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A Tribute to My Dear Friend Eliezer Goldman zt”l

Posted by Yosef Tropper
May 18, 2009 - כ"ה אייר ה' תשס"ט
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A Heart of Pure Love and Faith

Eliezer, you are with us and we will never forget you.

Our small Yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael prides itself as being a close-knit family. We share in each other’s Simchos and we share in the hardships as well. Over the years, we were there for each other at times of tragedy and loss. We lost grandparents, fathers and mothers. We all cried and wept together. But today, for the first time ever, we lost one of our own. Eliezer is not here to comfort us, for we lost Eliezer himself. We must be strong, as he would have wanted us to be. We will take his message; we will take his passion. We will learn his powerful legacy that he has left through his short yet productive life.                                      

At the Lavayah, his grandfather, Rav Gedaliah Dov Schwartz, shared a profound thought. There is a special Kaddish (B’Almah D’Hu Asid L’Ischada’sah, we await the Resurrection) which we recite for only two events, a burial and a Siyum on a Mesachta. This needs an explanation, for one is a joy and the other connotes terrible pain. What is the connection between the two? The understanding is that both signify a completion of something significant. The Siyum Mesechta indicates a bringing together and completion in acquiring a topic in Torah. So too, a burial, signifies the completion of a life. This is why the Kaddish is exclusive to these two events.

He continued to state that every Mesechta has a different length. Some are long, like Bava Basra or Shabbos, and some are short like Horiyos and Tamid. But each is complete. So too, every life has its appropriate length. Some lives span decades and some are all too short, in our view. However, we must recognize that every life could be lived fully and productively. Eliezer was a short yet complete Mesechta.

I believe that this explanation is very relevant. Just as a Mesechta is a complete part of Torah, so too Eliezer was a complete embodiment of Torah, a living Sefer Torah. His life was a powerful display of Torah application. Also, in learning a Mesechta, sometimes we encounter a “shver kasha, an unanswerable question”, yet still we move on and continue. So too in life, there are situations and actions of Hashem that we will never understand until Moshiach comes, yet we gather our strength to move forward.

I would like to share one story that remains in my mind from my many interactions with him. I find this event constantly repeating itself in my head whenever I think about him. I believe that it epitomizes what he lived for. It was a late Thursday night and Eliezer and I were from the few who remained learning in the Beis Midrash. He was toiling hard to understand a commentary on the Parsha. We started to discuss it and our conversation drew on. I couldn’t get over just how alive and passionate he was. He was preparing a Dvar Torah for Shabbos and wanted it to be Emes and practical. It was late at night, but he would not stop toiling until he was sure that he understood it correctly with all of its implications. All of the Torah he learned was on his heart and every new idea had to be understood by his bright and thirsty mind. Throughout our entire discussion, he maintained his categorical cozy and warm smile on his face. This was the smile that personified him. His aura was one of a dignified Ben Torah. He was dedicated to truth and yet was not judgmental of those who were not as religious as he was. He was the epitome of “relaxed”, it was so easy and enjoyable to talk with him. He had a youthful excitement and innocence that was magical. One always walked away from schmoozing with him feeling happy and invigorated. His Simchas HaChaim just rubbed off on you. His smile and love of people was deeply felt. In our conversation that night we discussed P’shat, Remez, Drush and Chassidus, until we were both satisfied with the Dvar Torah. The most amazing part was that when we finished, he looked at me, smiled and said, “thank you for your time”! Why are you thanking me, I thought, I did nothing for you, and you shared beautiful ideas with me?! But that was Eliezer, he made you feel good and he never felt that anything was owed to him. If you did something for him, it was acknowledged and guaranteed to be repaid. It was at that moment that I realized how special of a Neshama he was.

His Emuna Peshutah, unyielding faith, was legendary. He was a phenomenal Mivakesh Emes and Ben Aliyah, always striving to grow. His passion was Torah and truth. All of us knew how deeply connected he was to his Rabbaim and to the goal of fulfilling Ratzon Hashem fully. He would contemplate the proper course of action, but if his Rebbe told him that he should go a different way, he would immediately stop in his tracks and realign himself to where he was supposed to be.

