25 December 2016

My Rebbe and My Mentor...by R' Ephraim Sprecher

26 Kislev 5777
2nd Candle of Hanukkah

R' Goldstein, right - speaking at the Diaspora Yeshiva on Mount Zion. Photo credit: Ben Bresky.

 My Rebbe and My Mentor...by R' Ephraim Sprecher

It is with great sadness that I write about the passing of Rabbi Mordechai Goldstein zz"l, Rosh Yeshiva of the Diaspora Yeshiva on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Despite being extremely ill these past three and a half years and being confined to a wheelchair, he continued to give outstanding shiurim in the Yeshiva.

An early Talmid of Rav Aharon Kotler in Lakewood and Rav Henoch Liebowitz at Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim in Queens, Rabbi Goldstein was the first pioneer of the contemporary Ba'al Teshuvah movement in Israel. In 1965, before there was a concept of a Ba'al Teshuvah Yeshiva, Rabbi Goldstein established the Diaspora Yeshiva in Jerusalem, which was opened to one and all. He loved and accepted all Jews without being judgmental. After the 1967 Six Day War, the Diaspora Yeshiva moved to Mount Zion, the site of King David’s Tomb. The Lubavitcher Rebbe told Rav Goldstein zz"l how privileged and fortunate he is to have King David as a next door neighbor.

I was a student in the Yeshiva in 1970 when I was twenty years old. One morning as I lay in bed, Rabbi Goldstein sat down on my bed and shook me gently and with love in his eyes told me, "Ephraim, it’s time for Shacharit, G-d is waiting for you." When I made Aliyah in 1994, Rav Goldstein zz"l invited me to teach in his Yeshiva. He told me that I was to be his spiritual fireman. My job was to put out the fires of assimilation and secularism which are threatening to consume many lost Jewish souls.

The prophet Malachi states, “The lips of the Kohen-Rebbe imparts knowledge, and Torah you shall seek from his mouth, because he is an Angel of G-d.” The Talmud in Chagiga explains this verse, that if your Rebbe is like an Angel of G-d then study Torah from him, but if not, don’t study from him. This is a strange statement because Kohelet teaches “There is no Tzaddik on Earth who does only good and never sins.” Every person sins! So according to the Talmud we should not study Torah from any Rebbe? But the explanation is, that the difference between an Angel and a person is that an Angel can’t move forward and cannot progress spiritually. Unlike a person who can move forward, grow, advance and progress spiritually. So the Talmud means that if your Rebbe is willing to give up his own spiritual growth and progress for his students, that’s the type of Rebbe you should seek out.

This was exactly Rav Goldstein zz"l who was willing to sacrifice his own spiritual growth and advancement in order to teach Ba'alei Teshuvah who were ignorant of Judaism. He loved all his students like his own children. Rav Goldstein zz"l knew how to push everyone’s spiritual buttons to motivate them to realize their full potential. He was not just my Rebbe and Mentor but also my dear friend who helped me through the difficult times in my life. I will miss him sorely. May his memory be a blessing to his family and all of Israel.

Blogger's note: Our own Diaspora Yeshiva connection began with R' Mordechai's son, R' Avraham Goldstein, who visited us in our diaspora city and even gave a shiur in our house. R' Avraham became the Rosh Yeshiva of Diaspora when the Rav became ill. After I made aliyah and finished ulpan, I spent almost 2 years learning with the Rav's wife, Rabbanit Mollie Goldstein, at Machon Roni, Diaspora's Torah Seminary for women (también Midreshet-Roni enseña a las mujeres en español. Yo creo que la Yeshiva también enseña a los hombres; pero, a mi pesar, no encontré ninguna página con que enlazar.). My husband began studying with R' Sprecher at Diaspora Yeshiva some six months after our arrival, and is still learning with him more than 9 years later.

More Diaspora Yeshiva: Diaspora Yeshiva's Pre-1967 History, The Vatican and Mount Zion (featuring a 2013 audio interview between the Rav's son R' Yitzhak Goldstein, now Diaspora's Rosh Yeshiva, and Judy Simon, Arutz 7) | Facebook | Diaspora Yeshiva Band | About the Yeshiva

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