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Rabbi’s Blog: "Tom" Elyon

04/18/2024 11:23:22 AM


Dear OZ family,


Last week’s unprecedented murderous Iranian attack upon Israel has driven the plight of the hostages from the world’s attention. The fact is that the world never cared much for their plight. Every other country in the world would have cut off water, food, medicine and electricity, on Oct. 8th with the return of these for a safe return of every hostage. In fact based on what Iran, Syria, Jordan, and other Arab countries have done to their own people for lesser crimes than Oct. 7th, they would have flattened all of Gaza on the same day. Israel, of course, should not be judged by what her neighbors would have done, or have already done. She is judged by a different standard. Nonetheless, we cannot forget their plight and we continue to hope that they are still alive and will be returned to their families.


Three times a day, in the second blessing of the Amidah, we refer to God as the One who upholds those who are falling, the One who heals the infirmed, and the One who frees the bound, “Mattir Asurim”. We make this bracha early in our davening as well. I can hear Glenn Richter every day accentuating these words in the repetition of the Amidah. We can accentuate our own kavannah when we say these words, and hopefully soon, see its realization.


Today is the end of the Shiva of Tom Weiss, Zichrono L’vracha. I spoke about him this past Shabbos. Rabbi Besser at the levaya, refered to him as the “Tom” of the Seder, a pure and simple soul, who always demonstrated a zeal and wonderment of life. Perhaps we can alter the inflection of the Tom’s question in the haggadah, from a simple, “What’s that?” to an amazement, of “Mah Zos!” What a wonderful table! What a wonderful gathering! His davening was a spectacle of amazement, as was his life. Tom can mean simple, but it also means pure, like Tom’s soul.


The first person called by this appellation was Yaacov, who was an “Ish Tom Yoshev Ohalim”. Tom also sat in many tents. He traversed the entire community, which explains the many rabbis who recited Tehillim at his levaya. I don’t recall seeing such a display of capturing such a broad tent of our community.


Of course, there is Rabbenu Tom, who was Rashi’s grandson and the greatest figure of his age. I would not consider Tom to be a soaring Torah figure, but he did teach us all a thing or two about volunteerism, commitment, and excitement to do Mitzvos. We have a lot to learn from him. Finally, L’havdil, perhaps older readers of these words will remember the astronaut Major Tom who floats in his tin can high above the moon. The last words of the song are, “Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do”. We are all certainly blue in spirit with the loss of Tom Weiss, but there is plenty that we can do.


We can volunteer to do Bikur Cholim, like he so scrupulously did every week. We can learn to become profoundly excited by our davening and observance. We can learn to show kindness and care for all those around us. In that way Tom still lives with us. May his memory be a blessing. I am including a mishnayos list of learning for his Shloshim, which will be observed here on Sunday morning, May 12th - Link:  


Stay well and healthy

Rabbi Allen Schwartz




Rabbi Allen Schwartz

Congregation Ohab Zedek

118 West 95th Street

New York, NY  10025-6604

Phone 212.749-5150, ext 200



Wed, July 24 2024 18 Tammuz 5784