By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried
I would like to take the opportunity to share just a few thoughts about my rebbe, whom I sadly lost just two weeks ago.
Rabbi Yosef Tzeinvirt, ob”m, affectionately known by his students and admirers as “Reb Yosel,” was my personal mentor for about three decades. It is with great difficulty I attempt to encapsulate so much emotion and so many years of love, caring, direction and insight, which I feel privileged to have received and benefited from.
Jerusalem of old was fondly referred to as Yerushalayim Shel Ma’alah (Jerusalem of Above). There is a fascinating set of books by that name that describes the many holy, hidden tzaddikim; those pious individuals of Jerusalem who hid their holy ways from the eyes of others and served God with incredible devotion, purity and humility without even the thought of recognition or fame.
They were known for their sincerity, simplicity and self-nullification to the will of the almighty, and continued to serve Him with intense, infectious joy despite their poverty and physical deprivation.
These books describe the Jews of Jerusalem some 150 years ago, and as the adage goes, “they don’t make them like that anymore.” One exception to that adage was Reb Yosel. All those who knew him well would recognize that we, even in our self-centered generation with physicality put on a pedestal, have merited to meet, first-hand, a scion of that Yerushalayim Shel Ma’alah.
Reb Yosel was the epitome of the Jew who lived his life for the sake of others, feeling their pain in times of sorrow and rejoicing in their successes and their simchas. A beloved and revered father and grandfather of a large family, we students felt no different in his eyes than his own children.
When my own daughter Tsippi was engaged a few years ago in Jerusalem, despite his frailty and age, Reb Yosel sat next to me from the beginning of the event until the very end, just like a father. He couldn’t imagine it any other way, nor could I.
For all his immense clarity in Torah thought, Reb Yosel should have been as famous as any world-class Torah leader, but, like the Jews of old Jerusalem, he was a master in hiding his true greatness; we students were fortunate to steal a glimpse.
The sages say there are 36 hidden Tzaddikim, pious individuals, upon whose merit the world stands. I have little doubt that the rare, hidden Tzaddik, simply known as Reb Yosel, was one of those 36. His students could write volumes about him and his greatness, which is exactly what he would abhor.
May Reb Yosel’s name be a blessing and may he was continue to pour out his many prayers for Klal Yisrael from his lofty place on high.
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.