Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC Director of Programming,
Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
Thursday, February 2, Adar Rishon 2, 5782
As the Elpis storm arrived in Israel on Thursday night, covering Jerusalem in white, United Hatzalah received countless calls about people who were stuck in various areas or in their cars. But they received their most memorable call of the night close to midnight about a chassan and kallah who got married in a hall in Ma’ale HaChamisha, located just off the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, which was blocked due to the snow .Many guests, including the chassan and kallah, couldn’t reach their homes in Jerusalem as their cars weren’t equipped with snow tires. Hatzalah volunteers came to the rescue and delivered the chassan and kallah safely to their home in a vehicle equipped for the snow. (Yeshiva World January 27 2022)
You might ask, am I related to the chasan and kallah ? My answer is no. Are we not all part of the same family in Klal Yisrael ? Then why the picture and article? Well, I felt it is time to also convey happiness, joy and simcha. The picture of the chasan and kallah smiling with the two members of Hatzala to the rescue was filled with tremendous simcha and chesed . A number of years ago my wife A”H and I were invited to a wedding in Brooklyn and there was a snowstorm. We were unable to get any car service. So we walked to the train station only to find the trains not running across the bridge. We returned home and drank a lechaim. But what happened to the wedding? Well, anyone in the vicinity who had vehicles that could be driven in heavy snow helped ferry people to and from the wedding hall. The wedding went on as planned. I wanted to begin my article with something really joyful. So, to all my family members of Klal Yisrael, I join you in wishing that couple and all of us Mazel Tov and Lechaim
TO SEE THE BEAUTIFUL PICTURES AND VIDEO OF
THE SMILING HAPPY CHASAN AND KALLAH
PLEASE CLICK HERE: https://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/2055273/watch-snow-strands-chassan-kallah-at-wedding-hall-outside-jerusalem-videos-photos.html
(Picture from Yeshiva World January 27, 2022)
Recently I wrote about the importance of engaging whenever possible of an elderly person sitting in the park, in front of a building, maybe sitting in a wheelchair, perhaps sitting with his/her health aide. A person walks by and they greet each other. The person says to the elderly man or woman, hello and how are you ? The elderly person responds fine, ok, how are you? Then the passerby keeps on walking. So many of those elderly people are “chalashing” for conversation with someone other than their health aide. Many would have much to say. Perhaps about their own tzaris, medical issues, deaths in their families, or about their relatives. They might want to share interesting stories about their lives, their education, and maybe their religious background. Not only is it a mitzva with a wonderful chesed, but one can learn a lot from that encounter of care just by listening. The elderly might be frail, but could find energy with a good feeling being listened to and maybe even having a dialogue with each other. In many skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities you can find a picture of residents (patients) when they were younger and a brief history about them on the door of their rooms. This gives the staff and visitors an opportunity to learn that the elderly person is not a cutie, but often lived a life that was meaningful and looked so much younger. Many had important professions and occupations, having lived fruitful and meaningful lives. Even those who did not have a specific job, might have been active as well as youthful looking. They are all precious human beings who come from all walks of life.
I am going to share with you about a VIP who recently died. This is about Mr. Herby Stavsky, Reb Chaim Yehuda bR Eliezer A”H. In his later years he would often sit in the Triangle Park as many would call it where Grand Street and East Broadway would converge. Whenever someone would pass by, his greatest pleasure was to share many Torah related thoughts, his meaningful stories, good humor and giving his own chizuk to others. He would enjoy when someone would share their Torah knowledge with him. The following is a window of nostalgia about the Lower East Side, the days of his youth, his sefarim store, about the Mizrachi, the Lower East Side neighborhood and about Mr. Herby Stavsky. The building that houses Mizrachi is right next door to the building that houses the famous Boyana Kloiz shtebal. When I visited the Stavsky family when they were sitting shiva, I was in awe of what was shared about Mr. Stavsky. The following information was provided to me by the Stavsky family. There is much to learn from the following and how much the family had the same thoughts as mine of the importance of taking the time engaging with an elderly person.So with no further ado, I now give you the story of Mr. Herby Stavky.
“On 8 Shevat 5782 a ‘tayara yid’, Chaim Yehuda b”R Eliezer (Mr. Herby) Stavsky was ‘niftar’. Mr. Stavsky was the owner and proprietor of the once-famous Stavsky’s Hebrew Book Store on the Lower East Side, which was started by Herby Stavsky’s father Eliezer Stavsky in the early 1930s, and which operated on the Lower East Side until 1996.
