By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
She was a remarkable woman who inspired thousands, indeed, the entire Five Towns/Far Rockaway community, with her deeply felt emunah pshutah, her remarkable chesed, and outstanding care and concern for others. Rachel Baron, wife of Reb Hershel Baron, passed away on erev Rosh Hashanah. The loss reverberated throughout the community during these Days of Awe.
Her funeral on Tuesday night drew close to 2,000 mourners who gathered before she was to be buried at Har HaZeisim in Jerusalem. She was eulogized by the greatest rabbis and roshei yeshiva in the community. Rav Eitan Feiner, Rav Naftoli Jaeger, Rav Yaakov Bender, and Rabbi Chill were among the maspidim.
Doctors gave her a year to live. She did not give up, however, and lived seven years longer than they had allotted to her. It is a medical enigma, but the Yoshev Tehilos Yisrael, He that is enthroned upon the prayers of Israel, clearly heard those prayers. These last eight years were filled with meaning, love, and inspiration toward others.
Even in her most difficult times she selflessly tried to make shidduchim for others. Her concern for the welfare of others truly knew no bounds. When my mother, a’h, was dying of cancer, Rachel Baron would call her up and give her solace, even though she herself was undergoing the most difficult of treatments as well.
In his eulogy, Rav Feiner mentioned the halachic position of the Pri Chadash in Orech Chaim—that we should deliver mishloach manos to our friends on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. Rav Feiner explained that our handing over of this remarkable tzadekes to HaKadosh Baruch Hu on the eve of Rosh Hashanah constitutes the greatest mishloach manos.
She was a woman who loved people, who loved life, and who basked and delighted in her relationship with Hashem. She made it her business to attend every simcha that she could, even though it was so physically draining for her. She did it because she truly loved them all and sincerely shared in the simcha that they were experiencing. Rachel Baron, a’h, is a remarkable example of the level of dveikus Bashem that a human being can achieve.
The Midrash Tanchumah in Parashas VaEschanan (Oxford edition) expounds upon a lofty level of communication with Hashem. The word, “Az” indicates this lofty level of communication of expressing gratitude through song. When Moshe Rabbeinu delineated the Arei Miklat, he was so filled with gratitude to Hashem that he expressed it through song. Dovid HaMelech too, achieved a remarkable level of dveikus Bashem through the medium of song. Perek Shira, as well, describes this elevated spiritual state.
Nearly a year ago, when Klal Yisrael suffered a series of tragedies including the terrible accident involving Waterbury Yeshiva boys who died, she spoke by videotape at a night of inspiration for high school age girls. Her topic was how to find strength and inspiration within tragedy and difficulty. Following is a transcript of her words of inspiration, delivered with a loving smile while she was attached to oxygen, sitting in a hospital bed. They personify who this remarkable woman was, and what she was all about.
May she be a meilitz yosher for her family, for all of us, and for all of Klal Yisrael.
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