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Hesped of Rabbi Avraham Leibtag, by his son David

         Birshoos Avi Mori, My dear father Ovi Mori Horav Avraham Ben Shmuel Hacohen Uben Shayna Motel Hareini Kaporas Mishkovo - May I be serve as an atonement for you.

         As I stand before you, I beg mechila, forgiveness. It is difficult for a child to fully observe the mitvah of Kabed Et Avicha to its fullest. There were times when I did not rise when you entered the room, or fulfilled your requests expeditiously; I should have called and visited more after leaving home; there are so many others. Just as we beseech and pray to Hashem on Yom Kippur for forgiveness by saying that it is impossible to list all of our transgressions, I humbly ask mechila for me and for all your children for the many times that we did not correctly fulfill the mitvah of Kibbud Av.

         As your bechor, your first born, I was privileged to know you the longest. How difficult it is to stand before you and speak. I would always marvel at how easily words flowed from your lips. What ever you said - whether during a sermon, at a shabbos table, or just driving in the car. Each word was a gem. And you know I never liked speaking publicly - you remember my bar mitzvah - and how you helped me through that anxious period of my life. You, dad, who spoke so eloquently of others - I need you now - for who else could best deliver a hesped. I was always amazed at how easily you made it look - but I know your secret - you always spoke from the heart and reached so many other hearts. Devarim hayotzim min halev - nichnosim el halev. Please hold my hand as I speak from the heart.

         As the shabbos left us - your neshama together with your neshama yesaira (your Sabbath soul) left this material world. You waited until after shabbos to leave - while we were saying havdalah, one of your favorite tefilot. Havdalah which separates kodesh from chol - the sacred from the mundane - you left us for a world that is kulo shabbos - a world that is eternally sacred.

         Avi Mori , My father, my teacher, in your learning of Torah you always cherished a good acrostic or gematria. My inadequate humble words to you will be in an acrostic of your name Avraham.

         Aleph - is for "av". First and foremost to us you were a father; to me, Chaim, Menachem, Reena and Adina. We cherished every moment with you. You had that special way with each of us. How fondly we remember the days in Phillipsburg, Akron; first on Glendora, then Moreley Avenue, and finally Smith Road. We knew you were very busy with the needs of the synagogue and community. When I was very young, I even resented the many people that took your time from me. But as I grew up I realized that you taught me a lesson in Tzorchai Tzibbur, in the supreme sacred task of developing and responding to the needs of a Jewish community. I pray that I will be able to teach that lesson to my own children. The primary obligation of a father is to teach his children Torah. To that responsibility you were a master. I can remember vividly how you would seat me, Chaim, and Menchem down at the shabbos table and teach us chumash. You would give each of us a task that was at our own level. One of us would read, another translate, the other rashi, - sometimes you would let us use the English translation or use the Bais Yehuda chumash, so we could read Rashi. You knew how to make each of us feel as if we had mastered our learning, even though we had only just begun our Torah studies. You would encourage us as we grew up, each in our own special way. You followed so closely, the maxim from Proverbs: Chanoch lanaar al pi darco - educate the child according to his own way - so when he grows old he will not forget!

         We promise we will not forget.

         Torah was your specialty. As a father you taught us by example. We observed how you Taught Torah, supported Torah institutions, and Developed Chidushai Torah - new insights into our tradition. You taught us well. We cannot be as great as you, avi mori, but you should be proud that each of your sons has taken on one of those lessons as a lifelong pursuit. I am involved in making sure that children learn Torah, Chaim is a major supporter of and benefactor to Torah institutions and causes, and Menachem is developing new insights into Torah every week. You just didnít teach us words of Torah - you taught us how to live a life of Torah. These were the maxims by which you lived and taught.

