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Eulogy for Mendy Gorin Z"L

10/29/2019 04:59:37 PM

Oct29

Before I begin, I’d like to ask for forgiveness from Mendy, Menachem Mendel ben Elchanan Z”L. Our Sages teach that after a person passes away and enters the World of Truth, it is an opportune time to ask for mechillah for anything we have done wrong and caused harm to Mendy. Of course, if I would have anything to forgive him for, I offer my wholehearted forgiveness, and I pray that his soul enjoys a smooth passage into Heaven.

We are now in the days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, which is identified as part of the festival season. Thus, our Sages have ruled, it is inappropriate to elaborate with lengthy eulogies that may cause intense grief and weeping. It struck me, that knowing Mendy, he would certainly prefer it this way. He would be uncomfortable to see me stand here and expound upon his virtues. However, I do want to share a few things from my heart, and I take the this liberty for two reasons: 1) With regards to a prominent member of the community, our Sages were more limiting in their ruling, 2) In all honesty, I simply cannot control myself from sharing what must be said.

Our holy Sages asked, “Who is a Chassid?”

Talmudic Sages offers one answer. A Chassid is one who acts beyond the letter of the law, one who goes beyond the call of duty.

Another answer suggests: A Chassid is one who performs mitzvot and good deeds with zeal.

Kabbalists offer another answer. A Chassid is one who does kindness with the Creator, by serving as a trustworthy partner with Hashem.

In his book called Hayom Yom, which is a collection of brief daily teachings, the Lubavitcher Rebbe offers another insight:

“… In Chassidic doctrine, the appellation "Chassid" refers to one who recognizes his own essence-character and his standing in the knowledge and study of Torah, as well as his situation in observing mitzvot. He knows what he lacks and he is concerned and takes pains to fill that void. He is diligent in obedience in the manner of "accepting the yoke of Heaven."

Many people say that Mendy was a Tzaddik. I think Mendy was much more than that. Mendy was a Chassid. For Mendy, being a Chassid was the biggest accolade. Mendy was honest and dedicated, he was fully aware of who he was and what he needs to do.

I’d like to outline a few areas of Mendy’s life which stand out to me as expressions of his Chassid persona.

Torah Study

Mendy loved to study. Though he was a very busy man with many responsibilities, he tried to utilize every free moment to learn Torah.

In 2012, around Shavuot time, I mentioned to Mendy about a very famous Chassidic series that was taught over the span of four years, from 1912-1916, and that this year would be the 100th anniversary of this landmark series. Without skipping a beat, Mendy said to me, “so let’s study it.” Within 48 hours, Mendy had the books delivered to the Shul, and for the next few months, at 6:00 am, we would study this series together.

Before Rosh Hashanah each year, Mendy was preoccupied thinking about his role as the baal-tokea – the Shofar blower in our Shul. In addition to practicing the actual skill, Mendy wanted to learn about the laws, the spiritual significance and the mystical kavanot-intentions one should have when blowing shofar. I would visit his office and together we studied the various texts.

About five years ago, a member in our community - who was becoming increasingly engaged with Jewish practice - asked Mendy a halachik question. Mendy’s response was completely characteristic: “Let’s organize a weekly class where will learn all the laws we need to know.” Sure enough, each week a group would gather in his office to study. Mendy was always on top of things - sending out the invites, ordering each person’s lunch request, and pushing more people to join.

Whenever Mendy would travel to New York, he always brought me back a gift. It wasn’t a typical souvenir, but always the latest Jewish book that had just been published.

Prayer

Mendy loved to pray. He attended our minyan every single day, and continued to do so even after difficult chemotherapy treatments and when he was in pain or tired. He would sit quietly in his place, and enjoy his conversation with Hashem. He didn’t make any noise – he was always focused and absorbed in his siddur.

Mendy was a magnificent baal-tefillah. No, he wasn’t a cantor. Sometimes, a ‘cantor’ is synonymous with a person who places all their efforts on the theatrics of the job, perfecting their voice and hitting the right notes. Indeed, Mendy had a beautiful voice, so sweet and hartzig (yiddish for heartfelt). But a baal-tefillah means a Master of Prayer. Mendy had the ability to bring the liturgical words to life, to lift up an entire room and to penetrate everyone’s soul. His renditions of Kedusha and Hallel were angelic, and will forever be etched in my soul.

