Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In Memory of my Grandfather, Rabbi Dr. Hyman H. Friedman

Tonight my family marks the yahrtzeit of my grandfather, Rabbi Dr. Hyman (Chaim) Friedman. Or, as we called him, Zayde. I have a special affinity for Zayde in that I followed after him into the professional rabbinate. He served first in Atlanta, Georgia, and then moved to Winthrop, Massachusetts where he served for decades (I don't remember how many). I think that I appreciate his years of service in the rabbinate more now than I did when he died. I certainly learn new things about him all the time. Who knew that he tutored Rav Gifter when he first arrived at YU?
I served at rabbi of a shul in West Hartford, CT, that was probably a lot like his shul in Winthrop - Orthodox shul, not many Orthodox people. It's not an easy life; thankless in many ways, with many frustrations and few successes.
And yet, serve he did for so many years. After he retired, he moved to Silver Spring, MD where he spent the final years of his life studying Torah, attending minyan, becoming a noted and very popular speaker, visiting the sick and becoming a fixture in Kemp Mill. Yet, that's what he did - not what he was.
What was he? First and foremost, a Talmid Chacham. He knew how to learn. He was a masterful speaker - just watch the video - he had mastered the craft over a lifetime. He was loving, caring and gentle. He was perpetually responsible. He was soft-spoken.
And he built a family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren numbering literally in the hundreds, all dedicated to the values of living a Torah lifestyle and devotion to the Jewish people.
That's a legacy that speaks for itself. Which is something Zayde was quite good at.
(If you want to know more about my Zayde, you can click here to listen to a fascinating interview my brother did with him.)