Yahrzeit of Rav Nachman Bulman, zt”l

Tonight, 26 Tammuz, is my father’s third yahrzeit.

In my Jewish Action article about my father, which appeared a few months after his petira, I wrote:

“Working with his close friend, Eliyahu Kitov, he translated two of Kitov’s classic books, A Jew and His Home and The Book of Our Heritage. My father’s final resting place is on Har HaMenuchos, near that of his beloved friend.”

Targum Press has put out a new book called In the Lion’s Den: Ten Tales of the First Chassidim and Their Ways,by Eliyahu Kitov. It’s a translation of the first volume of Kitov’s 1955 book, Chassidim Ve’anshei Ma’aseh.

The book has a beautiful foreword by Naama Nothmann, Eliyahu Kitov’s daughter. She has lived in Johannesburg for many years, and we got to be very friendly when I lived there in the early years of my marriage. Naama is an artist, and she did the painting that graces the book’s cover. (I also have one of her paintings in my dining room, a pastel gouache reminiscent of Chagall, but more beautiful.)

Here is the foreword she wrote:

Rav Nachman Bulman, zt”l
by Naama (Kitov) Nothmann

While this work was being translated, we received news that Rav Nachman Bulman, z”tl, had passed away. Mrs. [Miriam] Zakon, whose family had a very close bond with Rav Bulman, asked if the book could include a dedication to him, and we felt this was very appropriate, as Rav Bulman was the translator of our father’s masterpiece, Sefer HaToda’ah, as well as our father’s close personal friend.

I personally had a very special bond with Rav Bulman. Over a two-year period in New York, [in the sixties–TK], Dr. Joseph Kamenetsky, zt”l, offered us office space in Torah U’Mesorah. Rav Bulman would sit and translate my father’s sefarim into English there, while I worked on my art. When my father, z”l, visited New York, he would join us.

I’ll never forget the wonderful gifts I received from Rav Bulman in those days. While he was working, he used to take breaks and tell me stories from his life, sharing his unique worldview, thoughts of the Sages, and all manner of philosophical insights for hours every day. He would often speak of our father, z”l, and of the deep bond he shared with him, a bond which, he said, had greatly enriched his life. He would touch on dozens of other topics as well, from which I learned much about his own unique personality and the purity of his thoughts. He would give over many divrei Torah, connecting them always with current events.

During those times, I felt he was filling an enormous gap in my life, the lack that I felt being far away from home and from my father. How he nourished me! How he galvanized me! His face radiated light; his every movement declared that his words were coming from deep within his soul. I owe him a great debt for the wealth that he shared with me.

When Abba visited us occasionally, I felt that the verse in Amos (3:3) had been written of them: “Do two people walk together unless they had so arranged it?” Indeed, this had been arranged for eternity. Such spiritual strength flowed within both of them when they were together and in each when they were apart. Hour after hour, they would talk, expound, discuss, share their lives, showing me, without the shadow of a doubt, that the two dwelled together in higher worlds, together basking in the radiance of the Shechinah.

I remember, during the Six-Day War, when the radio announced the Israeli victory, the three of us were in the office. The two of them stood up, and hugged, kissed, danced, and sang with all their might. I will remember forever the sparks in their eyes — and the connection between their souls — that I saw on that day.

May their memory be blessed.

Three years have passed and my longing to talk to my father again has only increased in that time. But the knowledge that many people loved my father, and still miss him, gives me tremendous comfort. Naama Nothmann’s essay is a gift of inestimable value.

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5 comments to Yahrzeit of Rav Nachman Bulman, zt”l

  • Netanel Livni

    May their memory be a blessing

  • Lipman

    Ad bias hagouel!

  • Edvallace

    Toby,
    I actually knew your father zt”l and can testify to what an exceptionally wonderful person he was. He inspired me in so many ways and his memory continues to inspire me. I once brought him in to speak at a women’s event and the women were tremendously inspired by his words. He was exhausted and wanted to end the evening but they refused to let him go. They asked him questions for hours and hung on to every word.
    Yehi zichro Baruch!

  • David Shawel

    Toby,
    From those of us who think of your sainted father as our spiritual grandfather (I was a young boy growing up in Newport News, Virginia when my family learn from your father) the connection between us is truly l’maala min hateva. I have learned in well known yeshivos in the United States and in Eretz Yisroel and been meshamesh with very respected rabbonim throughout the years, however the essence of Yiddishkeit was seeded within me as a young boy by your father and continues to nourish me each and everyday of my life.
    As I turn fifty today on the twenty-six day of Tamuz I have taken upon myself to light a Yartzeit candle and say kaddish l’zechar nishmas, Moraynu V’Rabbaynu Harav Nachman ben Reb Meir Bulman, ZT”L.
    May your fathers memory continue to be a blessing to your mother, sister, brothers, entire family and to us all.

    Sincerely yours,
    (Rabbi) David Shawel
    Dallas, Texas

  • Leah H

    Toby,
    I echo your sentiment: “Three years have passed and my longing to talk to my father again has only increased in that time.” Whenever I have an interesting challenge before me, I often ask myself, “What would the Rav advise here?” Unfortunately, I’m not tuned into the answer.

    May he be a meilitz yosher for you, your family and for all of Klal Yisroel.

    Kol tuv,
    Leah