         Aizehu Asher Hsomach Bchelko - Who is rich? One who is content with his lot in life. We always thought we were millionaires growing up. And from the view of Chazal, you, indeed, were a millionaire. Evdu es Hashem bísimcha - serve G-d with gladness and happiness. Oh, how you enjoyed a simcha, ours, a relative, a congregant or anyone.

         Even when it was difficult to walk you always entered the dance floor. Mkabel es kol adam bísever panim yafos - Greet every person with a smile. Your smile was infectious. Dassy reminded me that when she first met you for the first time - it was your smile that radiated and caught her attention.

         Heva don es kol adam lchaf zchut - judge every person meritoriously. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Oh, how you trusted and had faith in people that others gave up on! You saw the good in everyone.

         Every maxim of chazal was lived to the fullest. Thatís how we learned. During the last few years of your life, when you were in pain, we never heard a word of complaint - only positive upbeat comments and cheerful words of happiness.

         Dad, you were also a loving father to your daughters and son in law: to Dassy, Sheila, Thea, and Yehuda. You affectionately called them Daskeli, Shilkeli, and Theaíla. Yehuda, became a true son to you, as Chaim, Menachem, and I moved away. You loved them as you loved us! You were also a beloved brother - who kept the family together - inquiring of their welfare, calling every Saturday night and joining in every simcha. But you were not just a father - You were also a beloved grandfather, Zayde, Saba to your 19 grandchildren. Your oldest grandchild, Ephraim, representing all of them, was zocheh (merited) to see you and visit you during your last week. How you cherished holding them in your arms or on your knee at the shabbos table, playing with them, and learning with them. You loved to highlight and recognize them in shul. You would ask from the pulpit: What's the greatest city in the country? and my Deena would say Akron. Oh, how we will miss you at their simchas.

         Bais - Baal Middos. My father was one of those unique individuals who totally integrated his Torah learning into his daily life - he was an "erlicha yid!" He knew that he was always representing the Almighty. There was the right way and the wrong way for a Jew to act. One of the first yiddish words, you, Avi Mori, taught me was "past nissht." There were certain things that you just don't do. For example, you never would stand up and eat publicly because it "past nischt." When ever I did something questionable, you would just look at me and say "past nisht." I understood. No need to discipline - I do not ever remember you raising your voice. Just a look and a few words - and we knew. One of your favorite mamaria chazal, insights from the sages, was the gemara that discusses how one can love G-d. The Gemara asks how is it possible to love Hashem - and - answers by saying that we have to act in a way that makes others come close to G-d (misahav al yodcha). This is how you lived your life. Always wearing a well tailored suit, shirt and tie; impeccable manners; never showing anger or disdain for another person; acting with integrity and honesty; demonstrating compassion and asking who needs help. Your name, Avi Mori, Avraham, has the gematria of 248. 248 is the number of positive commandments in the Torah. Your performance of mitvot were done in such a positive way that people were attracted to you. This is how my father brought people closer to Torah - this is how he was "mkadesh shem shamayim" - This is how he sanctified the name of G-d.

         Reish - Rav. My father loved being a rabbi. My father could have been an English professor, a Journalist, or a sportscaster. But he chose the rabbinate. It came so natural to him. This was his calling. This was his love - because he loved Torah and he loved people. He treated every congregational family as if they were his own. He rejoiced in their simchas and comforted them in their suffering. Like the first of the Patriarchs, Abraham, my father, together with my dear mother, tibadel lchaim, opened their doors to all. Our house was like a hotel and restaurant with a revolving door. People with all kinds of needs came and left. Our family became an extended family for so many. My fatherís talents as a Rabbi were exceptional. He was an accomplished Talmud chacham, an excellent orator and darshan, and he demonstrated a compassion for people that emulated the Almighty. I often asked him why he didnít leave this small community of Akron, Ohio, for a larger one - where his talents would have commanded a more prestigious salary and status. He would tell me that a Jewish neshama (soul) in Akron is no different that the neshama of a Jew in a larger city. "Someone," he said, "had to man the oasis in the American desert." "Someone might have to say kaddish here," he would say. It would be my father giving water to thirsty Jews for more than 40 years in the Akron desert. Like Moshe Rabbainu he led them until his last day.

