנִים
 וְחֶרְפַּת עַמּוֹ יָסִיר מֵעַל כָּל הָאָרֶץ כִּי ה דִּבֵּר


My Superman
By Diti Oppenheimer

When I think of Superman, I think of someone who is:

Confident Strong Determined
Dignified Tough Cool

My Superman stands strong and tall in my mind. There is a fire burning in his eyes. Never wavering to what the winds may howl. Never losing his ground. Never looking down.

He has the confidence of a man who knows exactly what he's doing. He has wit that is razor sharp. He has the toughness of a man that doesn't let anything in the world deter him.

But my Superman is not aloof.   In addition to the above, he is

Caring Loving Adorable
Selfless Patient Huge-Hearted

My Superman is tough on the outside but a teddy bear on the inside. He cares so much about his loved ones and stands up for them. He loves them so deeply and shows it in so many ways. Somehow he makes each and every one of them feel special to him.

There are some supermen that are fiction, a yearning and fantasy of desperate people for a savior and hero.

My Superman is real. His strength is not made up of muscles but of willpower. His confidence is not from the praise of others but from an inner sense of self-worth and purpose. He doesn't wear a cape because real men don't wear capes.  

He has been my hero my entire life.

My Superman is my Saba.

To my precious Saba,

Saba I feel like I'm living in a daze, a horrible nightmare that is totally disconnected from reality. Because it can't be true. My superman is invincible. These kind of mortal things don't happen to him.

But, Saba, you will always remain in my mind as the invincible hero that you were. Only, Hashem decided it was time to take away your terrible pain because He wanted Superman back in the heavens.

Saba, I love you so much it's totally beyond words. I can't thank you enough for the treasure house full of precious memories and stories and a legacy that you have left for me to hold tight to for the rest of my life.

The memories. Oh, Saba, how many sweet memories I have with you. From Godiva chocolates to shnaps with my pinkie. From bonkos to my big nose poking you at night. From singing with you to dancing with you (on the women's side) at weddings. Holding our breath contests that you always won to sucking on our candies and making them sharp. From A Sukalah to wearing the Challah cover on your head.

Saba, growing up, you were literally my hero. I just admired you so much and always wanted to spend time with you.

I remember going to friends houses and seeing them treat their grandparents like old people that they unfortunately had to care for. I couldn't believe it. Because, Saba, you were never old. You were a giant in my eyes, someone who was always in control. And, Saba, you just made it so so easy to love you. Because your love for us knew no bounds.

Saba, I loved your stories. I could hear them again and again and never get bored. I would sit, wide-eyed and fascinated and watch in amazement as you would paint an animated, detailed, and colorful story for us that always left all of us wondering how one person could accomplish so much and live such a full life. From the opera story to the Marilyn Monroe story, that were so unbelievable. From the bananas story to the kasha in your pockets story that made us laugh so hard. From the “Moshe Moshe” story to the speeding in Arizona story that showed your razor sharp wit. From the Shepsel story to Kosher Pizza story which showed your ingenuity. The meatball story on the first day of Yeshiva showed us your commitment to Torah. And more -- getting locked in a building, the 3 dates in one day, courting Savta -- and so much more. No one could believe these stories if they hadn't heard it from you. Saba, you were a king. And I always felt so proud to call you my Saba.
And then, Saba, as I grew older, I got to know so much more about you and appreciate you on a much deeper level. Saba, I learned how much you valued Torah and how it was the center of your life. I learned how much of an anav you were -- doing so much yet never ever bragging about it. Never wanting to be מטריח anyone else -- even though we were always so happy to make you sugar-free cookies or give up our beds for you, you always felt so bad that we were doing that for you. I learned simchas hachaim from you -- how to really live each and every day to its fullest. I learned ahavas Yisrael from you -- how to love each and every person and to give them endless love and patience. I learned how to have beautiful shalom Bayis. I learned how to be mechanech children from you; how to allow everyone to express their individuality.
And Saba, I learned what pure, unadulterated and endless love is. Saba, I will never, ever forget that you came to my graduation. I know you hate these things and never wanted to go to them but you did it for me. Because you love me. I felt like I was your only granddaughter because that's how much you showed you loved me. I'll never forget how you and Savta took me out to dinner just to spend time with me. How you patiently listened to me and gave me advice. I always left you feeling heart warmed, feeling so enveloped in your love. I'll never forget those birthday songs I anticipated hearing from you the whole year. Oh, Saba, how I wish I could've heard that song instead of the heart-wrenching news I got this year on my birthday.
Saba, I can go on and on about you and the memories that have been filling my mind that will remain with me forever. I really can't imagine going on without you anymore. Saba, I so badly wanted you to be at my wedding. I wanted to dance with you and get a Bracha from you underneath my veil.  I feel like there's a gaping hole in my heart that no one but my Saba could ever fill.
Saba, I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for being my Superman, for teaching me invaluable lessons that have made me into who I am, for loving me unconditionally, and for never ceasing to give to me. The fact that you have such a legacy of descendants that are all shomer Shabbos and amazing people is such a testament to the incredible person that you were. Thank you for truly being the best Saba in the world.
I guess the last thing I can say are the last precious words you ever said to me. "I love you so much and I am so proud of you."


"The Man"
A Tribute to My Grandfather

by Shimshon Oppenheimer

If I had two words to describe my grandfather they would be.

The MAN.

I say this on behalf of all of his descendants. Particularly my siblings who can't be here on this tragic day.

