By David J. Seidemann, Esq.
An open letter of praise for HaRav Moshe Weinberger of Woodmere
Dear Rabbi Weinberger, shlita
My name is David Seidemann, and I have had the opportunity to make your acquaintance over the last ten or so years since moving here with my family from Brooklyn. Years ago I was fortunate enough to have served as a rabbi of a congregation in New Jersey, and when I “retired,” at the age of 24, I began to practice law.
Our relationship actually predates my moving to the Five Towns, as close to 20 years ago you were gracious enough to accept an invitation to come to my hometown, Columbus, Ohio, where you delivered a lecture in memory of my late mother, Ruth Seidemann, may she rest in peace.
More recently, our paths have crossed not directly, but through our children. One of my daughters is very friendly with one of your daughters, and she has spent a nice amount of time in your home. My daughter always returns from your home remarking that you are as incredible as a dad to your children as you are a rabbi to your congregants.
For the last number of years I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to write a weekly column for local Jewish publications. I guess you could consider it a weekly sermon, only in print. The topics vary each week, and this week I have chosen to utilize the space allotted to me to communicate with you in a very public fashion. I hope you forgive me.
Like many others, my family was displaced by the hurricane. In the span of two weeks, we slept in five different houses. Many nights we had to split up, with some of the family in one location and other family members in another location.
It was not so bad during the week, but as Shabbos approached, I became anxious. I hate going away for Shabbos. I usually daven at Congregation Shaaray Tefila in Lawrence, led by Rabbi Dovid Weinberger, shlita. The shul is quiet during davening and throughout krias haTorah, which I attribute in part to the great respect all of us have for our rav.
The reason I dislike going away for Shabbos is that I fear perhaps I will find myself at a shul whose congregants do not grasp the power of a quiet and respectful davening. I am no saint and perhaps am guilty of speaking in shul when I should not. But by and large I and my fellow worshippers at Shaaray Tefila are quiet throughout the services. I look forward to that quiet, respectful atmosphere every week. I know that I am amongst people who take their davening seriously.
I was affected by the swath of damage to our communities and I think that contributed to the anxiety I felt going to a strange shul this past Shabbos. I was so in need of quiet one-on-one time with the Creator.
Now, those people who talk during davening and Torah reading are not bad people. They are wonderful Jews. But they are just missing out on an exceptional opportunity to connect, to leave this world for a few minutes and be transported to a new realm that is both higher and deeper.
I needed such a journey this past Shabbos and walked into your shul hopeful yet realistic. You see, the howling winds of Sandy were still echoing in my ears. The howling winds of destruction were too fresh. The only thing worse, I imagined at that time, would be for those howling winds of destruction to be replaced by hollow winds of distraction, the idle chitchat and chatter heard in too many shuls. I so needed those howling winds of destruction and hollow winds of distraction to be replaced by holy winds of determination, holy winds of quiet prayer.
I sat in the third row of your beautiful shul and closed my eyes. I could hear my heart beat. That was a good thing, because it meant that I had found that tiny oasis of peace and tranquility in another shul, with a different Rabbi Weinberger. Power of a different kind was restored to me.
I have to tell you that I am not fond of people who claim to know exactly why each particular calamity occurs. I think those matters are beyond us. No one can explain the loss of property and life and the amount of holy seforim and sifrei Torah that now need to be buried. No one can explain why a Gemara from the yeshiva of Long Beach washed ashore in Brooklyn. No one can explain why so many hours of Torah learning were lost.
But I do believe in making connections between events, between actions and reactions. And so, while I can’t explain why there was so much loss and suffering, I do feel comfortable making the connection between winds. It would seem to me that an appropriate response to noise is silence.
You and your congregation provided me with that quiet solitude this past Shabbos, and I am so thankful.
May all of us merit to see the howling winds of destruction and the hollow winds of distraction yield to the holy winds of deliverance. v
David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann and Mermelstein and serves as a professor of business law at Touro College. He can be reached at 718-692-1013 or email@example.com.