At the Levaya, I thought about the fact that it was the thirty-fifth day of Sefiras HaOmer. The Middah for that day is: Malchus She’B'Hod. Those two words personify who he was. “Malchus” means Kingship. Indeed, he was a dignified, Princely Ben Torah. “Hod” means the Splendor of Aharon HaCohen. He lived by the dictum of Aharon, “love peace and pursue peace”. His life revolved around treating others with love, care and respect.

Indeed, Eliezer zt”l lived for 23 productive years. The only Mesechta in Shas that contains 23 pages is Meseches Makos. Makos discusses many topics of pain and suffering. The Niftar’s life contained much tragedy and distress. He lost his father at a young age and suffered from a terribly painful prolonged illness. He accepted everything with love, never questioning Hashem’s calculations. He believed that Hashem sends Makos to purify and cleanse a person. Hashem wanted his Neshama to shine in the next world. We saw it begin to shine already in this world. Though, we can never, until Moshiach, know what Hashem’s ultimate plan was.

We cry not for him, but for us. He is in Gan Eden learning Torah with the Tzaddikim. He finally has the opportunity, which he longed for, to talk in learning and Yiras Shamayim with his beloved father. He finally has the opportunity that he spent his life preparing for, to prostrate himself before his Creator. Our pain is because we no longer have him. We are missing our joy and inspiration. When a good friend of ours moves away to Eretz Yisrael, we cry at his departure. We are not sad for where he has gone, we know that he is in the most joyful and best land. We cry because we will miss him, as we have not yet joined him. He is in the greatest place; we are pained from not having him with us.

For those who were privileged to know him, my words have only scratched the surface. Just as no words can express our grief and sorrow, so too no words can capture his pure and beautiful essence. Chazal (Chullin 7a) tell us that Tzaddikim accomplish more in their deaths than in their life. Indeed, when we take the lesson that his life taught us, we can insure that his life and passing will inspire us to grow stronger in our dedication to Hashem. This would be his only request from us, at this time.

The last Gemara in Makos concludes with a story. The Rabbis were walking in Yerushalayim and they saw a fox rummaging in the place where the Kodesh HaKadashim used to be before its destruction. At that time, they all began to weep from the tragic sight. But Rebbe Akiva laughed! They begged him to explain how he could laugh at such a dreadful scene?! He told them that he saw beyond the tragic picture, he saw the next prophesy being fulfilled. Now that we saw this great destruction, I realize that Hashem is working towards the next stage which is redemption. I do not only look at the trouble, I see the future salvation. They responded unanimously, “Akiva, you have comforted us”. As humans, we certainly have feelings and emotions and we can and must cry. Rebbe Akiva is teaching us that the perspective of a faithful Jew is to contemplate the great salvation and comfort that awaits us with the coming of Moshiach. It is a most appropriate idea that graces the end of the Tractate of Makos. This is the beautiful Mesechta and Torah that Eliezer taught us.

Eliezer, I will miss you very much. I will never forget you.

I conclude by offering my most sincere and heart-felt condolences to all of his family. To his mother, who dedicated every fiber of her being to insure that he would be raised in the healthiest and most productive environment possible, he loved you and appreciated everything. You were his inspiration and strength. Your unrelenting perseverance was not in vain, you helped mold him into someone totally connected and committed to Hashem without ever asking any questions. You helped him purify his lofty soul. To his siblings, you did your best to help him and encourage him to be the best that he could be. He succeeded. To his Rabbaim and friends, who were so dedicated and loyal to him. He loved every one of you.

May these words and their implementation be an Aliyah for the holy Neshama of Eliezer Mordechai ben Chaim Yehoshua.  

May Hashem send a Nechama to everyone and may we merit to be reunited with all of Klal Yisrael with the coming of Moshiach speedily, when Hashem will wipe the tears from our face.

A friend forever,

Yosef Tropper


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