Today is my father Jacob (Ya’akov ben Yosef V’Mari’om) Rosenzweig’s 14th Yahrtzeit. He was a very unique man who lived Bitochon (steadfastness) in HaShem. Though he rarely praised us directly, he always directed love and respect to us just the same. I would like to relate two incidents we had together that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Growing up in Windsor, Ontario I went to Yeshivah Beth Yehudah in Detroit. My 7th grade Rebbi was Jerry Werner and he assigned a certain classmate who I didn’t get along with as my Chavrusa (study partner). During the first few weeks of the term, every day I begged Rabbi Werner to change my Chavrusa and every day he refused. One day in frustration after he again refused my request, I said, “but Rebbi he’s retarded.” Rabbi Werner appalled at my outburst smacked me in the face and not thinking I smacked him right back. I was immediately sent to the principal’s office and was suspended from Yeshivah until my father would come to the Yeshivah.
Living in Windsor, getting my father to Detroit was a big deal since he hadn’t yet gotten his driver’s license. I remember us walking down the hall of the Yeshivah after our meeting with the principal and he said to me, “Du host mir basheimpt – you’ve shamed me.” Totally embarrassed I looked up at him and saw a tear fall from his eye, I was totally humiliated for causing the “strongest man in the world” to cry, it was a pain that has never left me.
Thirty-five years later, I was the Rabbi in my hometown synagogue, the Sha’ar HaShamayim (from December 1989 – June 1996). Every day between Mincha and Ma’ariv (afternoon and evening prayers) I would teach a few laws from the Shulchan Aruch – the Code of Jewish Law, this day we were studying the laws of the festival of Purim.
One of the worshipers asked me a question about the purpose of certain Mitzvot that we observe and I entered into quite a lengthy explanation to his satisfaction. After the evening service ended, I usually drove my father home. As we were walking down the hallway, my father took hold of my hand and said, “Du host em ge’enfirt vie a chochom – you answered him wisely.” It was the first time he praised me directly and I felt like I had atoned for the shame I had brought him so many years past.
His memory lingers with me daily though I feel he is still looking over my shoulder. “Thei Nishmato Baruch – may his soul be blessed.”