R. Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l
Much of our mourning for R. Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l is an insider affair. It cannot be adequately shared with others. You had to have learned in the Mir, or had children who did, to have been acquainted enough with what he accomplished through the sheer force of his will. Or you had to come from Chicago, were you could have witnessed his transformation from a baseball-loving American kid in a coed high school (something he readily shared with American NCSYers with whom he met each summer) to a talmid chacham and architect of the flowering of the largest yeshiva in Israel. Or you had to have been present at one of his fund raising whistle stops in the US, and watched him daven. (He dropped by our shul in Los Angeles a few years ago to daven mincha. Because of his Parkinson’s, his limbs flailed about when he tried to stand still. To be able to daven shemonah esreh, he placed a chair right in front of him, and locked his feet around its legs to try to anchor himself in one position. It worked only partially. The sight of his mesiras nefesh left everyone in the shul speechless for some time after, and remains seared into the memory of all who were there.)
But what if you have to explain who he was to someone who did not have access to him up front – to someone who isn’t even observant? In that case you have to review the story of his encounter with a group of American businessmen, as told by Howard Schultz, Chairman at the time of Starbucks. The story is a tribute to the wisdom of a genuine talmid chacham.
My daughter in law whose husband learns in the Mir wrote me this descripion which is worth sharing.
“Yes exactly what you say, people gave to the mir just from seeing Rav Nosson Tzvi as a person.
Some say 100,000 attended the levaya and some say 250,000 either way it was a lot. I hope you get a chance to see all the pictures on yeshiva world news. I stood on the side street with thousands of women. It was so packed that if I would lean to the side I could not b.c the crowd held me up.
The first speaker was Rav Aryeh Finkel, cousin of the rosh y. and rosh y. of mir brachfeld. He cried bitterly and everyone cried.
Rav N T. went weekly to delivery shiur klali in mir Brachfeld and once a month spends shabbos there. This shabbos he was there and by shalosh seudos he spoke and said that the will he is leaving over to the mir consists of four words: K’ish Echod Blev achod
RNT was not involved in politics, He loved and excepted anyone and everyone at their level and loved Torah above all. He was very against the fact that people call mir a makom torah , he wanted the mir to be a unified yeshiva not just a place to learn.
After him spoke Rav Refael Shmulevitz, oldest son of rav chaim (who avi told me they offered to be the rosh y. before rav Nosson T. but he declined due to the fact that he did not want to bear the burden of fundraising.)
But he is considered one of the official roshei yeshiva.
Yesterday was Rachel Imenus Yohrtzeit and lots of people made the connection between the misras nefesh these two had.
After that was his younger brother Rav Gedlia finkel, he was very emotional and spoke short.
Next was his son Rav Lazer Yehuda finkel who was annouced as the memaleh makom and also by rav Shteinman in the beginning of the levaya.
He is 46 years old father of 11 KH and his oldest two are married. He has the same middos as his father and even looks like him. He is a huge talmid chachom and has already been giving shiur in yeshiva for a while. His father did start taking him to america for a while to start training him in. Rav Nosson T felt confident that he is right for the job. Ofcourse its scary and will be hard. He is taking on a yeshiva with tremendous debt in a very bad financial sit. and we all have to hope that the yeshiva sees the same nissim.
He actually lives right near us in sanhedria on shaul hamelech.
A bachur in avis chaburah went to him last year and said “if you will be rosh yeshiva one day you need to know English very well”. So This bachur set up a seder in english with Rav lazer Yehuda finkel weekly.
It is not going to be the same and we need to daven…
Avi said one thing that he thought of as he walked from the mir to Har hamenuchos (around 2.5 hour walk) was thinking here is a man who grew up in America, from a modern family, was a big cubs fan, never had a real yeshiva education as a child and look how the entire yerushalayim came out to be melave him.
He ascended anything that may have held him back.
He brought the mir up and built it into the booming yeshiva it is today.
Avi was zoche to learn with him bichvrusah as a bachur and said he would learn with him until the words could not come out any more.
Some times the rebbetzin would ask avi to leave the room for a min. while she gave him shots. Nothing stopped him. He was machshiv everyone and anyone.
His poor mother is alive and well she is an adorable lady named sara finkel she writes cookbooks and a real american lady. Rebbetzin bainish finkel the rosh y. mother in law is also alive.
I started getting together pictures we have with the rosh y. and came across a beautiful one of you with Rav Nosson tzvi I will have to send it to you.
May we see an end to tzar bikarov and may we put in to action all the lessons from this holy holy gadol.
Thanks for giving me this opportunity to jot down these thoughts,