GOOD MORNING! Fourteen years ago my close friend and tzaddik, Jerry Burstyn, passed from this world. This coming week is his yahrzeit, the commemoration of his passing. I thought it would be a fitting memorial to share with you some reminiscences with hopes that the memory of his character, deeds and love of people will inspire you. In Pirke Avos, Ethics of our Fathers (4:1), Ben Zoma asks "Who is the wise person?" and answers, "He who learns from all people." There is much to learn from the life of my beloved friend.
Call Me Yirmiyahu
When I first came to Miami in the early 80's as a circuit-riding fundraiser for Aish HaTorah, I met Jerry Burstyn. Amongst his first words were, "Call me Yirmiyahu ... you're one of the few people who can pronounce it." After that he asked me, "So, who do you want to meet and how can I help you?"
When I moved to Miami in 1990, Yirmiyahu came up to me after shul (synagogue), "I have some dressers and beds. Do you have need for any?" The next thing I know Yirmiyahu is driving up with a truck and a helper to move the dressers into my home.
Yirmiyahu was like a brother to me -- always there to listen, to advise, to help. I truly suspect that everyone who knew him felt the same way. He was never rushed and always had the time. He had the amazing ability to appear that he had nothing else to do but to talk with you. Then after you finished he would pull out one of his 3 x 5 cards crowded with things to do and people to call. His pockets were stuffed with notes and reminders to help people; he had 6 warehouses filled with things that some day someone might need. (Yirmiyahu once gave a man 30 wrecked bikes to fix -- 1 for the man to keep, 29 to give to children who needed a bike.)
Yirmiyahu was always there to help with whatever needed to be done. No task was too small or too hard if it could help another person. Yirmiyahu once spent three days going to used car lots with a widow on a tight budget to help her buy a car.
A poor, little old lady, alone in the world, once mentioned to Yirmiyahu that she wanted to be buried with her family in Connecticut. She had no living relatives and no money. When she died, Yirmiyahu made all of the arrangements, accompanied her back to Connecticut and performed the burial service for her.
There was "magic" that surrounded Yirmiyahu. Out of the goodness of his heart he would help someone and many times miraculous things would result from his kindness. One time, as a meter maid approached, he put a nickel in the expired parking meter of a Rolls Royce belonging to a man who had many times rebuffed Yirmiyahu's requests to meet for support of the Talmudic University. The man came running and puffing having seen the meter maid and wanting to save himself from a ticket. "Why did you do that?" he asked. "No reason you should get a ticket," replied Yirmiyahu. "Come into my office; I'd like to know you better" responded the man. Yirmiyahu walked out from the meeting with a check for $25,000 for the Talmudic University.
When Yirmiyahu heard of someone passing, he would immediately go to the family to be with them -- to help with arrangements, to run the Shiva (mourner) home, to be there every day. He would call them periodically or visit them to give them strength -- to let them know that someone cared. Before every holiday Yirmiyahu would pull out his list of widows and orphans to call. "It's most important to call before the holidays. That's when the hurt is the greatest and the loved one is missed the most."
Yirmiyahu will always be an inspiration for me. Selfless help for others. Loving others. Taking care of others. Thinking about and worrying about others. To be in his presence was to be filled with caring, love and warmth.
Yirmiyahu knew the secret that the truly "selfish man" is the truly selfless man. To look out for the needs of others is to have the most fulfilling, meaningful life. We are commanded to emulate the Almighty, the Master of giving. By emulating the Almighty we come closer to the Almighty. Yirmiyahu managed to come very close to the Almighty.
Most of us have our limits -- how much we'll do, how much we'll help, how much we can stand. We say, "That's it; I've got to look out for myself." I don't know if Yirmiyahu had limits or felt limits. He lived with the understanding that one man and the Almighty is a majority -- if God helps you, then you can do anything.
Perhaps that's why he said, "Call me Yirmiyahu." Yirmiyahu means "God will uplift me." "Call me Yirmiyahu -- give me the blessing that the Almighty will help me." And the Almighty did bless him and help him. And the Almighty also uplifted, exalted our beloved Yirmiyahu in the eyes and hearts of all who knew him. May his memory be an inspiration for many others to help others and perfect the world!
Torah Portion of the Week
Moshe relays the Almighty's commands to refrain from building the Mishkan (the Tabernacle or Portable Sanctuary) on the Shabbat, to contribute items needed to build the Mishkan, to construct the components of the Mishkan and the appurtenances of the Cohanim. The craftsmen are selected, the work begins. The craftsmen report that there are too many donations, and for the first and probably the only time in fundraising history, the Jewish people are told to refrain from bringing additional contributions!
Pekudey includes an accounting of all the materials that went into the making of the Mishkan and details of the construction of the clothing of the Cohanim. The Tabernacle is completed, Moses examines all of the components and gives his approval to the quality and exactness of construction, the Almighty commands to erect the Tabernacle, it's erected and the various vessels are placed in their proper place.
* * *
from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
The Torah states:
"Bezalel made the Ark of acacia wood" (Exodus 37:1).
Rashi states in his commentary that because Bezalel dedicated himself to the work of the Ark more than others, it bears his name: the Ark that Bezalel made.
However, the Midrash notes that for all the other appurtenances of the Sanctuary, God said to Moses, "You shall make," but in the case of the Ark, He said, "They shall make." The Midrash clarifies this exception. God said to Moses, "Let everyone participate in the fashioning of the Ark, so that all will have the merit of Torah" (Shemos Rabbah 34:3). Yet, there seems to be a conflict here. God instructed that everyone should share in the construction, though it appears that Bezalel did it all almost single-handedly.
Rabbi Boruch Sorotzkin explains that when Torah is involved, one should not assume that others will do their part, but rather act as if you were the only person who could carry out the responsibility. Although all the Israelites were obligated, Bezalel approached it as if he were the only one available to fashion it.
The lesson for us: when there is something to be done, do not rely on others, even if they share the responsibility. Act as if you were the only person available and capable of doing the task.
CANDLE LIGHTING - March 16
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
The purpose of life is a life of purpose
-- William Trump
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Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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