Saturday, July 12, 2008

Finally at Rest

Articles, video and photos of Rabbi Groner's levaya and kevura have already appeared on websites. Please note that some of the photos may be a bit stark for those not used to Israeli funerals. I hope to have some other photos after Shabbos is out in Israel.
Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum's article appeared in the Australian Hamodia this week.

Rabbi Yossi Braun of the Tzemach Tzedek Shul in Sydney also wrote the following tribute.

Tough Love: Tribute to Rabbi Groner
By Rabbi Yossi Braun

Monday, 12.30pm. The first call came in. I heard the loud ring of the phone demanding that I answer it. It made my head pound. “Did you hear the news? Rabbi Groner…” “Oy!” “When??!” That was enough to change my entire day. The world just became a darker place for me, for you, for an entire community.

Monday, 8.45pm. A shiur Tanya was supposed to be in full swing for fifteen minutes already. But, something else is on everyone’s mind. “What will be now?” “Are you going?” Everybody is reminiscing about their times with Rabbi Groner, the funny times and the not-so-funny moments. There wasn’t a soul in the room who was not part of the conversation. All present somehow knew the rabbi personally. He meant so much to them.In walks a latecomer, straddling into the shiur. “Did you hear the news?” We all nod in approval. He informs us about his decision to book a flight to Melbourne for the funeral. “I have many reasons not to go”, he says. “My wife needs my help, I’m needed at work and tickets are expensive. But, my heart tells me to go”. Someone asks a stupid question “did you know Rabbi Groner?” Well, the answer astounded us all. “No!” He did NOT really know him. “But I feel like I have to go, because he knew me”. That sort of summed it up. He knew everybody. And cared about everyone.

Wednesday, 2.00pm Melbourne is mourning over the passing of an individual who cared about you, often more than you cared about yourself. At the levaya, Rabbi Glick managed to put in plain words what’s on everyone’s mind. Rabbi Groner touched many, many people in his eighty three years. Rabbi Groner was a towering individual, who cut an imposing figure. He filled a large place in the world. But it was his wordless love that has brought us all here today. Love for him spilled across national borders. “He was very big, very intimidating, very strong, but he was a sweetheart”, commented one individual. “He would give you the shirt off his back.” And then I notice him. I notice that individual, the one who had many reasons not to go but has gone anyhow. He is joining the procession, a tear-soaked face, grieving with the rest of the crowd. The endless love generated by Rabbi Groner to all he came in contact with, struck a deep chord in everyone’s heart. Muscular. Tough. Dominant. That’s the way he loved people. He loved with a passion and with the intensity that encompassed his life. His ahavas Yisroel didn’t come from a textbook; it stemmed from his heart.

Wednesday, 8.30pm Driving back to the airport on the way to Sydney, trying to internalise all we heard today, our thoughts were on how we could model Rabbi Groner's example. How can we emulate the warmth and the ahavas Yisroel, which were the very essence of his being.I was privileged to get a lift to the airport with a colleague from Sydney. In the midst of it all, the driver turns to me, “I must tell you something. I went to see Rabbi Groner just three weeks ago. Do you know what he said….”? In the momentary pause mid-sentence, I had a fleeting thought. I considered myself fortunate to be privy to this classified information. We're taught that the soul begins to leave the body on a very subtle level thirty days before the individual passes away. I was expecting to hear some pearls of wisdom, some sagacious last remarks.“He enquired about you. He wanted to know how you’re doing, how your work is going” … And then it dawned upon me. That was the greatest piece of scholarship I could have ever heard.