The Torah world was plunged into sadness Monday morning, 6 Kislev, with the petirah of Rebbetzin Miriam Salomon, a”h, the wife of, ybcl”c, Harav Mattisyahu Salomon, shlita, Mashgiach of Bais Medrash Govoha (BMG) of Lakewood.
She was remembered as the ultimate eishes chaver whose life was defined by an absolute dedication to her husband — the Mashgiach – as well as to the needs of his many talmidim and the many who seek his counsel. With her sense of selflessness and pure yiras Shamayim, she cared for and inspired all those who were privileged to come in contact with her. She was 75 years old.
“What a zechus she had … I depended entirely on my wife, she was a source of so much chizuk,” said Harav Salomon in his hesped, a mussar shmuess in itself, in which the Mashgiach gave short explanations on each passuk in Eishes Chayil, connecting them one by one to his Rebbetzin. “Her whole life was filled with doing good for others, for [old and young], for so many in this town.”
The Rebbetzin was hospitalized several months ago. On Motzoei Shabbos, her condition became critical, and she was niftar in the hospital Monday morning, surrounded by family members.
“She was a remarkable woman who, with tremendous chochmah, was able to juggle her responsibilities to her own family and to the klal in an unbelievable manner,” Dayan Aharon Dovid Dunner, a brother-in-law of the Rebbetzin, told Hamodia. “She was available day and night and did everything imaginable to relieve her husband of any burdens that would take him away from his avodas hakodesh.”
Rebbetzin Salomon was born in Manchester in 1941. Her parents, Reb Avrohom Tzvi, z”l, and Mrs. Sarah Falk, a”h, had arrived separately from their native Germany only a few years before, married in England, and established themselves in Manchester.
The Falks were known for their tremendous yashrus, yiras Shamayim, and ahavas haTorah. Reb Avrohom Tzvi was a descendant of the Pnei Yehoshua, though with his signature humility it was a fact that he hardly ever spoke of.
For many years, the family struggled financially and Reb Avrohom Tzvi was unable to pay full tuition for his children. Yet, during this time, he kept a scrupulous record of any funds owed and paid them back in full as soon as his parnassah began to pick up. He eventually was able to open his own sefarim shop, which he operated for many years.
In an age when it was nearly unheard of to raise one’s children to become bnei Torah and even less so to seek them out as husbands for one’s daughters, the Falks made this their declared goal.
At the time, the decision made them an object of ridicule, but the Falks’ stubbornness paid off for them and for Klal Yisrael as his family includes Harav Pesach Eliyahu Falk, Dayan Dunner, and Harav Salomon, among several other prominent marbitzei Torah.
From her parents, the Rebbetzin absorbed a treasure of middos tovos, unmovable hashkafos, and an unending admiration, respect and bittul to talmidei chachamim.
The Rebbetzin and Rav Salomon married in 1960 and settled in Gateshead, where the Mashgiach had already been studying in its prestigious kollel even before his marriage. With their union, she began what was a lifelong career of absolute dedication to her husband’s wellbeing, growth, and eventually his own harbatzas haTorah.
For many years, the Salomons lived in great poverty, yet the Rebbetzin used whatever little they had to ensure that her husband and young children would have what they needed for their growth in ruchniyus. Given the deeply embedded respect that she had for the Torah and those who learn it, she met the challenges of these years with simchah and resolve.
From the years when Rav Salomon was a member of Gateshead Kollel to when he began serving as an assistant Mashgiach, and right through his ascent to the ranks of Gedolei Yisrael, the Rebbetzin took every effort to free her husband of any distractions from his avodas hakoshesh.
For years, in the days before Pesach, the Rebbetzin arranged for the Mashgiach to stay elsewhere so that the tumult in the house would not take him away from his learning.
On one occasion, she underwent a procedure and spent several days in the hospital. Though Rav Salomon visited daily, his wife strictly forbade him to stay for more than 20 minutes, telling him, “The bachurim need you in yeshivah.”
