A Eulogy for Rabbi Baruch G. Goldstein זצ”ל
We have just begun “the three weeks”, a period of national mourning and introspection between the fast days 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’av. There is a well-known passage in the Talmud (Yoma 9b), which says that the Second Temple was destroyed because of Sinat Hinam – groundless hatred. On the other hand, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kuk said that “if we were destroyed and the world with us due to Sinat Hinam, we will return to being rebuilt and the world with us due to Ahavat Hinam (groundless love) (Orot Hakodesh, III, pp. 323-324). My Uncle, Rabbi Baruch G. Goldstein זצ”ל — a Holocaust survivor who passed away at the age of 94 on Erev Shavuot — lived his life according to the principle of Ahavat Hinam. Therefore, I have decided to share my eulogy for him during the three weeks as an incentive for all of us to practice Ahavat Hinam and Ahavat Hessed (to love kindness) during the three weeks and throughout the year. Yehi zikhro barukh! May his memory be for a blessing!
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When I learned right after Shavuot that Uncle Baruch had passed away, I sent a text message to my children. My son Mordy replied right away:
Barukh dayan emet – L’Tzaddik gadol.
“Blessed is the true judge” – to a great Tzaddik.
This reminded me of a famous passage found in the tractate of Sanhedrin, fol. 97b:
|Abaye said: the world will never have less than 36 Tzaddikim who receive God’s presence in every generation, as it is written (Isaiah 30:18) “Happy are all who wait for Him [= לו], and ל”ו in gematria is 36.||אמר אביי: לא פחות עלמא מתלתין ושיתא צדיקי דמקבלי אפי שכינה בכל דרא,
שנאמר (ישעיהו ל’: י”ח) “אשרי כל חוכי לו” – לו בגימטריא תלתין ושיתא הוו.
In other words, this passage is referring to the so-called Lamedvovnikim, the 36 righteous people, who maintain the world in every generation.
In the course of my life, there are only two people whom I have met that I consider to be counted among the Lamedvovnikim in our generation – and Rabbi Baruch G. Goldstein was one of them. I would like to explain why.
At the beginning and end of Rabbi Goldstein’s very moving Holocaust memoir, For Decades I Was Silent, he quotes Micah 6:8:
|O man, you have been told what is good
and what it is that the Lord requires of you –
to love kindness
and to walk humbly with your God.
|הגיד לך אדם מה טוב
– ומה ה’ דורש ממך
.והצנע לכת עם אלהיך
I believe that Uncle Baruch emphasized this verse because he lived his life according to these three ideals.
I think that his understanding of Asot Mishpat – to do justice – was to talk about the Holocaust all over the United States. As he writes:
After I retired, I made myself available to speak frequently on the Holocaust. I have traveled thousands of miles in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine to lecture and to share my message with students at universities, colleges, high schools, and elementary schools, and with members of many organizations and congregations, Jewish and Christian. And whenever I spent time in California and Oregon, I continued lecturing there. As I mentioned earlier, as a survivor, I felt obliged to bear witness and give honor and a voice to those who could not speak out and [were not] allowed a chance to express their pain.
It is often painful for me to reopen again and again the wounds that never healed. But the positive responses of my listeners have made the pain worthwhile, and that has been a source of encouragement for me to continue to speak and to teach the message of the Holocaust. In my lectures, I talk not only about the horrors that were committed and the terrific suffering that occurred, but also make an effort to leave a message of hope and to inspire my listeners to create a more tolerant and more gentle society. It is my conviction that humans can and must learn how to eradicate bigotry, hatred, racism and prejudice, the sources of all evil in the world (p. 152).
And I hope with humility that my testimony will be an additional voice that cries out for individuals and nations to respect human lives and human rights and to eradicate hate and evil. For I firmly believe that human beings are just as capable of loving as they are capable of hating, and that all of us are capable of tolerating differences and of eliminating racism, anti-Semitism, prejudice, and bigotry from our midst. May it be so speedily in our days (p. 180).
As for Hatznea Lekhet – to walk humbly with your God – time after time in his memoir, Uncle Baruch says that he went for an interview or was offered a job as a teacher or principal or rabbi, but he declined or doubted he would get the job – because he was not worthy or ready.
Of course, all of us who knew Rabbi Goldstein knew that he was a great educator and rabbi, because of his vast knowledge, his love for children, his love of Hebrew and the State of Israel, and his sense of humor; and since he was the epitome of the disciples of Aaron in Pirkei Avot 1:12: אוהב את הבריות ומקרבן לתורה – “who loves people and draws them near to the Torah”. Yet he doubted his own abilities because of his Tzniut, his true humility.
Lastly, there is Ahavat Hesed, “to love kindness“. One could say that it is not a coincidence that Uncle Baruch passed away on Erev Shavuot, the holiday when we read the Book of Ruth, since the Book of Ruth is a book entirely devoted to Hesed – Kindness.
Ruth does Hesed to Naomi by returning with her to Bethlehem — even though she had no obligation to do so.
Boaz, in turn, does Hesed to Ruth by allowing her to glean from his field, and drink his water, and eat his bread, and by marrying her – even though he was not legally obligated to do so.
