Whenever Rabbi Whittow had to buy a new car, the Rosh Yeshivah told him to weigh only two considerations
Rabbi Assa Whittow
Driver for Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg
Rabbi Assa Whittow a’’h drove Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, rosh yeshivas Torah Ore, for over 50 years. He did it with the same energy at 70 as at 20, even as the Rosh Yeshivah aged and needed more assistance — and even when he himself needed a cane. The septuagenarian Reb Assa would open the car door; he’d lie flat on the floor to help the Rosh Yeshiva with his socks; he’d follow the Rebbetzin’s unique instructions for positioning the Rosh Yeshivah’s tallis so it shouldn’t slip off the many layers of tzitzis the Rosh Yeshivah wore. If it was for the Rosh Yeshivah, it was his greatest honor.
Rabbi Whittow was a friendly, witty personality well-known in the Mattersdorf neighborhood, and he would always stop to offer residents a ride. But when accompanying Rav Scheinberg, he would assume a serious demeanor out of respect for the gadol. He also felt it wasn’t proper to offer people rides when such a prominent scholar was in the car — but Rav Scheinberg would urge him to stop anyway. When they passed the dozens of neighborhood schoolgirls trudging up the steep hill early in the morning, he’d tell Rabbi Whittow to stop and let them in.
“My father never drove us to school,” shares his daughter Tova Leah, “because in those days, it was considered a luxury to have a car and he didn’t want our friends to feel deprived. To have a car was so out of the ordinary, I was even a bit embarrassed! But I was curious to see for myself what transpired every day, so one morning I walked to school early. I was amused to see how the minute my father’s car — with the Rosh Yeshivah inside, — pulled up near the girls, they opened the door and piled in, as if it was a free car service. And the Rosh Yeshivah would call out, ‘More, more!’”
Whenever Rabbi Whittow had to buy a new car, the Rosh Yeshivah told him to weigh only two considerations: that there be enough space to accommodate him (given the many pairs of tzitzis he wore every day), and that it be big enough to offer rides to others.
Rabbi Whittow looked similar to Rav Scheinberg, and when the Rosh Yeshiva was niftar, people told his children that looking at Reb Assa provided them with some comfort, reminding them of Rav Sheinberg. But Reb Assa was so close to Rav Scheinberg, and so broken by his petirah, that his health deteriorated and he was niftar a few months later. Amazingly, a burial plot materialized steps away from Rav Scheinberg, near many gedolim.
Rabbi Whittow wasn’t the only one who passed away at the time. A few elderly residents of the building on Panim Meirot who’d been previously healthy and well were also suddenly niftar following Rav Scheinberg’s petirah. It was as if Rav Scheinberg had been the building’s protection, fending off the Angel of Death.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 878)
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