-- and when (Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel's) head was severed
(Rabbi Yishmoel) took it and wailed over him in a bitter,
shofar-like voice: "Woe is the tongue that hastened
to teach words of beauty -- how could it now lick the dust
because of sins?" (The sins of the Jewish people had caused
Rabban Shimon to come to this awful end.) Artscroll
Machzor Yom Kippur, p. 589.
Let me tell you a story that happened early on the Thursday
morning of bedikas chometz. A resident of Moshav
Tifrach was driving home and at about 1:00 a.m., a minivan
going in the same direction passed him near S'derot (in the
northern Negev). Normally David, the driver, would not have
noticed but he saw that the driver was frum.
Approximately one-half hour later as he was very near
Tifrach, he noted seforim and hand matzos scattered
near the side of the road. Continuing on, something inside
of him linked the fact that only 30 minutes before a
frum driver had passed him. Making a U-turn, he
stopped and, while pointing his headlights off the road, he
ran towards the area where he had seen the strewn articles.
Suddenly he saw a young boy stumbling along when his own son
yelled, "Abba, Abba, it's Pincus!"
He could still not see anything else and immediately ran
over to comfort the confused child. Looking around he saw
the van that had previously passed him. After putting the
Pincus boy into his own car, he telephoned for help. Within
minutes a police car arrived, accompanied by a helicopter.
They had been on maneuvers nearby and, aided by the powerful
searchlight on the helicopter, David and the police officer
discovered the tragic results of the accident.
Approximately two hours later my own son, who attends a
daily vosikin shiur by the Kosel, was asked if
he knew HaRav Shimshon Pincus of Ofakim. Replying that Rav
Shimshon had been his first rebbe in the
cheder of Tifrach some 25 years ago, he was told that
Rav Pincus, his wife and daughter had been killed by a car
crash a few hours earlier. His chavrusa at the Kosel
is a member of ZAKA (Zihui Korbanot Asson) and had
received the news over his beeper. At 6:30 a.m. my son
called to inform me what had happened.
Some eight hours later, standing under the unseasonably hot
sun at the levaya in Ofakim, surrounded by hundreds
of men, women and children, all crying like babies, I
couldn't take my mind off the tremendous loss that I felt.
Here was an odom godol with his modest wife and
daughter lying before us, abruptly ending a chapter of
history for those of us from Yeruchom, Dimona, Beersheva,
Tifrach and Ofakim -- places I am sure many have never
Here was someone born and raised in a highly distinguished
rabbinical family in America, who come to Israel to learn,
marry and then moved with great mesiras nefesh to the
midbar, the Negev -- eretz lo zoru'a, over 25
Rav Shimshon was a burning force who could not remain still.
He had to come to a place where he could do something, and
that is exactly what he did. There wasn't a Torah
institution in the Negev in which he was not involved. From
a cheder rebbe to a rosh kollel, here was a
person who was available to everyone -- Ashkenazim as well
as Sephardim, young and old, religious and non-religious, a
rov not confined to the synagogue.
One was forced to listen to him when he spoke for he was
like an erupting volcano, spewing forth wisdom and
mussar that was digestible.
Let me clarify myself: Rav Shimshon was an exemplary
personality. Without going into details he once told me that
when he was growing up his parents did not allow two things:
1) a driver's license, and 2) accepting payment for doing
chesed. Put his upbringing together with a brilliant
mind and you have the makings of solid stock -- a highly
dedicated, energetic talmid chochom, and a true
Rav Shimshon will not be remembered for passive
tzidkus -- he was fire and his pent-up energy was
concentrated on zikui horabim. He was there when you
needed an eitza; he could be talked to at eye level --
and this is perhaps our biggest loss.
Rav Shimshon had a very unique way of looking at situations.
The following is a true story that he told me which I have
used many times in training sessions for kiruv. On
one of his many trips to Chile (where he and his parents
dedicated a few years in kiruv), he once approached
the counter at the airport in Santiago in order to arrange
for his return flight. The agent at the counter asked him if
he was a Rabbino and, after he replied in the
affirmative, she immediately pulled out a Mogen David
on her necklace which had been previously hidden by her
sweater and said quite proudly, "You see I am also
Rav Shimshon said a few encouraging words and continued to
talk about his ticket. Before Rav Shimshon was able to
finish his ticket arrangements, however, his mother,
standing next to him, immediately took out her small address
book, marked down the name and phone number of this lost
soul and invited her to spend a Shabbos with them in
Santiago. He learned from his mother how one must act
quickly in order to succeed at kiruv.
Thousands in Israel, the United States and South Africa
benefited from his lectures in Hebrew and English and now
all of this has ended.
As the sun continued to beat down on those of us at the
levaya in Ofakim, we were caught in a bind -- to
depart from a loved one while trying to race home and finish
preparations for the upcoming bedikas chometz.
May his petirah be a kaporoh for all of us.