As Naomi says to Ruth when Ruth returns from gleaning in the field of Boaz (2:20)
|Baruch – Blessed be he [=Boaz] of the Lord,
who has not failed in His kindness, to the living or the dead!
|!ברוך הוא לה’ אשר לא עזב חסדו את החיים ואת המתים|
In other words, this verse makes a direct connection between Baruch and Hesed/Kindness.
Uncle Baruch was one of the kindest people I have ever met.
He was kind to his immediate family:
To his beloved wife Riva z”l;
To his children Meyer and Suerita;
To his grandchildren Jonah, Liza, Sarah, Daniel; Jessica, Sharon and Andrew;
To his great-grandchildren Ronen Mordechai and Asher Baruch.
To his in-laws Rabbi Mordechai Ya’akov and Chanah Chaya Freida Golinkin z”l;
And to my parents Rabbi Noah and Devorah Golinkin z”l. Indeed, Baruch and my father treated each other like brothers, since my father lost his only brother and Baruch both his siblings in the Shoah.
But Uncle Baruch was also kind to thousands of people in Worcester, Wakefield, Mission Viejo, Portland, Providence, Delray Beach and Israel.
And to total strangers that he had just met, as my wife Dory pointed out to me on the phone last night. When Baruch sat around a table with people that he knew or that he did not know, he would relate to each and every person as an individual. He cared about each person, and the next time they met, he would remember their names and what they had told him the previous time.
Uncle Baruch performed countless acts of Hesed. On a number of occasions he called me in Jerusalem and asked me to help some specific people that he knew. In each case, I spent years helping those people, simply because Uncle Baruch had asked me to do so.
Rabbi Goldstein was also a generous donor of Tzedakah to many worthy causes, including my own institution, The Schechter Institute in Jerusalem. For example, in 1998 he established an endowment called “The Meyer and Tirzah Goldstein Holocaust Memorial Library”, which has enabled us to publish thus far over 30 books devoted to Halakhah and other areas of Jewish Studies. Each book contains a full-page dedication to his father Yisrael Meyer, mother Tirzah Beilah, sister Rachel, and brother Shmuel Alter z”l, who perished in the Holocaust.
What was the source of this Hesed — which was exceptionally notable in light of six years under Nazi persecution; 1,000 days at Auschwitz; and the loss of 45 members of his extended family who were murdered by the Nazis?
Most people would have emerged from such terrible experiences angry at the world and focusing on their own welfare, yet Rabbi Goldstein emerged in May 1945 with a love for all human beings, and he spent the next 72 years of his life doing acts of Hesed.
What was the source of this kindness?
— His parents, Meyer and Tirzah z”l, as he writes in his book (p. 10): “Both my parents were kind, gentle and soft-spoken people”.
— His beloved wife Riva/Rivka z”l. He says many times in his book that her kindness to him restored him to life and gave him the will and desire to help others. Indeed, Riva did for him exactly what Boaz did for Ruth.
— But last night my brother Abe told me the third reason for Uncle Baruch’s kindness, which I did not know. Many years ago, Abe and my parents z”l traveled to Mission Viejo, California in order to attend Liza’s Bat Mitzvah. Uncle Baruch took them along in his car to perform a mitzvah, probably bikur holim, to visit a sick person. In the car, he told them that he is constantly involved in doing Hesed for people. The reason is that during the Holocaust many different people had helped him in many different ways. He feels a debt of gratitude, but he has no way of thanking those people. So he is thanking them by “passing on kindness.” He told Abe and my parents that they too should pass on kindness. It’s like ripple in a pond. In that way, one person will help many people; those people will, in turn, help others, and the world will be filled with kindness.
This, then, is the legacy of Rabbi Baruch Goldstein – zekher tzaddik livrakhah – to all of the thousands of people who benefitted from his Hesed/Kindness throughout his long and inspiring life: pass on kindness!
Just as Rabbi Baruch Goldstein ztz”al did kindness to you, so should you do kindness to others.
|.כשם שהרב ברוך גולדשטיין זצ”ל עשה לכם חסד, כך עשו לאחרים|
Traditionally, when a person dies we say Yehi zikhro barukh, may his memory be for a blessing. Today I would like to paraphrase: Zikhro shel Baruch – baruch; the memory of Baruch is blessed
All four volumes of Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin’s Responsa In A Moment – Halakhic Responses to Contemporary Issues as well as other books by the author are available for purchase from the Schocken-JTS Press Bookstore.
David Golinkin is President of The Schechter Institutes, Inc. and President Emeritus of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. For twenty years he served as Chair of the Va’ad Halakhah (Law Committee) of the Rabbinical Assembly which gives halakhic guidance to the Masorti Movement in Israel. He is the founder and director of the Institute of Applied Halakhah at Schechter and also directs the Center for Women in Jewish Law. Rabbi Professor Golinkin made aliyah in 1972, earning a BA in Jewish History and two teaching certificates from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He received an MA in Rabbinics and a PhD in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he was also ordained as Rabbi. For a complete bio click here.