by Rabbi Heshy Augenbaum –
One of the characteristics of a great man is great humility. When such a man, blessed with native abilities, finds himself in a powerful position and in situations that affect him either spiritually or materially, he does not take personal credit for his achievements. He recognizes the source of his blessings and the obligation to utilize his advantages for the benefit of the disadvantaged – to reach out and help the needy and the oppressed. Such a man was Moshe Reichmann. With all that he had, and all that he achieved, he did not crave recognition and prestige. He categorically shunned titles and positions. To him, life was a process of being, not of having.
R’ Moshe Reichmann was one of the most extraordinary, gifted and interesting men that I ever had the privilege of doing Klal work with. I never met anyone less conscious of himself as a ‘somebody’, much less a GREAT somebody. Yet his humility had nothing of submissiveness in it; it was the kind of modesty one observes in the most exemplary baalei middos who overcome their egos to the point of near complete selflessness. R’ Moshe left the deepest impression on all who had the good fortune to know him and any written description is bound to fall short of the reality. All I can attempt is a few sentences to relate some memories and incidents that I recall as if they happened yesterday, even though they span over 20 years, dating back to the late 1980’s. I can picture him very clearly –his face, his posture, his way of talking. He had an easy smile that was usually affectionate and occasionally wry. He was soft spoken, so much so that because of our height difference, I often had trouble hearing him. As a matter of fact, I can’t recall a single instance in which I heard him raise his voice. He was exceedingly polite. Once, after a long, late meeting, we left his office and went down the hallway together to the elevator and pressed the button. Abruptly he paused, told me he forgot something, and went back in. As I knew he’d been in a hurry to leave, I asked what was so important that he had to go back for it. “I forgot to wish a good evening to my secretary, Camille, and to thank her for staying late,” he replied. It was his unfailing, courteous daily practice.
R’ Moshe could create the impression, at times, of being stern, even intimidating. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although he had a serious side and his conversation was never trifle or idle, he would often put me at ease with a personal anecdote or story, sometimes even in the middle of a serious conversation. He was also extremely patient with those who sought his help. One can’t begin to fathom the daily barrage of phone calls, mail, faxes, in-person solicitations, and the sheer number of mosdos and individuals who approached him from every corner of the world. I once sat next to him at a wedding. The soup course was being served. Each time he tried to lift the spoon to his lips, the attempt failed, interrupted by someone seeking his help. He just sat there, listening patiently to each story. Finally, he looked at me and smiled gently as the waiter removed the plate of cold, untouched soup. His authority stemmed from his knowledge, his concern, his sincerity, but never – never – through any kind of self-conferred status.
In Birchas Hamozon, we say, “Hazon es Haolam” – Hashem nourishes the entire world with His goodness. B’chain – with His grace. B’chesed – with kindness. B’rachamim – with mercy. I understand Chesed and Rachamim, as to feed the entire world surely requires much kindness and mercy. But where does Chain enter the picture and why acknowledge it first, before Chesed and Rachamim? The explanation is that Hashem could have provided the world with nourishment in many ways and forms; for instance, with concentrated vitamin capsules – no flavor, no color, no appeal other than the physical nourishment that they provide. But that’s not what Hashem did. Our nourishment comes in a variety of appealing forms, textures and aromas. Hashem provides for us, feeds us and serves us with remarkable grace and beauty. B’chain. The nusach in Birchas Hamozon which mentions Chain first, teaches us to emulate Hashem when providing for others. It’s not only WHAT you give, but HOW you give.
Moshe Reichmann influenced our generation of askanim perhaps more than any other communal leader. He provided the entire Torah world – Ashkenaz and Sephard – with the nourishment it required, and he did so with Chesed and Rachamim but mostly… B’chain.
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Rabbi Heshy Augenbaum’s close relationship with Mr. Moshe Reichmann developed over decades of Klal work in Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities worldwide, from the building of the Ozar Hatorah yeshiva network in France, to a major Kollel funding initiative at Beth Medrash Govoha. A seasoned development consultant, Rabbi Augenbaum has led diverse teams of lay leaders to record levels of success in a variety of fundraising and organizational projects, counseled numerous individuals, taught Torah classes and published articles that marry his insightful understanding of the everyday working world to Torah’s profound philosophical teachings. As an independent development consultant, Rabbi Augenbaum works with mosdos to run major campaign, motivate donors, enlist high-profile volunteers, coach fundraising executives, and develop marketing, branding, and innovative public relations strategies.