Friday, February 15, 2008

A Tale of Two Survivors

Last week’s story about Rabbi Dovid Luria and the question about greatness brought a flood of replies.

This week I don’t have to write the story, it was in all the newspapers.

Here are a couple links.

Tom and Annette Lantos decided 25 years ago to serve the country in a very public way, and he got the send-off he deserved.

Nearby, in Baltimore, another survivor passed away this week, Mrs. Necha Bayarsky.

Who was she?

She was predeceased by her husband, Rabbi Avraham Bayarsky, by a few months.

They both survived the war from Eastern Europe, met in Paris and came to the States in 1947, raised children and grandchildren.

Since their eulogy was not in thousands of newspapers, I would like to give you a tiny glimpse into their remarkable life. If you looked at them together, you would have seen a simple, ordinary Jewish couple, married for over 50 years, raising children and grandchildren in Baltimore.

I personally knew the family and occasionally sat in on R. Bayarsky’s lively, mostly-Yiddish class on Saturday morning. Once or twice I walked with him up Glen Avenue. He was a treasure of wisdom and wit, even as he reached (his children guesstimate) 96. He noticed when I was gone and asked me where I was and how the teaching was going.

In turn, I would ask him to tell me something from his youth. Did the great sage, the Chafetz Chaim, really look like the pictures of him? Yes (R. Bayarsky studied in his yeshiva for the last two years of the Chafetz Chaim’s life, and heard sermons from him every week).

What was life like in Radin? Simple – you sat and learned Torah. Then you got something to eat. Then you went back and learned some more.

What happened to your Judaism in Russia (he was a refugee in Siberia)? They made us work on Shabbos, so we tried to minimize it. Once, I but a tourniquet on my leg to make it swell and the doctor gave me permission not to work.

He was reputed to have been one of the top students in the Radin yeshiva and one of the things that made him a great teacher until his death was his ability to recall details of what he learned, heard and experienced from the Old World, including phenomenal Torah insights. And he never lost his sense of humor.

Its seems like everywhere I go, there is at least one person who makes a big deal about the possibility that I might know a certain comedian. I want to tell them, “If you only knew who I knew!”

Shabbat Shalom.

Travel/speaking schedule:
February 18-20 – Chicago and Deerfield
March 4-6 - California
April 3 - St. Louis

For details, send an email!

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