Bris of Binyomin Chaim HaCohen Brecher – 13 Kislev 5771 – November 21, 2010
Faigie and I would like to thank everyone for coming to be mishtatef in our Simcha. We’d especially like to thank the Rabbonim who have joined us this morning and the Rosh Hayeshiva shli”ta who was m’chabed our family by being Sandek for Binyomin Chaim.
I’d like to thank all of the relatives and friends who came from near and far to join us in this simcha. Each and every one of you has enhanced our simcha tremendously and it wouldn’t be the same without you.
I want to thank my Mother and my Mother in Law and Father in Law, for all they have done for us “m’neureinu ad hayom hazeh”. They, along with “l’havdil bein chaim l’chaim” my late father, A”H, have provided Faigie and I the foundation on which to build our own family and shepherd them on the derech hashem.
We thank all of our friends in this incredible community of torah and chessed. We are honored to live among you and look forward to having the opportunity to share in each other’s simchos for many years.
Today, in our family, is a very special day. Not only are we Zocheh to bring another son “tachas canfei haschina” as a full-fledged member of klal yisroel, but we were able to give him a name that means so much to Faigie and I.
Our son, Binyomin Chaim HaCohen, is named for Faigie’s grandfather and best friend – yes – I was always second fiddle, R’ Binyomin Chaim HaLevi Genauer, affectionately known the world over as Zaida Ben, a tzaddik and walking Kiddush Hashem who was dear to the hearts of everyone who had occasion to meet him, even once.
Many of our friends, after hearing Faigie and I share stories about Zaida Ben, made a special visit to the Tamir Hotel, where he spent the last 15 years of his life, when they were in Eretz Yisroel. These friends are able to appreciate some of the incredible characteristics I will share with you today.
Many others here have heard some of the amazing stories of his life. These stories are mere anecdotes that provide but a glimpse into the incredible life of Zaida Ben.
It is appropriate, as is everything in Hashem’s amazing world, that our Binyomin Chaim was born in the week leading up to parshas Vayishlach in which we learn about the birth of his original namesake, the youngest of the Shivtei Kah, Binyomin Hatzaddik.
When Binyomin was born, Rachel named him Ben Oni. The Ramban explains that the loshon of “Oni” has two usages:
1) Strength (Reishis Oni – Reuven, Bechori Atah, Kochi V’Raishis Oni)
2) Aveilus/Mourning (Onein)
Chazal tell us that Rachel was implying that the sacrifice she was making in giving birth to the last of the Shevatim (represented by Onein) should give her son the strength (Raishis Oni) to be great.
Zaida Ben was no stranger to sacrifice for Kvod Shamayim. He and his brothers, Zchusam Yagein Aleinu, grew up in Seattle, WA in the early decades of the 1900’s. Seattle was far from a Torah Metropolis. They witnessed first-hand their own father’s incredible sacrifice to maintain a Torah-true yiddishkeit. They saw in their home what it meant to be principled and yet still beloved.
From a young age they were sent far from home to attend yeshiva to ensure that the chinuch they received at home in both bein adam l’makom and bein adam l’chavero was coupled with a love for limud and harbotzas Hatorah.
Zaida Ben was a Lamdan, a Masmid, an Ameil, a Yodeah Sefer, and most of all a tremendous Chacham. He loved to talk in learning and loved to learn. Nothing excited him more than a blatt Gemara or a good vort. Many of you know the story about his eye surgery. During Zaida’s last years, his eyesight began failing him. He visited a doctor in Eretz Yisroel and was told that he had a choice. The surgery, an expensive procedure, was covered by the Israeli socialized insurance program – Kupat Cholim – but would not be available for a few months. Alternatively, he could pay for the surgery on his own and receive it immediately. Zaida chose to have the surgery immediately because he was desperate to see his gemara. A paragon of Kochi V’raishis Oni in a situation of Onein.
Returning to the Parshah, Yaakov Avinu chose to change Binyomin’s name. In the only such switch in the names of the shevatim, Yaakov renames this child to the name Binyomin. Binyomin, as we all know, is a combination of the words Ben Yemin. Rashi and the meforshim bring down that Ben Yemin connotes the strength of Yemin and the longevity of Yomin.
