Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Man From Kelm

From this week's Mishpacha article by R' Yaakov Feitman, who was the Rav of the Young Israel of Cleveland when I was a child, the Cleveland Hts. branch of which davens in the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland building, on R' N.W. Dessler, zt"l:
Dignity. Serenity.

In thinking about Rabbi Nachum Zev Dessler these past few days, the words recur like the chorus of a symphony. You could not help but straighten your tie and adjust your jacket when passing Rabbi Dessler, even for a moment. In his later years, although it was difficult for him, he would don his kapote just to greet a visitor. Rabbi Dessler carried himself with the serenity of one who was constantly at peace with himself, with the world, and most importantly, with his Creator.

I heard from one of his wonderful sons that he could not recall his father raising his voice. It would indeed have been beyond the pale, because throughout his long and fruitful life, Rabbi Dessler remained primarily a man of Kelm -- both his birthplace and his essence. I remember Rabbi Dessler once telling me that in Kelm, they had the curious custom of making Havdalah in the back of the beis medrash near the door. When I asked why, he looked at me with surprise. “Where else could one light a fire without the smoke bothering someone's eyes and throat?”

That was Kelm and that was Rabbi Dessler.
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