A Giant Was Among Us!

The petirah of my yedid, Reb Raphael Yitzchok, z”l, (5 Cheshvan/Oct. 25, p. 64) is not only a tremendous loss to [the Lieberman] family but to all of Klal Yisrael and especially to those who were fortunate to be considered his chaveirim.

Approximately 14 years ago I came to see Reb Raphael at his office on 16th Avenue. I told him that 40 mosdos hachinuch in Brooklyn have joined forces to open self-contained classes for children with learning disabilities within the mainstream yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs. He was extremely excited to hear of this great new development — Ichud Mosdos Hachinuch.

I told him that if we take care of these children when they are young we will avoid much aggravation later. If we don’t educate them according to their needs today, many of them will grow up to be dysfunctional adults or drop-outs, a burden on our community and a tremendous loss to Klal Yisrael, chas v’shalom.

I also related to him a few “nachas stories” that we witnessed with our students with learning disabilities at Ichud Mosdos Hachinuch.

I then said to him, “Reb Raphael, I would like to ask you to please sponsor one of our children for $18,000.” He looked quite surprised and said to me, “Reb Yaakov, that is a big number!” And I said, “I know, but this is what these children need.”

He sat in deep thought for a few moments and said to me: “What would I do if the roof of this office building caved in? Would I find $18,000 to repair it? I definitely would! The roofs are caving in upon the families of these children. I will have to find the $18,000!” Before I left his office, he took a yellow sticky note and put it on the brochure of Ichud, wrote something on it and put it in his drawer.

Reb Raphael then asked me to please come around to his side of the desk. He showed me the drawer and said, “I just want you to know where this is. It is in the second drawer.”

I looked at him quite puzzled, wondering why it was important for me to know where he placed our brochure. So he then showed me the yellow sticky note that stated his pledge of $18,000 and told me the following:

“Reb Yaakov, a person never knows. My family will be quite surprised if you tell them that I made such a large pledge. I want you to know where it is!”

And of course the pledge was paid shortly after.

When I returned to my office after the shivah call, I looked up my notes in Raphael Yitzchok’s account. It says the following: On November 3, 2003, Reb Raphael gave me a check for $3,600 for Ichud and said to me, “This donation is not towards the $18,000 pledge; it is a separate cheshbon. Please push me and bother me. Don’t hesitate!”

I guess Reb Raphael Yitzchok described his feeling of responsibility to Klal Yisrael better then we can attempt to!

He put himself in the shoes of those in need, and then, and only then, did he decide on his level of support.

Hashem has given me the privilege to have a personal relationship with many of the lay leaders in our community, but my chaver Reb Raphael Yitzchok was at a different level.

This wasn’t only because of the amount of tzedakah he gave, but even more so, the way he gave tzedakah.

May we all be inspired to emulate our dear chaver Reb Rephael, z”l. This will be the greatest zechus for his lofty neshamah. Yehi zichro baruch.

Yaakov Mandel