There are a number of beautiful allusions to the life of Zaida Ben in this. First, Yaakov Avinu chose to alter Biyomin’s name. Instead of a name reflecting strength in the face of adversity, Yaakov chose to bring out only the positive – Yemin and Yomim – long lasting strength.
Zaida Ben had an incredible Middah. No matter what complaint, large or small, one went to relay (or whine) to him about, by the time the conversation was over, the entire situation was turned into a positive – all without one ever noticing the change. He was also a master distracter. He taught his children and grandchildren that the answer to many “stressful” or “trying” situations was to change the subject. How many times did he heal a wound with his famous “Yarmulke game” or his “one-of-a-kind” stories? This doesn’t mean there was no adversity; it just highlights the Yaakov Avinu approach of only seeing the positive.
Zaida Ben was Zoche to enjoy the “Ben Yomin” part of his name as well living 96 full years. Throughout his entire life, to his very last day, he maintained his strength as the “Ben Yemin”.
In his lifetime, Zaida Ben was Zocheh to see more than 150 progeny of shomrei Torah U’mitzvos, both in America and in Eretz Yisroel. He always had an instinctive understanding of what each one needed at a particular time. He had the incredible ability to make each and every child, grandchild or great-grandchild feel like his favorite person in the world. And while we all know that Faigie was indeed his favorite, he still managed to make everyone else feel like they had a shot. Faigie often said that it was always remarkable – when she would speak to him, they could begin the conversation, with a week-long lapse – as if they had hung up five minutes earlier. And he did this across all of those 150 plus people.
Chazal tell us that Binyomin was one of four Tzadikim to be Niftar without a chet. Faigie often remarks on how proud Zaida was that at the age of 95, and up until his petirrah, he had all of his teeth. This was a clear simin min hashamayim highlighting how incredibly careful he was to avoid speaking loshon harah or any negative words. Incidentally, the Chasam Sofer explains why these four were not considered greater than the Avos or Moshe Rabeinu. To paraphrase, he says that it is a lot less difficult to live a perfect life when you are not in a position of leadership. When you have to lead, to inspire, to motivate, there are bound to be mistakes. B”H, those who knew Zaida Ben will know that he led – truly led – and yet we’d be hard-pressed to highlight any of those mistakes.
Chazal tell us in the recounting of the names of the children of the shevatim that Binyomin was fiercely loyal to his family. In fact, each of his children was named for a different attribute or event relating to his long lost brother Yoseph. I can tell everyone here… I have a large family… but in Faigie’s family third cousins are as close as brothers and sisters. It is truly incredible. The loyalty and shalom with which the Genauer family is imbued is clearly a direct result of the example Zaida Ben set.
In V’zos Habracha we learn from the posuk that Binyomin was known as “Yedid Hashem”. In a speech marking the opening of his new Beis Medrash in 2002, HaRav Tzvi Kushelevsky remarked that Yedid is a relationship that connotes an interlocking bond of friendship that has no ups and downs. This is alluded to in the fact that the word yedid is made up for the word yad twice, signifying two hands embracing each other in the bond of friendship and love.
For those Zocheh to know Zaida Ben, the significance is self-evident. Everyone in Zaida Ben’s life was a Yedid. There were never ups and downs in one’s relationship with him or his with them. Everyone felt the firm grasp of unconditional friendship every time they interacted with him.
Indeed, the moniker “Yedid Hashem” was equally appropriate as his life revolved around limud and harbotzas Torah and asiyas haMitzvos.
Chazal tell us that the Beis Hamikdash was placed in Yerushalayim in Chelek Binyomin because of this attribute of Yedid. Since he was rodef shalom and abhorred adversity, it was the perfect place for the Beis Hamikdash.
So, to our dear little Binyomin Chaim HaCohen, may Hashem grant you all of the traits of your namesake.
May you be wise and yet warm – as was your Zaida.
May you lead and be loyal – as was your Zaida.
May you learn and teach – as your Zaida did.
May you be a yedid – a friend – with the hand of Shalom firmly grasped in yours.
And, through this, may you merit the chelek of hashem in your heart always.