The Eyes That Wrote Torah : A Eulogy For Rabbi Yaakov Rabinowitz-Teumim

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JERUSALEM (VINnews) — His eyes, the only part of his body which would still obey his brain’s commands, flitted onto the special computer screen which recognized their message. Slowly, laboriously, words appeared on the screen, innovative words of Torah from a brain sparkling with knowledge. The words joined to form sentences, paragraphs, pages and even chapters. A book was created by those shrewd eyes which had taught so many students so many times the meaning of the texts they were studying.

Even amongst the glittering array of Torah scholars who light up the city of Jerusalem, Rabbi Yaakov Rabinowitz-Teumim, who passed away last week at the age of 77, was a rare gem. Scion of an illustrious rabbinic family which traces its descent to the Levush, Rabbi Yaakov taught for many years in the prestigious Yeshiva Ketana of Kol Torah in Jerusalem. Realizing that there were few serious works on the parts of the gemara which were studied in Bekius, he decided to write books on those parts, adding in-depth analysis of the views of the Rishonim and Acharonim (early and later commentators). Nine volumes appeared over the years, as well as a classic commentary on the Shev Shma’atsa. Each work demonstrated the efforts invested by the author to illuminate and elucidate every passage of the gemara.

However the peak of Rabbi Yaakov’s trials was yet to come. About 15 years ago, he was stricken with a debilitating disease which left him completely paralyzed- incapable of moving any part of his body besides his eyes. Most people would have been crushed and disconsolate to suffer such a cruel fate but Rabbi Yaakov, through a special computer-recognition program, was able to continue writing and amazingly produced some of his books even after the disease had set in.

In the preface to one of his books, Rabbi Yaakov wrote a most astonishing revelation. He stated that he had tried to fathom why he had suffered such a fate, since ever since he was a youth he had only studied Torah assiduously and his father had not allowed him to study any secular disciplines. He surmised that “maybe because I came late to lessons I was punished that I would not be able to give lessons anymore, and even though I was late because I was preparing and made up the time afterwards, I deserved this fate.” If a person can know that he has no other deficiencies besides this, he must be closer to an angel than a human being.

Indeed, Rabbi Yaakov always appeared to know exactly what Hashem wanted of him and to do it in the best possible manner. His seven children all follow in his footsteps with some of them serving in distinguished yeshivas and others writing Torah books themselves. Rabbi Yaakov’s body may have failed him well before his death but his eyes were able to achieve more than most active people would produce and his profound legacy for us is that Torah can and must be studied in every possible situation. May his memory be blessed.


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