She has the face of a young beauty from 17th century Flemish portraits. Alabaster skin, cheekbones sharp as snow plows, eyes shaped like almonds, the vivid color of chipped glass. She is staring at me, whispering to her female companion. Or am I imagining all this? A moment later, nervous as a bird, she approaches me.
“Are you Robert Avrech?”
Karen and I have driven two hours to the Chevra Pesach program in Palm Springs to meet with Rabbi David Fohrman. He has graciously agreed to deliver the second Ariel Avrech Yahrtzeit Lecture, Sunday June 19, 11 AM, at the Young Israel of Century City. Ariel made us aware of Rabbi Fohrman’s astonishing Torah tapes. He was in one of Rabbi Fohrman’s chaburah’s at Ner Yisroel and was deeply influeneced by Rabbi Fohrman’s method of learning Torah. Naturally, Ariel wanted to share this knowledge with us. Karen and I listened to the tapes and we were just knocked out. Rabbi Fohrman is that rare Rebbe who understands the importance of learning Chumash and Navi. Unfortunately, the Yeshivish world has all but abandoned the deep study of written Torah in favor of Gemara, the Oral Law. I know the theory, that you will learn Chumash and Navi by studying Gemara, but let’s face it, that’s a smoke screen. The truth is that respect and status in the yeshivish world comes from studying Gemara. To know Torah and Navi is seen, sadly, as somehow not on the same high intellectual level. Rabbi Fohrman has raised the bar in Torah study. His ideas are all traditional mesorah, but he manages to inject fresh insights to these deeply familiar stories that, well, should be in the curriculum of every single yeshiva. His work is a gift to the world.
“Are you Robert Avrech?”
“I thought so. I just wanted you to know that a few months ago I was on bed rest and it was then that I discovered your blog. I love the way you write about your family and politics. Oh, and I just bought The Hebrew Kid and the Apache Maiden.”
“Thank you. Thank you so much.”
“I also want you to know that I davened for Ariel when I was in high school. It was so hard for me to stop davening for him.”
I can only nod.
We speak for a few minutes more and then she leaves. She is pregnant and I wish her a “B’sha’ah Tova.”
“Look at that,” says Karen, “you have fans.”
I smile sheepishly. In truth, Karen and I are deeply touched. To hear a stranger speak of Ariel in such warm tones means the world to us.
We drive back to Los Angeles listening to one of Rabbi Fohrman’s wonderful tapes and it occurs to me that no matter where I go in the world now chances are good that I will meet someone who knows Ariel through Seraphic Secret. His goodness is known and he is not forgotten; for this I am grateful.