Today was the levaya (funeral) of Rav Naftoli (Herman) Neuberger, the long time administrative head of Yeshivas Ner Israel of Baltimore. As the public representative of not only the yeshiva, but much of Baltimore’s Orthodox community for many years, his funeral was attended not only by yeshiva deans and Rabbis from distant cities, but by political figures including Baltimore’s Mayor Martin O’Malley.
The funeral was extremely brief, even by the standards of levayos held on days when conventional eulogies are not said (such as the intermediate days of Sukkos). After Mincha (the afternoon service), Psalms were recited for 35 minutes (four chapters, and then spelling out NaFTaLI BeN MEIR HaLeVI NeShaMaH from Psalm 119), and then his son Rav Sheftel Neuberger spoke — for under three minutes. He pointed out that the halacha precludes eulogies, and then said:
You left us suddenly and quietly, in a most dignified manner that Chazal (Our Sages) call misas neshikah, the kiss of death of the Ribono Shel Olam (Master of the World), on an erev Shabbos with your panecha l’maalah (face upwards), after having lit the Neiros Shabbos (Shabbos candles). The Ribono Shel Olam fulfilled your wish, you never wanted to be talked about in person, and that’s why there are no eulogies today.
He then asked forgiveness on behalf of himself, his brothers, all the students and officers of the yeshiva, and expressed his hope that with Divine Intervention inspired by his departed father, they would be able to continue in his father’s path, to continue building the magnificent place of Torah that is Ner Israel. [May it be so.]
Reb Sheftel concluded by thanking those family members with whom his father lived for many years on the campus of the Yeshiva, and all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren to whom he was very close, and who helped him “with love, and with consideration, and you were a part of all their lives to a great extent, and the whole family appreciates fully, as you did, everything they did for you.”
There will be eulogies on the night of beis Cheshvan, Thursday November 3. I hope to record those and provide a summary here, and hope that others will submit their recollections of Rav Neuberger to blog at our domain (dot-com) for publication here as well.
UPDATE: The Jewish Times has brief interviews with local Rabbis, politicians and activists remembering Rav Neuberger, as well as their cover story on the Rabbi from three years ago. They also provide this description of his passing:
Rabbi Herman Neuberger kindled the candles to welcome Shabbat into his Yeshiva Lane home last Friday evening. Before taking a nap, he told a family member to wake him up in time for evening prayers. When it was time to get up, it was discovered the beloved president of Ner Israel Rabbinical College had already passed away.