It is hard to believe that five years have passed since the passing of Rabbanith Ruth Menashe (Manasseh). During her life, Rabbanith Ruth was the beloved Rabbanith of Midrash Ben Ish Hai, where she organized Shabbatonim, singles events, parties, and gave many shiurim. She also worked as an assistant principal for many years, touching the lives of countless students and teachers. She inspired people daily, with the Torah Minute Woman’s Corner messages she shared, and through her conversations with others and the Torah classes she gave.
The Fourth of Adar marked five years since her passing. To commemorate, a ceremony was held at the ballroom of Colbeh in Great Neck on Thursday night, attended by over 200 men and women.
The evening began with a video from one of the Rabbanith’s shiurim that was never previously released. The shiur focused on living a life of connection with G-d. The audience watched the captivating video, as the Rabbanith told the story of King David at an incredibly low point of his life. His son rebelled against him, most of the country was supporting his son, and King David was then also cursed by a man named Shim’i ben Geira. King David’s followers wanted to intervene and hold Shim’i accountable for his behavior, but King David answered with two words: “Hanichu lo” (Leave him be). What this shows us is that King David understood that this happened for a reason, and that this was a message from G-d; King David was then able to reach his potential and at a higher level. After viewing the video, a number of people remarked that this was how the Rabbanith lived her life. She did not take things personally or respond defensively, and viewed hardship as an opportunity for further growth and connection with G-d.
Rabbi Ya’aqob Menashe, founder and spiritual leader of Midrash Ben Ish Hai, spoke next. He shared how, for the Rabbanith, life was all about connecting with G-d and sanctifying His name. He shared that the Rabbanith always acknowledged G-d, both in times of great joy as well as during times of hardship. He spoke about how, at the wedding of their son, Rabbi Menashe Manasseh, photographers were taking family pictures, and the Rabbanith told her daughters, overcome with emotion, “I am so thankful to Hashem for blessing me with such wonderful children. I am so, so blessed.” At the other extreme, after her diagnosis, the Rabbanith saw many doctors. When she met them for the first time, she respectfully told them that there was something she wished to share with them before discussing treatment. She then explained how, as an Orthodox Jew, she believes that G-d runs the world. She told all the doctors that she saw that she was grateful for their support and medical intervention, and also wanted them to know that, in her eyes, the outcomes were entirely in G-d’s hands. Thus, even in her darkest moments, she was able to make a kiddush Hashem. Throughout his speech, Rabbi Menashe played video clips from shiurim the Rabbanith gave, allowing the audience to see the Rabbanith talk about forging a close relationship with Hashem in her own words.
The Rabbanith’s eldest daughter, Dr. Yali Werzberger, spoke next. She spoke about the legacy her mother left, which included identifying and living life according to one’s values. The Rabbanith knew and adhered to her values and was therefore able to live a life of truth and integrity. Yali explained that, as an only child, creating a happy and cohesive family life for her children was of utmost importance for the Rabbanith. Although she worked, and she was the Rabbanith of a community, her children were her priority. The Rabbanith was there to greet her children when they came home from school, and made sure that the family ate nutritious dinners together. When the Rabbanith’s children were young and the family went on trips together, her children would often complain that they were hot, tired, or bored. The Rabbanith would then sing songs, tell stories, or play games to distract her children from their complaints, and a few minutes later, her children were happily singing or playing along! Yali also spoke about how the Rabbanith went out of her way to be there for others, and at the same time, was dedicated to her service of G-d. She ended by asking the audience to take time to clarify and identify their own values, so that when they are faced with difficult decisions, they can choose the path of integrity. Chaim and Mordechai Werzberger, the Rabbanith’s grandsons, then made a siyum on Perek Alef of Pirkei Aboth, which they learned with their father, Zev, for the Rabbanith’s ilui neshamah.
Two days later, on Shabbath, friends and family members ate lunch together at Midrash Ben Ish Hai. Many shared their memories of the Rabbanith and spoke about how her teachings still impact the way they live their lives. Guy Shoshan, her son-in-law, also made a siyyum (on Masekhet Gittin), which he learned for the Rabbanith’s ilui neshamah. Guy spoke about how, although he never met the Rabbanith, he is incredibly grateful for the way she raised his wife Aziza. He continued to say that although he did not meet the Rabbanith, he has heard from so many others how all people felt like they were the most important person, and truly the center of the universe when the Rabbanith spoke to them. She was able to do this because she was in complete harmony with herself. She uplifted everyone around her with the undivided attention she gave each person, and truly embodied “darkhei noam.”
Although five years have passed, so many people speak about how the time, support, and advice she gave them have left an indelible imprint on their lives, still impacting the way they act, work, and parent today. She saw each person as valuable, and by extension instilled confidence in the thousands of people whose hearts she touched.
By the Manasseh Family