Much of our mourning for R. Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l is an insider affair. It cannot be adequately shared with others. You had to have learned in the Mir, or had children who did, to have been acquainted enough with what he accomplished through the sheer force of his will. Or you had to come from Chicago, were you could have witnessed his transformation from a baseball-loving American kid in a coed high school (something he readily shared with American NCSYers with whom he met each summer) to a talmid chacham and architect of the flowering of the largest yeshiva in Israel. Or you had to have been present at one of his fund raising whistle stops in the US, and watched him daven. (He dropped by our shul in Los Angeles a few years ago to daven mincha. Because of his Parkinson’s, his limbs flailed about when he tried to stand still. To be able to daven shemonah esreh, he placed a chair right in front of him, and locked his feet around its legs to try to anchor himself in one position. It worked only partially. The sight of his mesiras nefesh left everyone in the shul speechless for some time after, and remains seared into the memory of all who were there.)
But what if you have to explain who he was to someone who did not have access to him up front – to someone who isn’t even observant? In that case you have to review the story of his encounter with a group of American businessmen, as told by Howard Schultz, Chairman at the time of Starbucks. The story is a tribute to the wisdom of a genuine talmid chacham.