Endearing Closeness

Endearing Closeness

By Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW

A few years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a week in Eretz Yisrael with our b’chor, Shalom, in honor of his bar mitzvah. It was a special trip, and we had the z’chus to meet a few g’dolei Yisrael and enjoy seeing some of the beauty of the Land.

We spent Shabbos with my sister Ahuva and my brother Yaakov and his family, both of whom live in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Yerushalayim.

During Shabbos, I mentioned to Yaakov that there was a sefer called Drashos Beis Yishai, written by Rav Shlomo Fisher, that I wanted to purchase. The problem was that it was out of print. I was hoping that during my visit I might possibly be able to meet Rav Fisher and to purchase his sefer directly from him. I also noted that Rav Fisher was the brother of Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fisher zt”l, a renowned halachic poseik.

My brother answered that not only did he know who Rav Fisher is, he actually lived only a few doors away. I couldn’t believe the opportunity! I told my brother that I wanted to knock on his door after Shabbos. My brother replied that although he had seen the Rav walking many times, he had never knocked on his door. Rav Fisher was a holy, elderly, and feeble man, and my brother wasn’t comfortable to simply knock on his door to seek his blessing. I told my brother that I was only in the country for a few days and I didn’t have time to think about being uncomfortable.

On Motza’ei Shabbos, Shalom, Yaakov, and I knocked on Rav Fisher’s door. We were brought inside, where we found the Rav quietly sitting at his table where he had just completed eating his melaveh malkah.

He gave Shalom a brachah in honor of his bar mitzvah and allowed me to take a picture of Shalom with him. When I told the Rav that I wished to purchase his sefer, Drashos Beis Yishai, he replied that that was his brother’s sefer. I realized that this was Rav Eliezer Moshe Fisher, a different brother of the famed halachic poseik.

Rav Fisher’s son was in the apartment assisting his father. Upon hearing my request, he brought me four s’farim that his father had authored. They were on topics throughout Shas, and were simply entitled, Sefer Eliezer Moshe, the name of their author.

Last week, I read the sad news that Rav Eliezer Moshe Fisher passed away at the age of 88.

As I was flipping through one of the s’farim I had purchased from him, it struck me how ironic it was that I had been willing to knock on his door when I was there for a week, and my brother had never done so.

For the first eight years of my life, my family lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I never remember visiting the Statue of Liberty or the World Trade Center during those years. I think that’s fairly common of New Yorkers.

On the other hand, tourists who visit the city for a week seem to hit all the popular tourist spots during that time.

It’s one of the sad realities of life: We often fail to take advantage of the things closest to us. The things we can do any time often become the things we don’t do at any time.

Conversely, when one knows he has limited time, he will pack in as much as he can during that time.

Residents of Yerushalayim may not visit the Kosel for months, while those of us who have the opportunity to visit from chutz laAretz will make sure to daven there numerous times.

More significantly, it was a stark reminder to me of our nature to fail to appreciate the little gifts of life, which aren’t little at all – primarily the gifts of our close friends and family.

Our children had the z’chus during Chanukah to enjoy time with all four of their grandparents – something I would give anything to be able to do – and some of their uncles, aunts, and cousins. And I had the z’chus to spend time with my parents and in-laws, in good health and a pleasant atmosphere.

I have a friend who often quips that we would be wise to daven that Hashem help us appreciate the gifts He grants us every day while we have them.

*****

Last Shabbos, our community paid tribute to Team Shabbos, a division of the National Association of Chevra Kadisha. It is an organization dedicated to raising and promoting awareness of end-of-life matters according to halachah.

Aside from the tremendous importance of the organization and what they offer our community, reflecting on their work helps us remember to appreciate the gift of life and those around us.

*****

I feel fortunate to have the s’farim of Rav Eliezer Moshe Fisher zt”l for their Torah insights and for the opportunity to maintain a connection with the late scholar. Beyond that, seeing his s’farim also gives me the satisfaction of knowing that at least on that occasion I took advantage of an opportunity and appreciated the moment.

I should add that I am still searching for the sefer Drashos Beis Yishai of Rav Shlomo Fisher shlita, which is out of print. If you find one, please let me know. (And no, it’s not yet on hebrewbooks.org).

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a rebbe and guidance counselor at Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, Principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor, and a division head at Camp Dora Golding. He can be reached at stamtorah@gmail.com. Looking for “instant inspiration” on the parshah in under minutes? Follow him on Torahanytime.com.

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