Numbers that rebuilt Torah with all its vibrancy | Harav Y Reuven Rubin Shlita

Numbers that rebuilt Torah with all its vibrancy

By Harav Y Reuven Rubin Shlita

We grew up with Yieden that had numbers etched into their skin. You would see it when they put on tefllin or when we went swimming in the summer. They didn’t speak about it, but it seemed to us youngsters that those numbers spoke about things le from a secret world we would never understand. It was these numbers that rebuilt Torah with all its vibrancy. What we take for granted was built by the mesiras nefesh of these “victims” who chose to create rather than bemoan. With their determination they did the impossible, created a world filled with Torah and crowned with chesed, with nothing but their conviction that there would be a tomorrow. Everything we build today has arisen on the foundations they created with their passion for life.

Everything we build today has arisen on the foundations they created with their passion for life.

This week one of the last of that miraculous generation past was niftar. Reb Shimon Lipshutz z”l lived in Manchester and was a beacon of what it means to live with mesiras nefesh. Despite a youth spent in the hell of the death camps of Nazi Germany, he created from those ashes a life that was truly imbued with simchas hachaim. We who have been blessed to be raised on Coca Cola and instant soup can’t imagine what it means to take part in a death march and experience the pain of watching your father slip away on the roadside dying from hunger and exhaustion. Reb Shimon never spoke of that time, it was only in his later years that he chose to share some of his experiences so his children should be aware of their history. This was a Yied who in the midst of that horror would put aside a portion of his meagre bread ration so as to give it to his father. He carried that little bit of bread in his pocket, despite his own hunger so as to uphold the mitzvah of honouring his father with totality. Someone once took Reb Shimon’s ration and thus left both he and his father with nothing to eat. Reb Shimon forgave that unknown Yied with his whole heart. This is what those numbers on the arm stood for, strength and acceptance of Hashem’s Will.

When arriving in the UK, he settled in Manchester, davened in the first minyan in Machzikei Hadass every morning, and quickly became a beloved fixture in the communal landscape. Reb Shimon spiced up everyone’s day with his wit and sheer power of simcha. Rav Simcha Bamberger shared that this Yied never missed a daf yomi shiur and followed every word for 42 years, finishing Shas six and a half times.

The father of Torah-true children who have become models for others and a devoted husband to his wife who supported his every undertaking. After her passing Reb Shimon insisted on being self-sufficient and lived on his own till the end.

I have the zechus to have his son davening in our shtiebel. Pinchas has his father’s gift of spreading simcha to others, and a heart made only for doing favours for others. A father’s monument is his children, and Reb Shimon has left wonderful children who shine with their Torah dedication.

I don’t write this as an obituary, I could never give Reb Shimon true justice. I share this because he was one of the last veterans of those Yieden with numbers. Tears well up in my eyes with a knowledge that their like will never be again.

We are pygmies who thrive in their shadow. As a young student every one of my Rebbes had those numbers. They gave me fire, taught with their neshomahs, and made an impression that still rips through me all these years later. They gave each talmid their entirety and sought to connect with us although we were kids born in another world.

Yiddishkeit in America was abit hit and miss before these heroes arrived. They took chances, they stood by their standards and brought warmth to our cold lives.
We lived in the same world as Reb Shimon yet we never really understood. Did I tell you that he participated in over two thousand taharos in Manchester as a mainstay of the chevra kadisha? This from a Yied who, after the war said he had enough of the dead and never wanted to see another body. But then again, the Kehilah needed a chevra kadisha, and who best suited than the Yied with the number?

I am getting a bit choked up here, and my keyboard won’t stand the tears. Reb Shimon has passed away, in his kever was placed a bar of soap that was made from the remains of Yiddisher kedoshim. The enemies of our people chose this as a way of taunting our eternal identity as Hashem’s chosen people. He had kept it over seventy years and has taken it with him. This is what those number Yieden carried with them.

Our generation has been named the “snow flake generation”. The reason stems from a view that in the West we are so very protected and precious that we could never stand up to any real adversity. We would just melt away at the first sign of difficulty.

Yieden are made of something else, we come from those tzadikim who wore numbers, they have etched in our souls a sense of strength and responsibility.
We should mourn Reb Shimon and his like, and bind ourselves to their example. We owe them at least this.

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