One great memory is from half a year ago. Mendy had just been through a difficult course of treatment. To everyone’s surprise, Mendy arrived to our Shabbat service. I half-jokingly asked him if he’d like to lead the Musaf prayer, and I was shocked when he said yes. He seemed drained of his strength as he walked slowly to the bimah. But when he began the first kaddish, everything changed. As he brought the prayers to life, the prayers brought him to life as well.

Emor Me’at Va’aseh Harbeh – Speak little and do a lot

Our Sages taught that another trait of a Chassid is someone who’s walk is much louder than their talk. Mendy was a man of few words. He wasn’t the type to engage in lengthy conversations. He was a man of action. I recall how he would often interrupt lengthy board meetings with a simple question: “Enough talk. What are we going to do?”

When my wife and I arrived to Miami, we quickly became close friends with Mendy & Helga. In fact, Helga picked us and our two little children up from the airport. As we got to work in the community, I often met with Mendy to discuss matters. In the beginning, I found myself sharing many of my thoughts and plans, and I received few and reserved responses from Mendy. I started to get nervous – was he not fond of what I was saying? Did he disagree with my game-plan? But after some time I discovered that Mendy’s thoughts were very much in line with mine. It was just that Mendy didn’t care for all the talk. He wanted to get to work.

Many times I arranged to meet with Mendy with a long list of things I wanted to review. I planned for a lengthy conversation, and prepared thoroughly for his potential questions and arguments. But every single time the same thing happened. Mendy would cut me off early in the meeting, and tell me with all his bluntness: “Rabbi, tell me what you want me to do and I’ll get it done.” And he did, always, right away.

In this sense, Mendy was a leader as well. More than just formally serving on our Shul board and as our president, he magnificently modelled hard work, unwavering commitment and steadfast dedication.

Humility

A Chassid is one who runs away from seeking honor. Even though Mendy was a leader, and was often at the forefront of many projects, he abhorred receiving honor. He never liked to be up front and stand under the spotlight. Mendy enjoyed being a mover-and-shaker from behind the scenes. His main goal was to get things done, and he didn’t care for receiving any personal praise or credit.

When Mendy was our president, I approached him before Yom Kippur and asked him to deliver a few words to the congregation on the festival. He really didn’t want to. But I pushed him, and because he eventually understood that it was for the benefit of the community, he agreed.   

Ahavat-Yisrael - Friendship

Another trait of a Chassid is the ability to be a friend and to acquire friends. Mendy was a true friend of so many people. The many hundreds of people gathered here today, on such short notice, is a perfect testament to this.

Mendy, you were a true friend of Chanie and I, and we are humbled and honored by the respect you had for us. Your support meant the world to us. And I must add: I know that your support for us wasn’t really because of any specialty I possessed (of course, my wife is the exception 😊), but rather because you understood that we were Shluchim-emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and you would extend your unconditional backing behind anyone who represented the Rebbe and his vision.

Mendy was a baal-chessed, he was genuinely passionate about doing acts of kindness for everyone. Together with his wife Helga, they would host many people – and many new faces in the community – in their home for Shabbat. Some would even stay in their home – something Mendy would gently suggest so that they could walk with him to Shul.

Yirat-Shomayim – Reverence

Mendy believed in Hashem and the Torah with every limb in his body. He was completely committed to halacha. And he always sought after ways to improve and do more.

A few months ago, Mendy faced a medical crisis in California. I flew out there to be with him and his family. At the time, the situation was dire. He asked to speak with Helga and I in private. When everyone left the hospital room and the door was closed, he turned to speak to me. His breath was short and his voice was weak. “Rabbi, whatever happens, please make sure that the doctors will treat me only in accordance with the halacha.” Of all the things that he could have been thinking, this was at the forefront of his mind.

Work Ethic

A Chassid is never lazy, and always ‘zariz’ – alacritous to be productive. Judaism believes that Mankind was created to work, to produce, and to partner with Hashem in perfecting the world. Mendy was an extremely hard and reliable worker. He never liked to rest or slow down. Even as his body was very sick, he insisted on going to the office, or at least to have his laptop brought to him at home so that he could work from there.