R’Eliezer Stavsky was ‘niftar’ when Mr. Herby Stavsky was only 11 years old, and those saddest of times arguably made Mr. Stavsky into the man he was.
When Mr. Stavsky was a young orphaned boy, he was forced to assume grown-up responsibilities. He would go each day after yeshiva to the seforim store, to help his widowed mother, who was then the proprietress of the store. After graduating from Rabbi Jacob Joseph high school, Herby learned for a short stint in Yeshiva University; however, due to the unsustainable commute to YU coupled with his obligations at the store, he transferred to Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim which was right across the bridge in Williamsburg on South 9th Street. He later learned in Yeshiva Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem, where he became close with the mashgiach, Rav Michel Barenbaum zt”l.
Mr. Herby Stavsky was married to tblch”t Esther Lobel, whose parents emigrated from Meah Shearim in what was then Palestine. He was the consummate family man, always wanting his children to stay close and everyone to be happy.
Herby Stavsky was a man who loved seforim. He would always say that after his father was ‘niftar’ he would bury his head in seforim and books to ease the pain. He knew every book on his shelves, both his bookshelves at home as well as in his store. They say he never recommended a book or sefer without having first-hand knowledge of it.
Stavsky’s Hebrew Book Store was a unique place where people from the Lower East Side felt comfortable. The customers were treated with respect and caring. For Mr. Stavsky, the purpose of his store was not to build a financial enterprise. Rather, it was his life’s enterprise.
He loved the friendships he cultivated with Rabbis, Day School Principals, and customers both local and from around the country, sharing a ‘dvar Torah’ with one, a joke or story with another, giving some good heartfelt advice to a third. Because of his strong love of people, he loved and excelled at ‘Jewish geography’.
Mr. Stavsky was the quintessential “Lower East Sider”. For those who grew up in the Lower East Side of the early and mid-1900s, no explanation is necessary. It was a unique neighborhood, safely and securely surrounded and permeated by Rav Moshe’s presence and influence. There were more than 30 shuls on one stretch along East Broadway, spanning the whole gamut of Orthodoxy including Boyaner, Mizrachi, Poilisher Shtiebl, Tzeirei, Horodetz, etc.
Herby always had strong and fond memories of walking to the Pultosker shteibel on Norfolk Street with his father, standing beside and singing along with R’Eliezer who was one of the ‘baalei tefillah’ there. After his father was niftar, Herby often davened at the Bais Medrash HaGadol on Norfolk St. where he basked in the kindness of Rav Ephraim Oshry zt”l. Eventually, he joined his friends in the Mizrachi Shul, first on Henry Street and later in its current home on East Broadway, where he davened all his adult life.
Eliezer Stavsky, was also a ‘baal tokeah’ and Herby followed in his father’s footsteps and became a first-rate ‘baal tokeah’, at first in the Bais Medrash HaGodol, and afterwards for many decades in the Mizrachi Shul.
On the Lower East Side of yesteryear (and to a large extent today as well) no type of snobbery existed. All factions of Orthodox Jews lived together ‘b’sholom’. As an example, the Mashgiach of the Yeshiva (MTJ) Rav Michel Barenbaum zt”l, would give a ‘gemara shiur’ in the Mizrachi Shul on Shabbos mornings, and occasionally daven there.
The Mizrachi of the Lower East Side is a unique ‘makom tefillah’ in many ways. One way which bears mentioning is the complete love and acceptance the shul shows to the members of the Ohel Children’s Home on East Broadway, home for developmentally disabled people. The young men are welcomed every Shabbos with love and full acceptance, and proudly participate in the services. As you can probably guess at this point, Mr. Herby Stavsky was among the kindest and friendliest to these special individuals. And they loved him back.
Finally, Mr. Stavsky was a man with deep compassion for every person, especially those who were vulnerable. His huge heart went out to a ‘yasom’, ‘almana’, and ‘ani’.
He was ‘mechabed’ every person, especially ‘talmidei chachomim’, and was always ‘makdim sholom’. He always looked for ways he could say a nice word to someone, a word that would relate to who the person was, a word that would somehow make the person feel good. He had a quick sense of humor which people enjoyed, and a unique way of looking at a problem. In a humble and unassuming way, he offered heartfelt, life-affirming advice to others, for which they will be forever grateful.
Herby Stavsky was the ultimate giver, thinking of others all the time. Nothing would give him greater pleasure in his later years than sitting on a park bench in a little triangular park across the street from his apartment from where he could see passersby from all directions. He loved to share stories, ‘vertlach’, and jokes with the many people who came over to where he was sitting to say hello.
