R’Naftali Z’L and Rav Benny Lau as a model for Sefer Beraishit.

11 12 2014

Naftali-Lavi-Lau-with-wife-and-son

I am asked to daven from the amud quite regularly at Ramban Shul . As anyone who leads davening in a big community like Ramban knows there can be many distractions – Noise from children, the community not joining in, people talking, as well of course not always feeling 100%, suddenly needing the toilet or being unsure which tune to sing.

Whilst being chazan at Ramban over the past few years I was often distracted, but for a very different type of reason – a far more positive one. What was it that often took my eyes away from my siddur? It was seeing at such close range the way Rav Benny cared and looked after his father Naftali Z’L during tefilah.

Making sure he was sitting comfortably in his wheelchair, holding his siddur, helping him have his tallit on properly, ensuring his kippa was on correctly, standing behind him during the amidah to help him keep his balance etc. The care both him and his children showed Naftali was very special.

Also, for those of us who heard Rav Benny’s drashot on Shabbat, he always mentioned his father when he was present and brought him to his Monday night shiur when he could. I also heard that whenever he was speaking around the country, Rav Benny took his father with him when he was able to. I don’t know the Lau family personally, but to anyone who saw them as a family knows the respect they all had for Naftali was very special.

naftali and israel mer

Often you see when Rabbanim and public figures become very popular, they neglect their personal and family lives. With Rav Benny, from what I saw, it was the opposite. He used his popularity to enrich his relationship with his parents and always included them. I saw him with his father and mother at Ramban most of the time.

I heard Ha’Rav Amital Z’L say, quoting a mishna ( I can’t remember where, but I think in Massechet Megillah) that one should daven in a shul which is intergenerational.

Why? Because young people need to see and learn from the wisdom of the elderly. That life experience is invaluable and you can’t always gain that wisdom from Sefarim or Halacha. You learn it from experiencing and seeing. I myself have realized that there are limits to what books can teach you. You often learn far more from real, human role models.

When I was standing there from the Amud at Ramban shul, seeing the way Rav Benny looked after his father davening, I realized what Ha’Rav Amital meant. You learn from people and how they behave and treat people, as much as from books and ideas. Learning is great and yes, you need to have knowledge. But, more importantly, is to see that knowledge implemented in real life.

naftali

Rabbi Lord Sacks often speaks about how Sefer Beraishit is a book about family relationships. At times these relationships are difficult, torn and tense as in these parshiyot with Yosef and his siblings. At other times in Sefer Beraishit, the family relationships are easier, more straighforward and simpler. But whatever the nature of the relationship, they are worth working at and investing time and effort in. For, it is only when we have healthy and happy relationships on a personal and individual level, that we can go on and build solid and strong communities and be part of a nation.

Those of us who are part of the Ramban community are privileged to have been exposed to the Lau family and the special intergenerational relationships in their family. We certainly learnt a lot from the way Rav Benny looked after and cared for his father, Naftali Z’L.

Shabbat Shalom,

Benjy Singer, Founder and Manager of the ‘My Shteiblech’ Social Media portal.

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