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Sunday, November 23, 2014

This man was a Gmach

A Gmach is a kindness fund. There are all kinds of Gmach's in Jerusalem. Some find rides. Some lend chairs or benches. Some lend pillows on which to place a newborn baby before and after his circumcision. But only one lent freezers. That Gmach's owner was murdered in last Tuesday's terror attack. His name was R. Aryeh Kupinsky HY"D (May God Avenge his blood). Here's his story. (Again, with apologies to those who don't understand the occasional Hebrew that's thrown in).
Now, Aryeh was a big man. He towered over most anyone, was broad in the shoulders and deep in the chest, and he had a long, red beard.
But it was not his physical appearance that allowed Rafi to recall him. Stricken, he asked, “Aryeh Kupinsky? The one who always had a big smile?” Aryeh was a doer. When I think of him, the image my mind conjures up is one of Aryeh in motion. Long legs taking great strides, powerful arms reaching out with great sweeping gestures. And what is Aryeh doing? Why, he’s helping someone. Aryeh lived for others. His first thought was never for himself.
As Rabbi Jonathan Taub put it so well, Aryeh was simply incapable of being a guest at a Simcha. If he was there early, then he would single-handedly flip over tables and set them on their feet. He often did not leave until everything was put away. Once, a friend insisted that he sit, enjoy himself, and let those who were hired do the work. When he next saw Aryeh, he had lugged in all of the cartons of drinks that he had located outside of the hall, and he was finishing loading them into the refrigerator.
How many times had I heard him say, “What can I do to help?” When I first came to Yeshivah nearly two decades ago, someone explained to me that Aryeh Kupinsky was a person who would “Do anything, for anyone, at any time”. Aryeh was recently married when I first met him, but I heard that in his dorm room when he was a Bachur, he had put up a sign that read, “Please borrow anything – no need to ask”. Who DOES that?
Aryeh acted quickly and quietly. He asked for no recognition,and many were unaware of things that he had done. Here is one example that comes to mind. On Tisha b’Av for the past number of years, on the Neve campus, there has been a very well-attended program featuring superb lecturers. Beginning with Shacharis and ending with Minchah, the program has incorporated Kinos interspersed with hard-hitting, powerful, and sometimes fiery speeches. By two o’clock in the afternoon, everyone has gone home. Well, nearly everyone. There was one man who made sure that the Sefer Torah and two Haftarah scrolls that has been used for Davening were returned from the dining room to the Shul, and that the Aron Kodesh was properly locked.
...
Aryeh sought to establish something permanent in Chaya’s memory. We live in such a world of Shefa, b’Chasei Hashem. And with so many good, kind Yidden in the world, there are hundreds of categories found listed under “Gemach” in Frum directories worldwide. But Aryeh Kupinsky, Ba’al Chesed extraordinaire, managed to found a Gemach rare enough that – to the best of my knowledge – there is only one other one in existence. A freezer Gemach! He purchased a number of medium-sized freezers – of the six-drawer variety – and advertised that they would be available free of charge for use before Yomin Tovim and Simchos. He told me – with a mixture of incredulity and regret – that before Rosh Hashanah, he had to turn down 92 applicants. *Ninety-two*! Just days before Aryeh was so brutally taken from us, he was attempting to figure out how to acquire more freezers for this noble purpose.
What elevated Aryeh’s Gemach from merely unique to awe-inspiring, however, was the manner in which he ran it.
If you know anything about Har Nof, you know that it is built around a mountain. Every street is on another level, and many are stories below or above those closest to them. The entire neighborhood is made up of long, winding streets, and steep, winding staircases. 
Leaving the Kevurah, a member of the Chaburah related that he had yelled at Aryeh the last time that he had spoken to him. He had come across Aryeh while he was transporting a freezer from one recipient to another. On a hand truck. This was the only mode of transportation employed by the Gemach – hand-wheeled, bumped up and down every step and along every roadway. And there was only one “employee”.
“Are you crazy?!” our friend asked Aryeh. “Isn’t it enough that you furnish people with a free freezer? Let them pay fifty Shekel for delivery!” Aryeh recoiled. “This is my Chesed!” he protested.
I have seen in these last two days blurbs describing Aryeh that mention that he ran a Gemach. Aryeh did not run a Gemach. He *was* a Gemach. On that fateful Tuesday morning, when the Mispalelim became aware of the malevolence among them, they ran for their lives. Not so Aryeh. Numerous reports have Aryeh screaming at everyone in the Shul to run, while he made sure that they could. He hurled shtenders, chairs, Siddurim – whatever came to hand – at the terrorists to distract them, at one point physically restraining one of them. There were others who followed his example. After taking multiple blows – some intended for others – Aryeh fell. There is no doubt that he saved others’ lives.
There was an unexpected delay when we arrived at the plot in Har ha’Menu chos where Chaya is buried. The gaping hole in the ground was not quite long enough. We waited in the dark while the Chevra Kadisha took out their tools, and finally the earth reluctantly took Aryeh back.
Chaya a"h was R. Aryeh's 13-year old daughter who passed away two years ago. You can read more about her and R. Aryeh if you read the whole thing

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