As the Salomon family began to grow, it quickly gained renown as a model of a true Yiddishe shtub, with the Rebbetzin firmly at the helm. Built on the strong mesorah she had inherited from her own parents, carefully guarded against any foreign influences, in her home the Rebbetzin infused her children with the same pure yiras Shamayim, emunah peshutah and ahavas haTorah that defined her own upbringing. Despite limited finances, the Rebbetzin’s modest efforts to bring in additional parnassah were limited to jobs she could do from home at hours that did not interfere with her duties as a wife or mother.
She provided tremendous support and encouragement to her children, giving them endless time and attention. Even as her sons grew older and would routinely return from yeshivah late, she waited up for them. Aside from her wise advice on a range of matters, even the Rebbetzin’s mundane conversation was saturated with her ironclad Torah hashkafos and constituted a chapter in chinuch unto itself.
Her lifelong dedication to family was rooted in her sense of duty to the older generation as well.
When she got married, Rav Salomon’s father had already been niftar. With tremendous empathy, the Rebbetzin, then a young wife, encouraged her husband to spend time with his mother, away from their own home, so that her mother-in-law would not feel alone.
Her mother-in-law and, later, her father, lived for years in a house connected to her own, and an aged aunt lived on the other side, all becoming part of the young family’s daily life.
As Rav Salomon began to assume greater responsibility at the Gateshead Yeshiva, the Rebbetzin’s partnership with her husband took on a new dimension. In his role as Mashgiach, a constant flow of bachurim found their way to the Salomons’ house. Whether the visit was for a short conversation with Rav Salomon or to stay for a Shabbos or Yom Tov, the Rebbetzin tried her utmost to make talmidim feel at home and like part of the family.
As was her approach towards the Mashgiach himself, the Rebbetzin stood ready to fill whatever need she could to nurture his talmidim’s growth. Her home was a frequent venue for shidduch meetings, she made countless sheva brachos, and often hosted bachurim who were unable to return home for Yom Tov.
“She was there to support the Mashgiach in whatever he had to do and nothing ever seemed as if it was too much for her to handle. She was extremely focused and made sure that if something needed to get done, that was exactly what happened,” Rabbi Naftoli Lebrecht, administrator of Gateshead Yeshiva, told Hamodia. “She was a true eishes chaver. When the Mashgiach had rachmanus on someone, she would feel it too and try to help in her way.”
For many decades, the Salomons’ home in Gateshead was known for its warmth and hospitality to the entire community, well beyond the yeshivah. With a sense of absolute devotion to the klal, the Rebbetzin went to great lengths to see that all who entered her doorway left feeling honored and cared for. On several occasions, entire families who were unable to make Yom Tov on their own moved in with the Salomons for the duration.
Local women pouring their hearts out about serious problems, coming for a few kind words, or even just to lighten their day with the Rebbetzin’s famous sense of humor was a regular occurrence.
“The Rebbetzin, a”h, had an open house and an open heart to help anyone who came for advice,” said one woman who frequented the Salomon home. “She had a straight and decisive manner in dealing with every person who spoke to her. Despite never diluting the truth, she had the ability to validate everyone’s problems. The Rebbetzin had an incredible listening ear and was able to guide every person to see the correct way without making them feel foolish.”
Amid handling her husband’s increasingly busy schedule and caring for her own children, the Rebbetzin ran what amounted to an unofficial chessed organization, baking challos and sending hot meals to those who needed them. The Rebbetzin used her ingenuity to see to it that they would receive the help they needed without hurting their pride.
Amid the many middos tovos that the Rebbetzin exemplified, hakaras hatov was one that was deeply etched in her character. A favor done for her or her family was remembered for years to come. Anyone who came to do work in the house was rewarded with a token of appreciation in addition to payment.
