For the week ending 29 March 2014 / 27 Adar II 5774

The Touch of Eternity

by Rabbi Avraham Rockmill
A tribute to Reb Meir Schuster zatzal
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There are moments of experience in time whose consequences reverberate throughout one’s life. The quintessential tap on the shoulder: “Would you like to hear a class on Judaism?” is such a moment. It is etched into the spiritual consciousness of literally thousands of Jews whose lives and future generations were dramatically affected by a gentle touch of a caring Jew.

Reb Meir Schuster zatzal was a legend in his time, an iconic figure; the image of his plying the crowd at the Kotel is a part of the vision of the generation of the teshuva movement. His accomplishments seem larger than life, a greatness in their purity and simplicity. Simply focused on caring for another Jew — a pristine caring that made an indelible mark for generations.

The Midrash says that if Aharon had known when he went out to greet Moshe Rabbenu that the Torah would have recorded that he was “samach b’libo” (glad in his heart) he would have done it with a “brass band” (Midrash Rabba Rut 5). Assuredly, Aharon was not interested in kavod (honor). However, as explained by Rav Weinbach zatzal, had he appreciated the impact his action would have had for generations, he would have done it differently; had he appreciated that he was indeed writing the Torah, his action would have embodied all the more kavana and intensity. Rabbi Schuster wrote his “Sefer” every day for close to 40 years, repeatedly reaching out to lost Jewish souls. I wonder, with a life which was totally dedicated to such a purpose, how could he have done more? His personal Sefer Torah was surely written in the most profound and beautiful way.

Rabbi Schuster was an integral part of the inception of the teshuva movement – the extended hand of the kiruv yeshivas beckoning our youth to return to their roots. He was a pioneer, a trailblazer, teaching an entire world. If one cares, one speaks – and there are those who will listen.

Today kiruv has evolved into a world-wide effort where numerous organizations and people are reaching out to our unaffiliated brethren. Rabbi Schuster was the first – the inspiration for all to follow. Without any professional title, he was a man motivated by a singularity of purpose, without the trimmings of honor and position.

The phenomenon of a shy and unassuming individual spending his life approaching and speaking to strangers challenges our sensibility with wonderment — “How?” The answer would seem to be that the combination of a purity of soul and an untainted concern is a sound which pierces profoundly through to the core of another Jew’s neshama.

Reb Meir zatzal was loved by his students with the affection one has for a lifesaver who has pulled him out of the water. This loving affection also made him the subject of many a Purim play and song, which are integral facets of the students’ teshuva process.

His greatness will always be remembered and cherished by those, like the author, who have an eternal debt of gratitude. Their repayment can perhaps be partially fulfilled by personifying his wishes and dreams – that their lives embody and further the destiny of Klal Yisrael.

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