Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Passing of a True Rebbe

From my brother comes the sad news that Rabbi Shmuel Klein has passed away. A product of Torah Vodaas and Dropsie College, he taught Gemara at Ramaz' Upper School and was the ba'al koreh at my father's shul in Queens. My parents, believers in out of the classroom education, had my brother and I learn (not at the same period of time) Navi with him every Shabbat afternoon- I learned with him week in, week out for at least seven or eight years, finishing all of Neviim Rishonim and Yishayahu and beginning Yirmiya before high school got too busy. (I finished most the rest of Tanach at YU and on my own, but basing myself on what I'd learned with him.) He was also the Bar Mitzvah teacher for both of us, and encouraged us to keep layning afterward, which we both did. We inherited a somewhat unique style from him- to this day, people will come up to me in Jerusalem after hearing me layn and ask if I have a brother in New Jersey. :-) In both settings, he was a remarkable rebbe from whom we learned so much.

I was actually just thinking of R' Klein a few days ago as we read about the generations from Noach to Avraham- how he once gently pointed out that maybe they didn't actually live to such advanced ages, and that something other than plain p'shat is intended. I remember him saying, "Now, I realize that some people may be uncomfortable with this view, but it's a legitimate one." 

Another time, when we got to Chapter 40 of Yishayahu, he said, "I should just point out that a lot of people say that from this point on, the sefer was written by someone else. As we learn it, you'll see why they say that." He never said it was right or wrong, or even mentioned it again- but that one mention was worth quite a lot. In addition to all I learned from him on the topics we were devoted to, those little notes that were tossed in meant a lot- expand your mind, don't worry if things don't make sense at first, and maybe not every solution out there is as treyf as people say they are- look into them and work them out for yourself.

And to this day, I find myself using his expressions: "Give me a second," I'd say, and he'd smile and answer, "I'll give you two seconds!" Pops out of my mouth all the time.

And to top it all off, he was also a fan of Gilbert & Sullivan- I used to run into him and his wife at performances. (Performances of the same New York company that is no longer putting on The Mikado, because the world has gone mad. Well, we are carrying on with a new production here in Jerusalem, at least.) That says something to a young Orthodox man as well.

Yihi Zichro Barukh.

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