When the Salomons moved to the United States in order for Rav Salomon to assume the position of Mashgiach of Bais Medrash Govoha of Lakewood in 1997, the Rebbetzin’s role multiplied together with that of her husband’s. As the Mashgiach’s time, energy, and wisdom became more and more in demand throughout the American Torah world, she too redoubled her efforts to simultaneously enable his expanded role while protecting his wellbeing.
As in all areas of their relationship, her facilitation of the Mashgiach’s leading role in Klal Yisrael was one of absolute devotion and bittul, never trying to hold him back from the many requests placed on him to speak, attend meetings, or to travel to cities around the United States and sometimes overseas.
As she had done for years in Gateshead, the Rebbetzin was the one who managed the Mashgiach’s taxing schedule. Those who wished to make an appointment with Rav Salomon dealt first with his Rebbetzin. Despite her prominent status in Klal Yisrael, however, she retained the same sense of modest simplicity. To those trying to see the Mashgiach, she was as accommodating as possible, often asking, “Well, when would be a good time for you to come?” For those who came from out of town, they were often greeted with cake and a hot drink upon their arrival at the house.
In Lakewood, the Rebbetzin was increasingly sought after for her sage advice by women of the rapidly growing community. As it always had, her wisdom remained rooted in her strong hashkafos and mesorah combined with a unique ability to understand the needs and mentality of younger generations of American-born wives.
Perhaps most impressive was the tremendous tznius with which the Rebbetzin managed her role. Exemplifying kol kvudah bas melech penimah, she was not often seen about town, preferring to direct her efforts on her husband’s behalf as well as her own chassadim from her kitchen table.
Late Monday afternoon, a crowd of thousands gathered at BMG to bid a tearful farewell to the Rebbetzin who for decades had played a quiet yet pivotal role not only in Gateshead and Lakewood, but wherever bnei Torah dwelled.
Harav Yaakov Yehudah Salomon, a son of the Rebbetzin, began his emotional hesped by mentioning his father’s Monday night shmuess, and the Tehillim she would famously say while he prepared, and the brachah for hatzlachah he would request from his wife before going to deliver the shmuess.
He said, “Nineteen years ago she left a whole family in England and came here to America. When we asked di mamme why she was going, she simply answered, ‘What do you mean why, it’s for der tatte’s harbotzas haTorah!’”
Later in his hesped, Rav Yaakov Yehudah specifically addressed those listening in the large ezras nashim, hundreds of women eager to hear and grow from the lessons of the Rebbetzin’s extraordinary life:
“Our mother showed us what it means to be the wife of a ben Torah, of a ben aliyah … it has to go with respect and admiration and with moral support … this is how we were brought up. She lived and breathed it all of her life.”
“She never thought about herself. A selfless person, she lived for others and was battul to retzon Hashem,” said Harav Moshe Salomon, another son, in his hesped.
Other maspidim, shlita, included the Roshei Yeshivah of BMG: Harav Malkiel Kotler, Harav Yeruchim Olshin, Harav Dovid Schustal, and Harav Yisroel Neuman, as well as Harav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, Rosh Yeshivah, Mesivta of Lakewood and a mechutan of the Salomons.
From Lakewood, the levayah departed to JFK Airport, where additional hespeidim were delivered before the aron was flown to Eretz Yisrael, where another levayah was held before kevurah on Har Hamenuchos.
The Rebbetzin is survived by, ybl”c, her husband, Harav Mattisyahu Salomon; her brother, Harav Pesach Eliyahu Falk; her sisters, Rebbetzin Shulamis Bamberger and Rebbetzin Hadassah Dunner; her sons, Harav Yaakov Yehudah, Harav Moshe and Harav Meir; her daughters, Rebbetzin Naomi Jacobs, Rebbetzin Chana Gittelson, Rebbetzin Nechama Weinberg, Rebbetzin Rivka Perkowski, Rebbetzin Esther Knopfler, Rebbetzin Rochel Sorotzkin, and Rebbetzin Ettel Halpern; as well as by many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Yehi zichrah baruch.
Updated Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 12:29 pm .