The passing of this great “little” man, Sam Weisinger, left me particularly sad and wistful.
During my tenure in Forest Hills, I had the incredible privilege of getting to know quite a few Holocaust survivors, who are among the most special people on Earth. While all of them went through their own unique unspeakable experiences, and all of them are heroic in their own way, Mr. Weisinger taught me more than anyone about the power of emunah and hishtavus (equanimity), and of love of Hashem and His Torah.
He pretended to be my disciple. He was among the most regular attendees of my shiurim and was always full of compliments and gratitude for what I had taught him and for the insights that we shared. Long after I had forgotten some point that I had made years before, he would remind me of how much he had enjoyed a particular d’var Torah or speech that he had heard from me. However, the truth was the other way around. He was my teacher, and I, his unworthy disciple.
He taught me about love of Torah. He often had incisive comments to make about the Gemara that we learned together. He remembered sugyos that he had learned as a youngster in cheder so many years before – the famous machlokes between Tanna D’vei Chizkiya and Rav Yochanan was one of his favorites. Interestingly, it concerned the question of whether one who escaped death was still liable for less consequential payments – ironically relevant to a survivor who escaped death, and whether we would consider him to be absolved of any further debts. Very often, when we discussed a topic in the Mishnah B’rurah shiur, he would launch into a discussion of how they dealt with that issue in his hometown in Europe, and what the different minhagim were that affected the matter. The Torah that he lived and learned in his youth was deeply part of him, and it showed in his learning, and in the beautiful way that he would often lead the tzibur as a baal t’filah, especially on the Yamim Nora’im.
He taught me about love of Hashem. He was always full of gratitude for the wonderful life he had lived, for his home and community, and for his wonderful family. He lived the pasuk in this week’s parshah:
“V’zacharta es Hashem Elokecha… – Remember always that it is Hashem who gives you the strength to establish your wealth.”
He never attributed any success that he had to anything but Hashem’s benevolence and love.
This brings me to the way he taught me hishtavus – acceptance of G-d’s will, whether we experience it as pleasant or painful – as the judgment of a loving G-d. He said it often – and I was astounded every time – “I saw miracles all around me in the concentration camp. I am so fortunate that Hashem looked out for me and protected me.” No one can criticize any survivor who had a less generous view; he often said that one who was not there could not possibly understand what it was like – in their wildest dreams. However, his attitude, of choosing to remember and focus on the good that he saw, and on Hashem’s protection of him, was an amazing musar lesson in acceptance or hishtavus.
And, of course, this was an amazing lesson in emunah – a rock-solid, unshakeable, basic belief in the goodness of the Almighty, despite enduring many difficult issues in life. He possessed a determination to always be pleasant and generous of spirit, to treat others with kindness and compassion, and to be an example of quiet enduring faith in Hashem.
I have no doubt that there is a huge welcome reception awaiting Mr. Weisinger in Gan Eden, as he finally comes to his richly deserved reward. May he enjoy that reward, taking some time out now and again to put in a good word for his family, friends, students, and klal Yisrael, all of whom will miss him greatly.
May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.
By Rabbi Yehuda Oppenheimer