L ast week I took part in the levayah of my dear friend Rav Shlomo Pappenheim, a Toldos Aharon chassid, a senior figure in the Eidah Hachareidis, and a rare breed of Jew. Not only was Rav Shlomo a powerhouse of a community askan who played a seminal role in establishing essential institutions such as Bayit Lepletot (an orphanage and school also known as Girls Town Jerusalem) and the original Beit Hachlamah convalescent home for women post-childbirth; he also had another rare gift. He was blessed with personal magnetism that cast a spell over his many acquaintances and admirers.

That magnetic charm stemmed from a quality of character cited by Moshe Rabbeinu in his prayer for Yehoshua bin Nun, who was about to succeed him as leader of the Jewish People. According to Rashi (Bamidbar 7:16), Moshe said, “G-d of spirits, it is revealed and known before You that people’s minds are not alike. Appoint a leader over them who will be tolerant of every person according to his own way of thinking.” Rav Shlomo had that rare capacity for tolerance, the ability to love and respect others who thought differently than he did, and this won him the respect and admiration of many, far beyond the boundaries of his own community.

Rav Shlomo was an Eidah Hachareidis man through and through, staunch in his views, able to engage anyone, from any other stream of Jewish society, without ever giving an inch hashkafically. And it was fascinating to see how much awe he inspired in every such encounter. When he stood up for the views of the Eidah Hachareidis, speaking with courage, clarity, and directness, people listened. It was astounding to see how his words, sharp as they were, were accepted even by his greatest opponents. He always won their respect, because although he never minced words, he spoke with the utmost respect and derech eretz to every participant in a forum.

To me, Rav Shlomo was a model for all of us. I learned from his example that a Jew can hold extreme opinions while keeping his menschlichkeit. In the divisive atmosphere that prevails in Israeli society, he was a remarkable exception.

I remember being with him in Cyprus, where we were both taking part in a thought-provoking seminar under the auspices of Masa Yisraeli (Israeli Roots Odyssey). The presenters were drawn from every part of Israeli society, from the most antireligious on one end of the spectrum to Rav Shlomo Pappenheim of the Eidah Hachareidis on the other end. Between the two extremes was a wide range of activists of every sort: secular, dati, chareidi, feminists, journalists, Knesset members, representatives of Israeli Intelligence, and so on — a very interesting and varied mosaic of today’s Eretz Yisrael.

We were there to explore possibilities for productive coexistence in this Land we call home, despite our differences of ideology and lifestyle. It was a fascinating experiment, led by an American Jew who has earned international recognition in crisis management and resolution. But it was Rav Shlomo Pappenheim who made the greatest impression. His position seemed extreme to many, yet his uncompromising words were measured, his manner was gentlemanly, and he took the opinions of others into consideration, winning their admiration and acceptance, if not their agreement.

He made the greatest impression of all on Friday night. There we all were, religious Jews together with many others for whom Shabbos Kodesh was an alien concept. But a proper Shabbos seudah was conducted out of respect for the mitzvah-observant contingent, and I remember asking Rav Shlomo to make Kiddush for the entire assembly. He declined at first, saying that he would like to make Kiddush for himself according to his own minhag, with all the preliminary tefillos customary to his community, as well as Shalom Aleichem and Eishes Chayil. I urged him to do precisely that, but to do it for everyone there at the meal. Why not let them see for once in their lives how an authentic Jew consecrates the Shabbos?

He finally assented, and dressed in all his Yerushalmi Shabbos finery, from shtreimel to striped silk caftan, he stood up in the little section of the dining hall designated for the chareidim and recited Kiddush with all the preliminary prayers, all in the traditional style and niggunim of his kehillah. It made an awesome impression. People who had never seen such a thing before were deeply stirred; afterward, they expressed their thanks for the opportunity.

There was one incident that highlighted his charming manners as well as his great emotional intelligence. Two secular journalists, a married couple, took part in one of our groups. During the course of that evening, arguments broke out among us more than once, and the female journalist had some harsh words to say that were not to the liking of the chareidi participants. Each one of us responded in his own way, including Rav Pappenheim, who clearly expressed his opposing view.

When we finally adjourned late that evening, Rav Pappenheim shook hands with the male journalist, and then, speaking up so that she would also hear, he said, “Now I’d like to shake your hand again for your wife.” He would certainly not shake hands with a woman, but he had the sensitivity to do something to appease her and take the caustic edge off the atmosphere.

Over the years I had many penetrating conversations with him, but one that especially comes to mind was about demonstrations against the government by extremists in the Eidah Hachareidis. He said to me on that occasion, “If you keep track, Reb Moishe, you’ll notice that every time we’ve gone to battle against the chilonim, when we were fighting for our own rights, for the rights of the chareidi community on issues such as drafting bnei yeshivah into the army or National Service for girls, we always won. But whenever we tried to correct something about the secular public, we failed. And that should tell us something.”

He repeated that observation in an interview with the Hebrew Mishpacha magazine some years ago. Of course, the militant demonstrationists of his community embittered his life for the stance he took. They were particularly enraged by his statements in that interview against violent demonstrations:

“Violence on our part causes hatred of chareidim, which turns into hatred of our religion, and eventually leads to hatred, kiveyachol, of the One Above. Yet we have learned that ‘its ways are ways of pleasantness.’ Violence triggers a violent reaction. Words of persuasion are much more effective. Our violence makes us unwanted everywhere. I say this from decades of experience. If we were more tolerant toward those outside our community, we could spread out as much as we wanted. I can say unequivocally that a chiloni who gets hit by a stone on Shabbos is never going to do teshuvah.”

As we bid farewell to this precious Jew, it is fitting to apply to him the words of the Gemara (Yoma 86):

“‘And you shall love the L-rd your G-d’ — that is, you shall make the Name of Heaven beloved, by learning Torah and Mishnah, and by serving Torah scholars, and being pleasant with people in your business transactions. What do people say about such a person? Fortunate is his father who taught him Torah, fortunate is his teacher who taught him Torah. Woe to the people who have not studied Torah. He who studied Torah, see how pleasant are his ways, how proper are his deeds.”

Much more will surely be said in his praise. I have just lit one small candle in his memory, to place by his fresh grave. (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 659)