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A Sad Night In Jerusalem

It is 3:00 AM and only a little while earlier I returned from Rav Podolsky's funeral.
As difficult as it is for me to get to sleep normally, tonight it is an impossibility. Here are a few inadequate words in his memory.

"Hashem said to Moshe, Say [Emor] to the Kohanim .... and tell [vómarta] them, each of you shall not contaminate himself to a [dead] person among his people."

Rashi [together with everybody else who reads the pasuk carefully] is bothered by the tautology [seeming redundancy]. It would have sufficed if the pasuk would have said "Say to the kohanim, each of you" etc. Why does it repeat "and tell them" after it already said "Say ..."

Rashi [based on the Chazal] answers that the "two sayings" are teaching us that Moshe should first tell the the Gedolim, the adult kohanim, who should in turn convey this lesson to the ketanim, the child kohanim. This teaches that adult kohanim are not allowed to cause the children to become contaminated. "lihazhir gedolim al haktanim" - literally "to warn the adults about the children".

Chassidim have another translation of Rashi. "Lihazhir" can also mean "to shine". The gedolim have to shine to the ketanim. The adults must set an example for the young. To inspire. To galavanize to greater heights in the service of Hashem.

My Rebbe and friend HaRav Lipman Asher Podolsky ztz"l was a shining light. Even when he was ill and wracked with pain he would still greet me with a shining countenance. A warm smile followed by a welcoming "Shalom Aleichem". When I visited him in the hospital shortly before his petirah he had almost no energy left. He still managed to greet me warmly with a handshake after which he fell back asleep. That was the last time I was zoche to see him awake.

Rav Podolsky shined to his many many students [myself included]. With his inspiring words of mussar. With his caring and devotion. With sincere yiras shomayim coupled with the joy that he radiated.

He was an accomplished Talmid Chacham, musician, artist, writer and above all a personification of all of the ideals of Torah and derech eretz of which he taught his students. All of the gifts that Hashem gave him were used in His service.

There is so much to say but the wound is still open and my sense of pain and loss are simply overwhelming.

I loved Rav Podolsky and will sorely miss him together with his special family and countless talmidim.

We will continue to follow his example of avodas Hashem b'simcha until the ultimate simcha of the coming of moshiach, the cessation of death and the wiping off of tears from our faces. bmhera byameinu amen.

Or as Rav Podolsky famously used to conclude his shiurim "We should all be zoche to live life as it should be lived".

Yehi zichro baruch.

His פטירה is absolutely heartrending. It is amazing how little words accomplish in filling such a void. Which is probably why wailing is the default human outlet - an undefined expression of an inexpressible feeling.

Baruch Dayan Emes

May we all be zoche to live life the way it was meant to be lived!

I was heartbroken when I heard the news, despite having had my own simcha occur just hours earlier. From the few times that I was zocha to meet him (actually, every single time it was at the home of Rav Ehrman)I could tell that he was a sweet, wonderful person, who took his illness in stride without complaint, and always had much torah and warmth to share. This has been a terrible loss and Rav Podolsky will be sorely missed.

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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