The Loss Of A Teacher

Along with my grandfather, Philip Zeitlin z”l, gone since before my Bar Mitzva, Rabbi Israel Rosenfeld z”l first introduced me to Gemara in 1963. As a way of thinking and analyzing, it has been my lifelong passion and, along with my early studies in mathematics, the foundation of my intellectual life.
I just learned of Rabbi Rosenfeld z”l’s death earlier today. At this point in my life, it’s as close to the loss of a parent as is possible.
Those of you who have or will study Gemara with me, already know or will come to know “Gemara l’Maschilim“, Talmud for Beginners, Rabbi Rosenfeld z”l’s textbook, which I’ve used exclusively for more than 20 years. Now typeset and bound by Torah Umesorah, I was first introduced to it as a set of smelly mimeograph pages, patiently typed out with an ancient Hebrew typewriter with the vowels added by a loving hand. They have imprinted me with a love for our tradition, with an understanding of the high value we’ve always placed on training and using our minds, and also with the human values we’ve championed for millennia.
Rabbi Rosenfeld z”l was a pillar of kindness in my life, beginning when I was 9 or 10 and spent the summer before returning to Hillel Academy in Denver for 5th grade, walking to his house for several hours of private tutoring every day. His brilliance helped me catch up two full years of studies in just a couple months and his patience and love established a bond that has endured more than half-a-century.
I haven’t spent much time in Denver since I was 18, but a high point in each visit would be to go to the shul he davened and taught at, surprise him and enjoy the glowing smile and the twinkle of recognition in his eyes that he always had for me (in spite of my being one of the two worst trouble-makers in his class way back when…..He “credited” me for half of the white hairs on his head!).
He didn’t teach only me, but a generation of young Jewish students in Denver and later in Hartford, Ct. His seudat shlishit (third meal each Shabbat afternoon) open class in Talmud was locally famous, marking the high point of the week for many Denverites over the years.
My tears don’t begin to cover the debt I owe him.
Baruch Dayan HaEmet.

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5 Responses to The Loss Of A Teacher

  1. David Adatto says:

    I too have taught from the book of Rabbi Rosenfeld z”l and can tell you they are amazing tools to help in the study and understanding of Talmud. So sorry to hear of the passing of such a great man, Baruch Dayan HaEmet.

  2. Gary Drucker says:

    Such a loving tribute is appreciated even by those who had no experience with the deceased.

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