Rav Asher Zelig Rubenstein zt”l

I want to add a special note, as we approach 30 days since the passing of Rav Asher Zelig Rubenstein zt”l of Jerusalem, who left this world on the Sabbath, Parshas Va’eira. It’s a name that, if you’ve read through my Divrei Torah at Torah.org, the Torah.org Lifeline, and here, you’ve seen well over a dozen times.

I never attended any school in which Rav Rubenstein taught. But shortly after my arrival in Jerusalem to study at “Lakewood East,” someone pointed out that there was a Rav who spoke each Thursday night at 11 PM, and his apartment was just one floor up from the one rented for several of us by the yeshiva (rabbinical school). So I went, and I was captivated.

Rav Rubenstein was a straight “American boy” who went over to Israel to study — and never stopped. His Thursday night talks were always about the Torah portion, and often inspired by (and peppered with anecdotes about) his own teacher, Rav Chatzkel Levenstein zt”l. Both were masters of Jewish ethics. Rav Rubenstein could entertain you, make you laugh, and a moment later make you realize your own shortcomings, and inspire you to do better.

I once asked him how he prepared for these one-hour lectures, how he found material. His response was both simple and profound: just look in Rashi, the work of Rav Shlomo Yitzchaki, the provider of the basic, succinct commentary known to even beginning students of Torah and Talmud. I think it’s obvious, if you’ve been reading my material for even a few weeks, the extent to which his brief answer guided me in this area.

He was an American, and understood American students and our concerns. His advice was straightforward, practical, and incisive, and always came with a warm helping of genuine concern. You knew he cared about you and was looking out for your best interests, making it very easy to trust his wise counsel. He even knew what he could say to us in Jerusalem, that would be perceived as too harsh a criticism if said back in America!

If you would like to read and hear more about this incredible person, please visit the site of Rabbi Yosef Tropper, who has written his own recollections and collected those of others, both written and recorded. Over ten years of Rav Rubenstein’s classes are available for purchase or membership download from our Torahmedia.com library; the funds will now, of course, be paid to his family.

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