Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Nissan 5761 - April 18, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Remembering Rav Shimshon
by Rabbi Nosson Spector

-- 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 visited.

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 years ago.

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 yirei Shomayim.

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 Jewish."

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.


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