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Shorter Time, Higher Stakes

That should have meant it was too late to include any tribute. But maybe not?


When the news came in last Tuesday morning that Rav Gershon Edelstein ztz”l had been niftar, last week’s magazine had already been printed.

That should have meant it was too late to include any tribute. But maybe not?

Getting a magazine from the printer to your doorstep or supermarket is a tightly coordinated process that must tick in sync to a precise timetable. At each stage, there are multiple considerations and variables. Sometimes those variables are flexible.

From the start, we had a clear mandate. If the logistics could be finessed — if an insert could be produced and packaged in time for distribution — we would pay whatever it cost.

We quickly checked in with the three printing houses where Mishpacha is printed: one in the US, one in the UK, and one in Israel. (Yes, that meant waking up our American staff at 3:10 a.m.) The magazines had already been saddle-stitched. This meant that new material could not be added, and pages could not be replaced. Any tribute would have to be a separate insert.

Next question: Had the magazines already been packaged in the poly plastic with Family First and Mishpacha Jr.? It turns out that at the US printer, several thousand copies of the magazine had already been packaged. This meant that we’d have to pay the printing staff to rip open all the packages and repackage the magazines along with the insert.

We instructed the printer to hire extra staff to rip open the plastic packaging, and negotiated for a new printing slot. (It’s not a given that a busy print house will have machines and personnel available during their busy workweek, which is planned in advance for minimal gaps in production.)

The logistics of the delivery had to be rearranged as well. Truck pickups had to be rescheduled, new flights booked. Our distributors had to hire more vans and workers to ensure that the magazines would arrive in stores and homes within a much smaller timeframe.


hile the logistics team scrambled with that long list of tasks, our editorial staff had just hours to prepare a fitting tribute to a gadol hador. No one, even the most seasoned writer or editor, feels equipped for this kind of job. Paper and ink are by definition paltry, and the print medium can never capture the greatness of a gadol b’Yisrael. But even as we acknowledge our limitations, we’re propelled by two motives: One is to express kavod haTorah; the other is to give our readers a sense of what we’ve all lost.

For the first, our team works hard to pour extra effort into their work — every staff member gets on board to contribute what they can, be it photo sourcing, contacting all possible sources, combing through archives, building a visually beautiful design, awarding extra care and attention to language and to photo quality.

For the second, our editors and writers exert themselves to find the stories, descriptions, images, and details that convey specific and unique aspects of the gadol. We aim not for a templated, generic piece, but something that captures small but specific slivers of a truly great person.

Rav Gershon had been hospitalized on Shavuos — this was not a total shock — but we have a pretty firm policy in place. We don’t work on these tributes in advance; it feels distasteful and wrong, and our feeling is that we won’t have the siyata d’Shmaya we need if we don’t work with the utmost kavod for talmidei chachamim.

And during those hours of very pressured, very focused work, as the printers keep calling to remind us that the hastily arranged print window is closing, as the truckers rearrange their timetables, as the distributors scramble to rework a tight schedule — as the time grows shorter and the stakes of our work higher — we need that Heavenly help more than ever.


—Shoshana Friedman

Managing Editor


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 964)

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