Is there something you always carry on you, even if it’s seen better days?
Project coordinator: Rachel Bachrach
Illustrations: Menachem Weinreb
For the last 25 years or so, I’ve carried in my wallet a note written to me by Rabbi Moshe Gottesman a”h, the late dean of the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County and longtime tour director of Camp Sdei Chemed International. Rabbi Gottesman was the paradigm of ahavas Yisrael. He was equally comfortable and accepted whether he was wearing his black hat, his white kippah serugah, or his white straw hat among a sea of black shtreimlach at a chassidishe rebbe’s tish (a picture that he had on prominent display).
I was a rebbi in HANC, and Rabbi Gottesman wrote this note after I and Rabbi Henoch Messner were instrumental in convincing one of our students not to follow through with his post-summer plans to leave yeshivah and enroll in public school. While Rabbi Gottesman himself can be credited for bringing hundreds of families into the Torah fold, and my efforts here were limited to a phone call and maintaining contact, he felt that this alone was worthy of a beautiful brachah.
Rabbi Gottesman quoted the mishnah saying that he who saves a life has saved an entire world, and then he wrote in Hebrew, “You merited to save a soul and build a world. Kol hakavod! The zechus of these efforts will stand for you on Rosh Hashanah.”
I cherish this note, which I call my ticket to Gan Eden, both for the actual brachah and for the reminder of the special person who wrote it. While the NYC MetroCard alongside it has long past its expiration date, this note never will.
Rabbi Aharon Friedler has been a rebbi at Hebrew Academy of Nassau County in Uniondale, New York, for three decades. He lives in Far Rockaway, New York.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 860)
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