Working hard and being productive was part of helped bring Mendy much of his healthy during difficult times.

Builder

By profession, Mendy was a builder – a general contractor. But more than just a profession, Mendy was committed to building Jewish life. He donated his time and skills to help build Synagogues – he was instrumental in building ours, mikvah’s and other Jewish institutions.

Our Sages teach that students of Torah are builders of a peaceful world. Our world is much better off after Mendy’s life down here.

Emunah

Faith in G-d is the bedrock of one’s spiritual life. Mendy’s emunah was inspiring. He never doubted or questioned. No matter the challenge he was faced with, he accepted the decision of Hashem with joy. Mendy achieved one of the greatest traits and most difficult tests a person can ever face – he was mekabel yissurim be’ahavah – he accepted his pains and suffering with faith and love.

When Mendy was restructuring his company a few years ago, he invited two other to join him as partners. They agreed, but requested that he change the company name. Mendy responded, “Sure. If you will agree, I own a registered incorporation that isn’t being used.” “What is the name?” they asked. “Emunah.” And that’s how Emuna Construction LLC was born.

Genuineness

Mendy was completely honest, genuine and straightforward. There was no shtick or bubbe-maasos with him. He liked simplicity. He spoke his mind. You knew where you stood with him. He was never ‘echad b’peh v’echad b’lev’ – feeling one thing in one’s heart and expressing the opposite through one’s words.

Family

Family was everything to Mendy. He loved his wife Helga, and Helga loved him. They were incredible partners for each other. Seeing them walk together so gracefully, whether to Shul or in the park, was simply a magnificent sight. Together, you raised a very special family. Your children and grandchildren have followed in your paths and been fortunate to be raised in your light.

Helga, I want you to know that Mendy would never have made it this far without you. Your selfless and tireless support and caregiving gave Mendy many more years of life. Hashem should bless you with an abundance of good health and long years, to enjoy with your beautiful family.

Ha’azinu

I’d like to conclude with a reflection from this week’s Torah portion. On the final day of his life, Moses turned to the Jewish nation and says, “Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! And let the earth hear the words of my mouth.” When he turns to the Heavens, he employs the word ‘ha’azinu’, as if he is whispering into one’s ear, and when he turns to the earth, he employs the word ‘vetishma’, as if he is speaking loudly to a distant place.

Shouldn’t it have been written in the opposite way? Wasn’t Moses a physical being, closer to earth and more distant to the Heavens?

The answer is that even though Moses lived down here, he was always closer to the Heavens. He was a G-dly and spiritual person, whose life was nourished by his faith and good deeds more than physical sustenance.

The same can be said of Mendy. Even when he was physically alive, he was always close to the Heavens. Mendy found delight when he could study Torah, do a mitzvah, be kind, and help other people. I was always certain that his prayers had special potency.

Mendy was our baal-tokea – he blew the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Somehow, the sounds from his shofar was magical. We could all literally visualize how they were piercing the Heavens. Last year, when Mendy was very unwell and with very little lung capacity, he blew the shofar for us. It was unbelievable. Later I asked him how he did it. In a rare instance of such openness, he told me, “When I blow the shofar, I don’t blow from my lungs.” In that moment Mendy confirmed for me what we all had always thought, that in addition to his physiological organs, Mendy knew how to utilize his spiritual organs as well.

I miss Mendy very much. It is hard for me to express the sadness I feel. When a tzaddik passes away, his light and grace leave this world as well. But now that Mendy has entered into Heaven, I know that I and we have a solid partner in Heaven. We will all benefit from Mendy’s assistance and support from Gan Eden.

We will continue to do exactly what Mendy would want from us – to keep strong, have faith, and continue his holy work of strengthening Yiddishkeit and bringing each and every Jew closer to our heritage.

Y’hei zichro baruch - May his memory be a blessing for us all. T’hei nishmato tzerurah b’tzror hachaim - May his soul be bound with the bond of eternal life.

Mendy, please storm the Heavens, and demand from Hashem to send Moshiach now, bring redemption to our world, so that we will not know of any more tears or sorrow, and only celebrate simcha together, forever!

Tue, November 12 2019 14 Cheshvan 5780