As you are all aware, our Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Yisroel Niman Shlita, endured the loss of his father last week. What you may not realize, is that his father, Rabbi Chaim Shmuel HaLevi Niman, zt’l was a Rebbe and mentor to many of us, spanning three generations. Beginning with our late teenage years, continuing throughout our lives until he weakened in the past two years, Rabbi Niman zt’l played a major role in our lives. I reprint, with permission, the words of (my son and) Dean of Torah Academy of Boca Raton, Rabbi Shaya Baumann.
One of the most powerful lessons Rabbi Niman zt’l taught us was how to be a “Mevakesh.” A Mevakesh is one who is always thirsting for more, always searching to grow, looking to become a greater Torah personality and servant of Hashem. חכם לב יקח מצות
Imagine two elevators open on the fourteenth floor. One has the up-arrow illuminated, while the other flashes a down-arrow. Currently, they are both at the fourteenth floor, but one is poised to rise, and one to go down. While they’re both currently at the same level, we know that in a few moments one will have risen far above the other. In the same way, two people can be side-to-side, on the same spiritual level in their service of Hashem; but one is poised to grow, searching for more and looking to be greater, while the other is content to remain where he or she is currently. The difference between the two is vast, and far greater than we imagine. Such is the definition of a Mevakesh – it is of one who is in a constant state of searching, growing, and advancing in his/her service of Hashem.
For all those of us who knew him, Rabbi Niman zt’l was always hustling, always moving, and always running to the next mitzvah of the day. Students and family say that they never saw him walk! He was always searching for the next opportunity to learn something new, and grabbing an opportunity to lend a helping hand or a listening ear. Over the years, we grew accustomed to seeing Rabbi Niman following Gedolim zt’l, such as our Rosh Hayeshiva, Rav Henoch Lebowitz, as well as Rav Moshe Feinstein, and Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky and many others. He was a fountain of Halacha and advice for all who approached him, sharing the literally thousands of shailos and tidbits he’d gathered over decades in the Yeshiva world. From reels, to tapes, to CDs and DVDs, he found a way to use every new technological advance for Torah. Never satisfied, he always was in an excited state, running to the next project, effort, ‘chiddush’ and Torah insight.
As we absorb and mourn our loss, let us ask ourselves how we are doing in our service of Hashem. The question is not merely how we’re doing today, but if our arrow is pointing up or down. Are we looking to grow? Have we advanced in our spiritual growth over the past year? The past five years? Are we a Mevakesh? Are we too content with who we are today, or what we’ve accomplished in the past? (Or have we been just too busy to think about it at all?)
In Rabbi Niman zt’l’s merit, may we continue to be inspired and increase our efforts and our yearning to grow and reach higher and higher, and may we see the day when all of our lost ones and great mentors will be returned to us. – יהי זכרו ברוך
Best wishes for a Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann