When R Aaron Lopiansky shared a moving story with his fellow advisory board members at Klal Perspectives (unvarnished plug!), I asked him for permission to publish on Cross-Currents. I am happy that he granted it.
It comes in the form of a letter he received from a talmid:
I thought Rebbe would appreciate this. It just happened on January 1st at the Yeshiva in Teaneck….
After the passing of the Mir Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel z”l, R’ Mordechai Grunwald, the executive director of Yeshivas Mir and close talmid of R’ Nosson Tzvi, was asked to deliver a hesped at the Yeshiva Gedolah of Teaneck. Amongst many stories that he told about R’ Nosson Tzvi, he related the following:
Approximately 15 years ago there was a family from New York who lost their father, a distinguished Talmid Chochom, and talmid of the Mir. Rav Nosson Tzvi had a particularly fond relationship with the deceased father and took it upon himself to ensure that his orphans will have a fatherly figure to turn to and that they will receive proper chinuch. He told the children to correspond with him through letters and that they can ask him any question that they have on their minds or write to him about any issue they may encounter. R’ Nosson Tzvi kept photos of these orphans in his pocket as a constant reminder of his “other” family.
The children took advantage of their surrogate father and would correspond with him about everything, even inconsequential . Rav Nosson Tzvi, with great difficulty due to his Parkinsons disease, would write a letter in response. This went on for many years until the boys grew up and came to Eretz Yisroel to learn in Yeshivos. R’ Nosson Tzvi got the boys into various Yeshivos that catered to each one’s uniqueness. Every Friday night, the boys could be found enjoying their Shabbos Seudah at the table of the Rosh Yeshiva. He kept his word towards those orphans for the rest of his life.
After R’ Mordechai Grunwald completed the hesped, he was approached by one of the yungeleit of Yeshiva Gedolah of Teaneck. The yungeman said that, “The story about the orphans is an unbelievable one, but it doesn’t end there…you see, there was a little 8 year old girl among those 4 orphan boys. Unlike her older brothers, that little girl didn’t know how or what to write to R’ Nosson Tzvi. After a while of not receiving any letters, she was saddened that she didn’t have a close relationship with the Mir Rosh Yeshiva. That saddness was transformed when her mother handed her a letter from Yerushalayim addressed to her. She excitedly opened the letter and pulled out the paper inside. It was a hand-drawn picture of a large heart shape with a loving message to her, signed by Rav Nosson Tzvi on the bottom. Since her father had passed away, she never felt so loved. That little girl was my wife and, to this day, she recalls how happy that letter made her feel.”