This is the hesped, the eulogy, by Rabbi David Singer, Karen’s brother, delivered today, at Congregation B’nei Isaac, where Karen’s father, Rabbi Philip Harris Singer, served as Rav for over forty years.
As a Ben Yachid, a son among daughters, and a Ben Zekunim, a child of older parents, it is a difficult, if not impossible task, for me to properly eulogize my father with whom I had such a special relationship. It is an even more daunting task given that my father was a master eulogizer, a skilled and spell-binding orator.
There is only one person who could, almost instantly, come up with the proper words and phrases to describe my father. Unfortunately, that person was my father, the Rabbi’s Rabbi.
My father was an encyclopedic source of knowledge tapped by many Rabbis throughout the world — on a daily basis.
Now we are at a loss.
Our teacher, mentor and friend, is no longer directly accessible. Fortunately, my father was a prolific writer. Hardly a day went by, even towards the end, when he was not busy writing Divrei Torah, commentary on Torah. In fact, it was less than a month ago, while so sick, that he mustered the energy and published an article in a distinguished Israeli Torah publication.
This morning I went down to my father’s study to look at various sermons that he had, in the past, delivered on Parshat Shlach. I found words so appropriate for him that I must thank him for leading me straight to this sermon delivered exactly twenty years ago.
At the end of the Parsha, (Numbers 15, 38) the Torah commands us to wear Tztizis, fringes, and to place in the Tzizis a psil techeles: a string of blue. How appropriate it is that in the end of the parsha of my father’s life, a proud wearer of techeles, way before it became fashionable, that the end of the week’s parsha is the mitzvah of techeles, the blue thread.
My father asks: Why is it that the Torah just commands the mixture of blue and white threads, and not the entire beged, the entire garment?
My father answers, beautifully, that the Torah is teaching us that G-d provides us with the threads in life, yet it is up to us to weave these threads into a beautiful garment—the garment that is life.
My father was given scores of colorful threads by G-d: he possessed an incomparable Gemara Kup, Talmudic mind; he had a wonderful sense of humor, and then there was his beautiful voice, once heard, never forgotten. In fact, I now hear his voice resonating in this very shul, I hear the prayers he recited every Yom Kippur at Kol Nidre:
Or Zarua Lazaddik Ulyishrei Lev Simcha.
Light is sown for the righteous;
and for the upright of heart, gladness.
My father had a warm, caring smile that will forever stay with me. He possessed great leadership skills. The list goes on and on.
My father took all these G-d given gifts, these threads, and wove a beautiful garment, a life dedicated to Torah, his family and his community. He had a never-ending love for Eretz Yisroel, symbolized by the blue and white.
I am comforted that I can escort him on his aliyah artza, his ascension to The Land.
This garment that he wove was a beautiful multi-colored tapestry.
My father never wanted to be labeled as a particular type of Jew. Although he was a proud Radziner Chasid, he felt extremely comfortable in the Litvishe, Lithuanian world. He was a devoted disciple of The Rav, Rav Soloveitchik. He felt as comfortable speaking at a melave malke in Boro Park as delivering the convocation at the NYC City Council. He served with honor on so many rabbinic boards as well as the board of school district 21. He could learn Torah for hours and then take a break and watch television with my mother.
His beautiful woven garment protected us, shielded, and educated us. I am so grateful for all the Torah that he imparted to me.
I will always cherish the three avenue blocks that we walked from home to shul and back. It wasn’t always filled with conversation, but it was always filled with love.
I thank him for taking me to The Rav’s shiurim when I was just a boy.
For taking me to a Yankee game although he had no real interest.
Most of all I will always remember Shabbos and Yom Tov. His beautiful Kiddush still echoes in the chambers of my heart and mind as do the intellectually rich conversations at the table, and then settling down with my father in his study, going over the Gemara that I had learned that week.
Most of all I treasure the memories of childhood, lying next to him in bed reading the Israeli newspaper, my father teaching me Hebrew, teaching me the proper love for Eretz Yisroel.
I can go on for hours detailing the friendship and bond that sustained us. Many times just a simple look conveyed so much. There was no need for words.
But now, we part in the physical world. And it hurts for I have lost the person who handed the threads to me, who taught me haw to weave the garment of life.
My garment is not complete and it will be so difficult to finish without his guidance.
I am comforted that waiting in Shamayim, in heaven, to greet my father are his parents, his in-laws, his beloved nephew Murray Lerer, his brothers-in-law Uncles Asher and Chayim, his beloved grandson Ariel Chaim, his cherished friends, and the thousands of people whose lives he touched.
Daddy, be comforted in the knowledge that the family will always cherish and perpetuate your memory; know that we will take good care of Mommy.
I know that I did not always treat you with the proper respect and for that and anything else that I may have done wrong, I ask mechilla, forgiveness.
I love you, and I always will. Lech B’shalom, go in peace.
Te’he nishamso ze’rurah bezror ha’chayim. “May his soul be bound in the eternal bond of life.”
Karen wishes to thank all Seraphic friends for your kind words of nechama, condolence. She is on her way to Eretz Yisroel now and will not have acess to a computer for a few days.