I knew No more honorable man, or honest man. He could give Honest Abe a run for his money.

If he owed you $2.37 cents he'd pay you EXACTLY $2.37Cents.  I remember he even returned a pair of socks he'd borrowed. (I don't know if he hand washed it, but it was clean.)

He was a symbol of strength, fire, and integrity. I  always always looked up to him as my role model, he taught me what it meant to be a proud Jew. I'll never forget the fire in his eyes when he spoke of the Nazis, WWII or Medinat Yisrael.. I'd be talking to him unsure of my future, and he would always be telling me to go to Machal.. -My cousin Ari took up the call to battle-  but Saba always inspired me to fight for the Jewish people, and still inspired me to this day, I still I hope one day he will see me from Above with a Beret on too...

He was more than just my hero and Godfather, he was a living example of a life to lead. Being a man of tremendous Torah knowledge and fear of G-d yiras shomayim (he could have been a Rosh Yeshiva..) as Rav Mendelovich would have wanted... but he liked to laugh and say he loved the gashmiyos in this world too  much... He enjoyed football, classical music, opera, schnapps, fast cars... all types of worlds things .... he showed You can be a man of G-d and enjoy the good life. There's no one like him.  Kind of old school Yeshivish if you will.

We would sit there captivated by his stories, even if we'd already heard it 10 times.
Stories flowed from him.... From 3 dates a day (I hoped to one day reach his madraiga), smuggling guns to Israel, to knocking out Nazi flight attendants... He was a boss through and through.

I often complained jokingly that he made my life seem so boring In retrospect. I never got to pass up a date with Marilyn Monroe, or (smuggle guns to Israel, get caught , get his guns back and continue to smuggle weapons to Israel) , or learn to fly planes (until Savta caught him)

I remember him noting when he turned 90 that he liked this world and He enjoyed it too much to leave just yet... I smiled and prayed G-d would agree with this sentiment.
The day I have feared in the darkest recesses of my mind has come. The day I no longer have my Saba around. I day would I never ever hoped would come, but knew deep down that it was the way of all man... 

As the Patriarch of the family he is simply irreplaceable and jointly responsible for our spiritual live and our physical lives as well (well at least those of us who share his DNA, )... We are all a testament to his greatness, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren... All of his descendants shomer Shabbos, Torah and Mitzvos. Every single one.

A man truly like no other. Loved by all. From family to neighbors, mechanics, lawyers, coworkers , congregants, even “Berman."

Saba, you passed on from this world Lail Rosh Hashana, the heavenly courts pushed you to the head of the line, as it says Tzaddikim Gemurim and Reshaim Gemorim are judged first and you were stamped a Tzaddik Gamur, of that I have no doubt.

You were always my #1 fan and I could count on you to take my side whether it be my latest  hairstyle or Donald Trump. You almost always supported me and made me feel like you had my back, man to man. A special bond we shared... 

Saba, I can't bear to say goodbye. It's too painful to even think about. I find solace in knowing that this is not the end. That I will get to see you one day again and give you a  big ol' bear hug. And perhaps if I'm “Zocheh", to even get near your box-seat in shomayim, (if not at least wave from the bleachers)- though I hope for your sake Saba, they have football up in Shomayim- and maybe even some schnapps.

I must say, I am grateful to Hashem I missed my connecting flight to Seattle just so I could see you one more time... wish you a Shana Tova and hold your hand one last time... My only regret is that I didn't stay just one minute longer...

I will miss your stories.
Your power and charisma.
Your witty jokes.
Your guidance , support, and humor.
I will miss your loving smile.
Your full rich beautiful special  zeideh-like aura...

Most of all I will just miss your warm-loving presence and having you around.

Love you more than words can every say.

Your loving Grandson, 



Anonymous said...

Very nicely written euology. The author writes "after acheiving full kapara on RH". While it is clear that some form of din can happen on RH if one is a tzadik or rasha,it is also clear that RH isn't a day of kapara and even for a tzadik any kapara isn't acheived until YK. I also think it is foolish for one to try and pretend to understand the workings of heaven in speculating how a particular person was judged. The greatest rishonim (ramban Shar hagmool)struggle to understand how the din of the yamim noraim work for the author to make a blanket assumption of how the niftar was judged is just wrong.

YLO said...

Thank you, Mr. Anonymous for the compliment. Excuse my ignorance, but what i wrote is based on the following Gemara
גרסי' בפ"ק דראש השנה א"ר כרוספדאי א"ר יוחנן שלשה ספרים נפתחים בראש השנה אחד של צדיקים גמורים ואחד של רשעים גמורים ואחד של בנוניים, צדיקים גמורים נכתבין ונחתמין לאלתר לחיים, רשעים גמורים נכתבין ונחתמין לאלתר למיתה, בנוניים תלויים ועומדים מראש השנה ועד יום הכפורים, זכו נכתבין לחיים לא זכו נכתבין למיתה

I do not, and did not, claim to have any inner knowledge of the workings of Divine Justice. I only know what this Gemara clearly says, which is that the judgment on Tzadikim gemurim and reshaim gemurim is immediately on Rosh Hashana. Of course, it says that the jusgment for tzaddikim is for life, but it obviously means more than mere physical existence on this world.

I really do not want to engage further in a debate about this in the context of a eulogy for my father in law.

Anonymous said...

That genera talks about din not kapara!!! Kapara is separate from din!!