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He is the man whose new sefer on Chumash must adorn my seforim shrank

 

I recently realized that along with my beard filling to the brim with white, my seforim shelves have become filled with more seforim.

Therefore, I have now curbed my addiction to seforim.

A friend who also suffers from Compulsive Seforim Disorder suggested we start a 12-step program called Seforim Buyers Anonymous. Thankfully, however, without therapy nor medication, I have been able to keep the compulsion in check, and I rarely purchase a new sefer these days.

When I do purchase a new sefer, it has to be unique. The sefer must speak to me directly. The sefer must touch me in a deep and meaningful way. If these criteria are met, then the sefer has passed the litmus test, and it can join the hundreds of other seforim that grace my seforim shranks.

Seforim on Chumash are even more carefully vetted before they earn the right to sit on one of my many shelves. The reason for this is that as a rav, I have many seforim on Chumash. Until I finish learning all of those, a new sefer must be exceptional to earn an exemption from my no-new-Chumash-seforim ban.

A few weeks before Chanukah, my daughter’s chasunah took place in Passaic. I invited family and friends from far and near with the understanding that due to COVID, many people wouldn’t feel comfortable in a large crowd setting.

One particular friend, who is also a noted talmid chacham, informed me that although he’s giving a shiur that night, he would still come for the chuppah.

The chasunah began, and with the photographer’s lights in my eyes, I couldn’t see the audience. Until he was called up for brachah achrita, I didn’t know my friend was there.

After the chuppah, my daughter-in-law, who tends to avoid the spotlight, approached my friend and requested a brachah for my grandson.

I asked her why she did that, and she said, “You should have seen him at the chuppah. He was learning until the second he was called up.”

With the excitement of the chasunah, I forgot about the incident. Then, last week, the pictures from the chasunah arrived.

As expected, they were all pictures of family, of the chuppah and the dancing. Yet, there was one picture that did not fit it into the above categories.

It was a picture of a man sitting in the audience during the chuppah learning from a sefer. I hadn’t asked the photographer to take his picture. On his own, the photographer had realized he was looking at greatness.

It was a picture of my friend learning at the chuppah. Yet, he wasn’t just learning; he was back in Volozhin learning “mit a bren.” That man learning was my friend who received brachah achrita, and whom my daughter-in-law asked for a brachah. He was the friend who traveled almost two hours to be at my daughter’s chasunah. And the man who had to leave right after the chuppah and head back home to deliver a shiur.

He was also the man who transformed himself into a yeshivah bochur, shteiging over a Gemara while all around him a crowd of people were straining to see who was there.

When he wished me and my family mazel tov, he was the man who was all smiles without the slightest hint of being rushed at all.

He is simultaneously the busiest man in the world and the man who has all the time in the world for everyone.

And he is the man whose new sefer on Chumash must adorn my seforim shrank.

Oh, did I leave out his name?

His name is Rabbi Yaakov Bender.

It is his sefer that now proudly sits on my desk.

 

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 843)

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