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Dying With Dveykus

A repeat of an older post:

Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriah zt"l [the spiritual leader of B'nei Akiva] passed away on the 19th of Kislev, 1995. I once cut out an article written by Rav Chaim Sabbato Shlita[famous Rosh Yeshiva of Maale Adumim and acclaimed author] describing his final visit with the Rav. I decided to translate it for the benefit of a wider audience. I found it incredibly inspiring and I hope that you do, too.

A small note was hanging on the bulletin board in the Beis Medrash. Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriah needs Divine mercy. We immediately decided - we are traveling to Kfar Haroeh. We arrived in the afternoon and the village was very serene. Trees were seemingly taking their afternoon rest. A Moshavnik riding on a tractor pointed to his house.I recognized it from earlier visits.

The small house and garden outside. The courtyard where we sat and listened to edifying talks from Rav Neriah filled with insights and stories. We listened to his talks with great eagerness and the experience was thrilling and uplifting. This is the courtyard where thoughts were entertained that eventually brought to the building of the Religious Zionist Torah world. This time the courtyard was empty. Three simple wooden chairs were standing there and there was a notice attached to one of them on which was written: "We thank you for your visit. It is not possible to visit Abba. Please say tehillim for him as this is part of the mitzva of visiting the ill."

There were a few tehillim books there and we began to say tehillim with heavy hearts. How much we wanted to see him! The Rebbetzin came outside and gave us a drink. We made a shehakol nihiyeh bidvaro and the words took on new meaning. She answered amen and said "There is so much ink left in his pen" [he was a prolific author A.E.]. She lowered her eyes. We started to leave. His son Rav Nachum Neriah [former long time Rebbe in Yeshivat Hakotel A.E.] came outside. "Abba wants to daven mincha as soon as possible. One more tefilla in his lifetime while he still has the chance, maybe you can come into the room."

The room was completely filled with sefarim. Gemara, Halacha, Aggada, Pilpul, Mechkar, Drush etc. I tried to take in everything I was experiencing and felt holiness. Rav Neriah was on a bed in the room, connected to machines. His granddaughter was reading Pirkei Avos to him. "Ben shmonim ligvuros, Ben tishim lashuach ... Ben Bag Bag omer, hafoch bah vihapoch bah dikoola bah." The Rav motioned with his hand as if to say "More, more don't stop!"

We davened Mincha. Rav Nachum Shlita said the silent shmoneh esrei aloud so that his father could whisper along with him. "Rifa'ainu Hashem vineyrafey" the young boys from the Yeshiva were davening intensely. We then read chapters of tehillim with great emotion. "Mimaamakim kirasicha Hashem" [From the depths we call you Hashem].

In the throes of great suffering the Rav had moments of lucidity. On one side of the bed stood his wife with wondrous silence. On the other side stood his son and granddaughter. We stood next to them. There was a shining light in the room and special rays of kindness ["chut shel chessed"] emanated from his face. I said "Orech yamim u'shnot chaim" [long life]. He expended great effort and answered "We will continue, continue to spread Torah and fear of Hashem and we will succeed b'ezrat Hashem. Amen keyn yehi ratzon!" Amen keyn yehi ratzon. It seemed like he dozed off but then one of the Yeshiva boys asked "Niggun?" Rav Neriah with his last remaining strength motioned "Yes". "Which Niggun?" the boys asked. "Which Niggun?" Rav Nachum asked . "Which Niggun?" his wife asked.

Rav Neriah tried without success to hint to us. Then he started softly humming with tremendous internal power "Vi'yedu ... vi'yedu .... vi'yedu ... ki atah shimcha Hashem .... ki atah shimcha Hashem livadecha, elyon elyon, al kol ha'aretz, elyon elyon al kol ha'aretz..." [You should know that Hashem alone is elevated above the earth.] The niggun is soft and sweet and gets stronger and stronger as we go along, filled with faith. The Rav is singing along "Vi'yedu, vi'yedu, viyedu ki atah shimcha Hashem, livadecha ...." The Rebbetzin is holding his hand and singing softly "elyon, elyon al kol ha'aretz." On the other side of the bed stands Rav Nachum, with his eyes closed and sings with great intensity and dveykus "Elyon, elyon al kol ha'aretz." I stood there and was tremendously moved by the power of the moment. The room was filled with holy books. Books, notes as well as medications were still scattered on the wooden desk where Rav Neriah had written countless articles and books.

Rav Neriah, with a shining countenance, gathered all of his strength and sang "Vi'yedu .. elyon, elyon al kol ha'aretz." I remembered the saying of our Sages "The Shechina is above the head of the sick person." Little by little, the niggun petered out and the boys became silent.

Suddenly the head of Rav Neriah was lifted up slightly, and his voice was heard "elyon..." and he hints to us to continue. The boys sing this time even more powerfully, with more joy and optimism. The Rebbetzin, with a little smile of encouragement on her face, nods her head. "Elyon, al kol ha'aretz."

I have forgotten all of the events of the outside world and all I can see is the shining face of Rav Neriah as he sings "Vi'yedu ki atah shimcha Hashem, elyon al kol ha'aretz."

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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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