Hope you’re having a great day.
I wanted to tell you about an incredible person who passed away last week.
A great Rabbi, a great human being and an incredible role model.
Rabbi Nason Tzvi Finkel of Jerusalem was born and bred in Chicago.
He attended Ida Crown Jewish Academy and was a typical teenager.
Not the kind of kid in who showed signs of greatness.
And not the “budding genius” who would rather study than play basketball!
After high school he visited Israel and became inspired to be a Torah scholar.
And after many years of studying Torah day and night?
Of working constantly to perfect his character?
He became one of the most respected scholars in Jerusalem.
And was eventually appointed dean of Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
Under his leadership it became one of the largest Yeshivas in the world.
… He never stopped pushing his students to become better and better.
As he always put it…
“Shoot for the stars!”
Both in their Torah knowledge and in their interpersonal relationships.
But he didn’t just teach from books.
He taught by example.
Decades ago, Rabbi Finkel was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
A terribly debilitating disease.
It gradually destroyed his body.
But didn’t touch his brilliant mind or his huge heart.
He delivered profound Torah lectures when he barely had the strength to talk.
He never refused a student who asked to study Torah with him.
Even if he needed to lie on a couch unable to move.
He loved every student like his own child.
And would spend hours preparing to go to a student’s wedding.
Sometimes a student would be going through very difficult times.
And not sure they had the strength to go on.
But they would see their beloved Rabbi using every ounce of his strength to walk.
And were transformed by his huge smile and hearty “good morning”!
… I heard one story that really moved me.
An American Jew whose wife was gravely ill visited him.
And asked him to pray for his wife.
It was a very difficult day and the Rabbi was lying on the couch.
But he insisted on receiving people who needed his help or guidance.
The man poured out his heart and Rabbi Finkel pointed to a prayer book.
He told the man, “Please forgive me. I’m too weak to recite the prayers”.
Then he said something to this person who was a total stranger.
He said something amazing. Something that I will never forget.
What did he say?
“You say the prayers…
And he cried for a woman he did not know!
… One hundred thousand people came to the funeral of Rabbi Nosan Tzvi Finkel.
To honor the man who suffered so much but cried for others.
And they knew what his last words to them would be…
… “Shoot for the stars”!
All the best,