IN MEMORIAM - MORRIS I. CHERNOFSKY
Phil Chernofsky here. I write Torah Tidbits. I'm a teacher. My father z"l was a teacher; I got it from him. I love Torah and teaching Torah, I love math and computer and science, I love family and books and humor and lots of things; I got that from him too. I considered whether it is appropriate for me to be so personal in Torah Tidbits, especially on the front page.
Apologies to anyone who is offput by this, but I wouldn't be me and Torah Tidbits would be, if not for him, his support, encouragement, education, inspiration. So I'm doing it. I'm monopolizing the "lead tidbit" spot to tell you some things about my father. Although the funeralwas on Chanuka when no eulogies are permitted, my brothers and I told many stories about our father z"l during shiva. I'm going to try not to take up too much space, but here are some of the things I want to tell people about my father z"l. These are things I would not have been able to tell at a testimonial dinner for him, or at his golden anniversary party - he was too genuinely modest and exceptionally private for it. I hope he's not upset with me now because of the stories we've been telling...
Summer '60. Bungalow colony. 20 or so Shomer Shabbat families. Each summer, there was an appeal for the local yeshiva. A couple of days later, a list was posted with names and amounts. Mostly $25 or $18. One entry said: Anonymous - $44. All the kids were curious, so we scanned the list of names to see who was missing. Everyname was accounted for. Mystery. Until I found out be accident that my father had given $69 so that the total come to a nice round number. He would never have allowed his name to appear next to the $69. And to hide behind annonymous wouldn't have been anonymous for long.
That was my father. The family's name appeared with all the others with the same modest amount. The rest of the donation was truly on a Matan B'Seiter basis. We knew there was a lot of that kind of Tzedaka-giving over the years, but we'll never know how much. And his giving was more than Tzedaka - it was a lesson for his children. Shul is a place to daven and hear the Torah. No talking, no running around, no in and out. Children sit next to their father and daven with him. That was another lesson lovingly taught by example over many years. And the lesson has already been firmly rooted in the next generation.
When Parshat Shlach rolled around, my father z"l got animated about the "obvious" lesson that so many American Jews seem to miss. My brothers and I all made Aliya because that was the Chinuch (and genuine encouragement) we got from our parents, Aleihem HaShalom. My father once told me how temporary he felt - with his academicand professional degrees, with his teaching career, with his accounting and law practice, with his home and security - and would continue to feel, until he lived in Eretz Yisrael.
My father loved books, reading them, learning from them. This included a wide range of Sifrei Kodesh, Jewish History, professional and academic journals and books, and even the Fibonacci Quarterly. And his love of learning and the pursuit of knowledge were successfully transmitted to us during his lifetime, and will continue to be part of his legacy for generations to come.
My father's sense of humor was on as high a level as his doctorate in law. It showed in his love of Lewis Carroll's works, the 2000 year old man, Charley Manna, Dick van Dyke, and countless other comedians and comedy routines. If humor is genetic, then we carry his humor gene. My father's sense of humor could even be seen during the past six years (since the time he was struck by a bus in New York which left him incapacitated), and it helped us cope, as well.
The three pillars of the world, as stated by Shimon HaTzaddik - Torah, Avoda, and G'milut Chassadim - were all strongly manifest in my father's being. So too were Rabban Shimon b. Gamliel's parallel three concepts of Emet, Din, and Shalom. These were concepts and qualities he valued and constantly strived to develop in himself and his children.
This week's sedra and haftara deal with the reconciliation of brothers. In the sedra, it took place. In the haftara, it is prophecy. Far better than the ultimate harmony and love between Yosef and his brothers and between the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, is a brotherly love that did not have to go through terrible yearsof discord and friction with only a "happily ever after" ending. This too is a powerful lesson and heritage from both our parents, Aleihem HaShalom. The love we saw among our parents and their siblings (and their siblings-in-law!), we see among ourselves. And we, B"H, see it in our own children. May it always be so.
When I was home for the Shabbat during shiva, I retrieved my 8th grade autograph book from Crown Heights Yeshiva. I remembered that my father had written something that I wanted to share with others.
Think about that for a moment. How could I remember something written 37½ years ago, unless it was a significant part ofmy life, and of my father's chinuch of his sons. Which it was. He wrote:
To my Philip,