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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rav Moshe Twersky HY"D (May God Avenge his blood)

Because I am in Boston, this evening I attended a memorial service for Rav Moshe Twersky HY"D at the school we both attended (Maimonides).

I want to summarize for you what some of the speakers said.

After two rabbis saying Tehillim, the first speaker was Nathan (Naty) Katz, one of Moshe's classmates, who is now the director of the school. Naty remembered how Moshe seemed more controlled than the rest of them in Kindergarten, how he was modest even though he was obviously brilliant (the go-to guy before that big Gemara test). Naty was a good athlete in his day, and recalled that during intramural football games, Moshe was a devastating blocker. Moshe never bragged, but when he made a good play, he would return to the huddle with a smile on his face. Nothing else - just a big smile.

The next speaker was Daniel Langerman, who was four years ahead of Moshe (and five ahead of me). Danny's family was close with Moshe's and were neighbors both in Brookline and in the Cape Cod summer community of Onset. He recalled how when Moshe reached 7th grade, they decided that no Talmud class would be befitting for Moshe other than 12th grade. Moshe was in the 12th grade Talmud class all through high school. In fact, one of Danny's classmates posted on Facebook earlier today how Moshe had been placed in their 11th grade Talmud class (apparently earlier in 7th grade) and knew more than anyone else in the class. He was that smart. I had the privilege of being in the same Talmud class as Moshe when I was in 11th grade and he was in 12th, but by then most of his learning time was being spent with his father - Rabbi Dr. Isidore Twersky z"l (the Talner Rebbe, although when I was in high school his father was still alive). Danny also talked about how Moshe managed to synthesize between his mother's (she should live and be well) very Brisker background and his father's very chassidishe background. Danny said that once they waited a long time to get a minyan (quorum) in Onset for the afternoon service. Danny was sent up to lead the prayer, and skipped a prayer that many people don't say after sunset. Moshe came up to him quietly afterward and said 'you shouldn't be so quick to skip Tachanun.' On the other hand, Danny recalled Moshe singing and dancing hard through many a Simchas Torah (Danny and his family prayed at Moshe's Chassidic grandfather's shul year-round - I went to that shul on some of the holidays when we visited my father's parents who lived across the street.

The next speaker was Rabbi Gershon Segal, whose wife is Moshe's first cousin once removed. Rabbi Segal spoke about Moshe's connection to his maternal grandfather and how his maternal grandfather (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik - known here in Boston as 'the Rov') proved the importance of having a connection to one's grandchildren from the fact that the Jews are named Bnei Yisrael after our forefather Yaakov, because Yaakov had a much better connection to his grandchildren than either his father or grandfather did. Rabbi Segal said that when Moshe's grandfather passed away, the family put out a book of words of Torah in his honor (it is called Beith Yitzchak - I would love to get one). Rabbi Segal recounted how his inlaws (Rabbi Aaron and Mrs. Ella Soloveitchik z"l) came to to Boston to visit them shortly after Moshe's grandfather passed away, and how his father-in-law was raving about Moshe's piece of Torah in the book. Rabbi Segal interpreted that as Rabbi (Aaron) Soloveitchik being thrilled at the proof that the Mesora (Jewish tradition) was being passed to another generation.

The next speaker was Yehuda Yaakov, the Israeli consul general, and he spoke surprisingly well, but on topics that are typically part of this blog anyway, so I will skip that one.

Finally, Barry Shrage, the chairman of the local Combined Jewish Philanthropies spoke. Barry knew Moshe's parents well, and talked about their and the family's lasting influence on the Boston Jewish community even though none of the immediate family live here anymore (I believe that the Siegels are the closest relatives here). One has to realize that until Rabbi Soloveitchik opened Maimonides in 1937, there was really no Jewish school here (my father was a few years too old for Maimonides, and all that was available was afternoon Hebrew school).

I have more to say about this myself, but someone is calling me in a few minutes, so that will have to suffice for now.

PS For those who are familiar with the order of the Jewish prayer service in the morning, I heard from someone here whose son-in-law was in that synagogue on Tuesday morning, and who had arrived late and gone upstairs to the women's section (often used by men in Israel on weekdays) that the terrorists came in during Shmoneh Esrei (the silent devotional prayer) and although his eyes were closed, he suddenly heard people saying the Shma prayer in the middle of Shmoneh Esrei (Shma is the prayer in which we accept on us the yoke of Heaven, and a Jew is supposed to die with Shma on his lips).

May God Have mercy....

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