Mr. Stavsky was a person who was able to see past himself. He always tried to connect with a person based on who that person was. He possessed the quality of empathy. Because he was comfortable within himself, he was able to look past himself and focus on the feelings of others. When he positioned himself at his spot in the triangle park in order to see others, it was more about giving to others than being the recipient. It was to say over a nice ‘vort’, an interesesting ‘mayseh’, a joke, give an ‘eitzah’.
Very often an old man sits alone and ‘chalishes’ for someone to come over to say hello. People may notice the old person and come over to say hello. They may inquire as to how the person is, say a platitude or two, and then scurry off feeling rightfully good about themselves. What they often don’t realize, however, is that this old person may be so much more than meets the eye. If only they would take the time to really engage, they may end up being the true beneficiary of the conversation.
Mr. Stavsky looked at each and every human being as a person of value. And because of that, his heart went out to each individual, and he offered what he thought each person would appreciate – a good word, some good advice, a story, a joke, a kind gesture, some charity. Just as he fed the birds in that park, Herby Stavsky ‘chalished’ to feed the needs of others by making others feel good. Giving was truly what gave him happiness.
If we could only remember that a person who was a giver in his young years still yearns to give, and indeed has what to give. If we could only see beyond the superficial, behind the old or sick person in front of our mortal eyes, looking more deeply inside every human being. If we could only forget ourselves from time to time, and transcend our own issues and needs. If we could only focus on how we can make ‘yenem’ feel good. If only we could, we would be a little more like Mr. Herby Stavsky. Yehi Zichro Baruch”.
When we speak of having achdus, it also means respecting one another. We are not a one shape fits all nation. Minhagim, cultures, pronunciation of Hebrew, and tefilos can be different. Even types of food eaten on Shabbosim, Yom Tovim and various chagim can be different as well as types of clothing. The above story about Mr. Stavsky is truly of a remarkable VIP Very Important Person who was filled with genuine Ahavas H, Ahavas Torah and Ahavas Yisrael. His Yidishkeit was important to him as was his relationship with many Jewish men and women he met through the years in the famous Stavsky Hebrew Book store, or in the Triangle Park on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Mr. Herby Stavsky personified the essence of Chaveirim Kol Yisrael and Am Yisrael Chai. He was respected not just because one must respect and older person. He was respected because of who he was to everyone who knew him. May he be a meilitz yarshar for his wife, mishpacha and Klal Yisrael.
May we be zoche to receive the blessings from H, as mentioned in part of the tefila from Hallel also a Psalm, Tehilim 115:12-18. “ H Who has remembered us will bless: He will bless the House of Israel, He will bless the House of Aaron. He will bless those who fear H, the small as well as the great. May H increase upon you, upon you, and upon your children ! Blessed are you by H Maker of heaven and earth. As for heavens the heavens are for H; but the earth He has given to mankind”. Hodu LaH Ki Tov Ki Leolom Chasdo” Give thanks to H for He is good; for enduring is His Kindness” Translation Artscoll Siddur. Artscroll Series, Mesorah Heritage Foundation Shottenstein Edition.
I have added this to my article and that is honorable mention about two members of the New York City Police Department, Officer Jason Rivera and Police Officer William Mora who made the supreme sacrifice and were killed in the line of duty. Having served as a Uniformed Police Chaplain for the Auxiliary NYPD, as a Uniformed Chaplain for the NYC Housing Police Department, as an Honorary NYPD chaplain and as a present chaplain with the Fraternal Order of Police, feel the sadness shared by law enforcement throughout our Country, especially the thousands from the New York City Police Department. The first funeral held Friday January 28, 2022 for Police Officer Jason Rivera and the second funeral for Police Officer William Mora held Wednesday February 2, 2022. Both funerals attended by thousands of brothers and sisters of police departments from throughout the USA. We hope and pray there will be a turn about through the efforts of NYC Mayor Eric Adams and NYPD Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell where crime will be reduced if not eliminated with the changes in crime reduction and all elected officials joining together for the common cause of protecting, defending and enhancing the quality of life of all men, women and children who reside, work or visit our Country.
Both Police Officer Jason Rivera and Police Officer William Mora at both funeral’s were posthumously promoted by NYPD Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell to Detective 1st Grade.
Thank you. Sincerely Rabbi Yehuda Blank
PLEASE NOTE ALL ARCHIVED ARTICLES FROM RABBI BLANK CAN BE
ACCESSED FROM THE RABBINICAL ALLIANCE OF AMERICA WEBSITE.