         Heh - Hakorat Hatov. My father was always thankful for whatever Hashem gave him. He was also thankful to anyone who did anything for him. He always echoed an friendly thank you to the barber, the pharmacist, the shoe shine boy, the mailman and so many others. He even thanked the nurses during the last week that he spent in the hospital with an "OK" gesture with his fingers - with the little strength he had left. Why did he do this? You see, to my father, Hakorat hatov meant to recognize the good (i.e. hakorat hatov) in every individual. Every person is endowed with the zelem elokim - the divine spark. My father realized the uniqueness of every individual - irregardless of their status in life, education, or even religion. Since my father always saw the good in everyone - he was an eternal optimist. (read - the eternal optimist)

         Mem - Melamed. My father was a melamed, a teacher; a teacher par-excellence. To be a good teacher one has to have knowledge to teach. My father was zoche (merited) to have two of the great gedolai hador (spiritual rabbinic giants) of this generation as his mentors, Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi Ruderman and Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky. In addition he grew up in the city of Brisk, known for its Torah erudition. He once told me he ran a Seder when he was only six. My father was a unique talmid chacham because he was able to blend the sacred learning and traditions of the past with the challenges of the modern day.

         I found it astounding that even many years after he had left the walls of the Yeshiva, he still remembered with clarity an explanation of an obscure gemara or the meaning of difficult passage or the Torah. And every time I called him, he would always share a dvar torah, an insight into the Torah. What made my father unique as a melamed, as a teacher, is that he could relate to any individual. Whether it was a six year old learning aleph bais, a high school student studying Talmud, a baal teshuva trying to fit into the religious community, a college professor with a philosophical question, a potential covert contemplating the essence of Judaism, or a great talmudic sage delivering a discourse on a complex halchic subject, my father always had something to add to make the person know that he understood - and - then gave them something to think about; a question or insight, to take them to the next step of learning and understanding. These were skills of a master teacher - a master melamed. This was my father!

         This Dad, Avi Mori, is your name and how we will always remember you. (Aleph) A loving father, (Bais) an erlicha yid - impeccable in middos, (Reish) an empathetic and caring Rabbi, (Heh) an eternal optimist, and (Mem) a teacher. I know that now your are free to move and to talk in the Yeshiva shel maalah, in the heavenly Yeshiva. Iím sure you are sitting there with your beloved brother Aaron, of whom you were so fond of, who left us at such a young age.

         You went to yeshiva together, now you can be reunited. I know that your sainted parents are there with you. I know you are there, listening to the words of your Rabbaim, Rav Ruderman and Rav Kaminetzky, probably reviewing some brisker Torah or some insight from the Alter of Slobodka. And Iím certain you are trading a gematria or two with the Baal Haturim. And when you're not learning and being "nehene mi'ziv hashechina," (rejoicing in the Divine Light) you will be singing a niggun (a Jewish song) with Shlomo Carlbach.

         My father left this earthly existence between the parshiot, Torah reading, of Terumah and Tezaveh. In these sections of the Torah, Hashem teaches us about the vessels of the Temple, the Klai Kodesh. Klai Kodesh is also a term for individuals who serve the Torah community. My father was one of the Klai Kodesh of the Jewish community; - and now the Father of us all, has taken one His vessels back to the Temple of Heaven.

         Dad, every time we visited you in Akron it was always difficult to leave. This is the most difficult time of all.

         Dad, we miss you, we love you, you will always be with us in our hearts. Please join together with the other Tzadikim in heaven to be a "meilitz yosher" an advocate for us and all of Klall Yisroel. "Yehi Zichrecha Boruch" - may your memory serve as a source of blessing and inspiration for us all. Amen.


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