My Father, The Rav
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Marlow, in memory of his father, Rabbi Yehuda Kalman
Marlow, member of the Crown Heights Beis Din, who passed away last year on 20
very hard for a son to write about his father. It’s especially hard to do so
when describing someone so extraordinary, someone so full of life. You never saw
him looking tired or weak, and his entire avoda in learning Torah and performing
mitzvos was constantly with chayus and incredible alacrity. But we must write
something in his memory so people will know something of this special person.
months have passed since that bitter day on Chaf Sivan. In Shulchan Aruch
it says that we fast on Chaf Sivan, which was an eis tzara for the Jewish
people, and it is a day that never falls out on Shabbos.
I think of my father I picture the wondrous sight that everybody who came to 770
was witness to every single Shabbos. After a week of diligent learning, a week
in which he barely slept, after a long Thursday night when he was up all night
(for the final fifteen years of his life he was awake because he was involved in
dinei Torah. Before that, when he was not yet officially the rav,
he would spend the entire night learning) and after a full day of teaching or
being involved in dinei Torah, he would sit down in his usual spot in the
beis midrash, with bags full of s’farim, and begin a program of
learning which generally lasted late into the night.
see in my mind’s eye the wondrous sight of him learning for hours on end with
great cheishek and taanug, and with no signs of weariness. On the
contrary, his face shone and the light of the holiness of Shabbos was apparent
on his face.
midnight he would go home to eat the Shabbos meal. Even after the meal he did
not go to sleep. I can testify that he was not mehader in "sheina
b’Shabbos taanug" (i.e., the "mitzva" of sleeping on
Shabbos). All the more so on Shabbos Mevarchim - after the Friday night meal he
would sit in the easy chair and nod off for a few hours, and then early in the
morning he would rise like a lion to serve his Maker with enormous cheishek and
chayus, as though he hadn’t learned in a long time.
the day he learned and davened. Towards late afternoon he would come home
for the Shabbos daytime meal. This was his practice every single Shabbos and Yom
Tov. I don’t remember a single exception. The Zohar says a talmid
chacham is called Shabbos. Indeed, all my father’s days were
the words "And Mt. Sinai was full of smoke," s’farim say that
the ashan (smoke) is an acronym for olam, shana, nefesh (i.e.,
place, time, person). I spoke a bit about the element of time, how my father
would value each second not to waste it. Now I will write a little about
"world" and "soul."
Gemara at the end of the Tractate Makos says, "Dovid came and established
them on eleven, as it says, "A song of Dovid...Who will dwell in Your
tent?... One who walks upright [holech Tamim] and does
righteousness." The words "holech tamim" can be said about
my father, for his moral conduct was impeccable. "And speaking truth in his
heart" refers to my father, because whatever he said is what he felt in his
heart. "Lo rogal al l’shono" - he kept far away from even a
tinge of lashon ha’ra and rechilus, and was extremely careful
about what came out of his mouth.
tell a story about the Chasam Sofer, who married the daughter of the gaon
Rabbi Akiva Eiger. Once a letter that was addressed to him was brought to him
when it was already open. When he asked who had opened his mail, his wife told
him she had opened it, thinking it was from her father. The Chasam Sofer told
her that people trusted him and relied on him to keep their secrets and their
business private, and nobody had permission to look at his mail.
can say wholeheartedly about my father that he was amazingly reticent and nobody
ever heard anybody else’s personal business from him. He was exceedingly
circumspect in this area.
b’einav nim’as" - he despised evil and chose good. "He did not
give his money with interest and took no bribe regarding the innocent." He
was head and shoulders above the rest and his conduct was utterly modest. He was
utterly removed from any desire for conquest, which would pervert justice, and
his guiding force was truth.
had no biases with hatred for one and love for another. When it came to his own
honor he compromised, but when it came to the honor of Heaven he never
compromised. When something happened that was disrespectful to him, he tried to
quiet it down. If word got out it wasn’t because he spoke about it.
did not accept gifts, especially when it wasn’t appropriate. He never budged
from his views in order to find favor in someone’s eyes. The command not to
fear another man was his watchword.
qualities of righteousness and honesty were incredible, not only relative to our
spiritually impoverished generation - but even compared to earlier generations
he was outstanding. He did not accept gifts, especially when it wasn’t
appropriate. He never budged from his views in order to find favor in someone’s
eyes. The command not to fear another man was his watchword.
happens that you see batei din, who when presented with a complicated din
Torah would avoid becoming involved, even if the baalei din are from
their community, obliging their involvement. They use various excuses to push
the people off and use humility as a reason to avoid it all by saying, "Am
I the only one who can address this? Go to another dayan."
when he knew ahead of time that he’d have only aggravation from the baalei
din, he put himself aside and took care of the din Torah. He ignored the fact
that the baalei din would later attack him.
father wouldn’t do that. Even when he knew ahead of time that he’d have only
aggravation from the baalei din, he put himself aside and took care of
the din Torah. He ignored the fact that the baalei din would later
Gemara in Sanhedrin asks: "What does it mean when it says, ‘A king with
judgment will establish the earth, and a man who donates destroys it?’ If a
judge is like a king who doesn’t need anything, he will establish the earth,
but if he is like a Kohen who goes around to the granaries [to collect
the priestly gifts], he will destroy it."
judge who is like a king who doesn’t need anything - is there anybody else who
can compare to my father? Is there anyone else this can apply to? Many people,
including me, can testify that he lived his life as a king who needs nothing. He
never asked anybody for anything, even that which was coming to him.
Unfortunately, many took advantage of this.
only did he not take from others, but he was involved in giving to others. He
distributed money to the poor from his own pocket, to literally thousands of
those in need.
Erev Pesach he would distribute money to those in need from his office at the beis
din. There was a set time that people would come to get the amount of money
the beis din was distributing. When one of these individuals would come
in, my father did not look up. He would just put his hand in the box on the desk
and take out money without looking up at all so as not to shame the person.
the time of selling the chametz, my father was moser nefesh to
teach the laws of Pesach with great patience and would spend nights before
Pesach in his office until the morning. At that time, people would give him the
money traditionally given to the rav, and he would have them put it in an
envelope that was far away from where he sat so that he wouldn’t see who put
in what amount. He barely used this money for himself. A large part of the
checks (which indicated who the donors were) were never deposited in the bank
because of his wariness, and because of other reasons which he did not reveal.
wealthy people wanted to give him large amounts of money he warned them that if
the check was too large he wouldn’t deposit it.
don’t think I fulfilled my obligation describing the Nefesh of "ashan,"
but these few lines will have to suffice.
My father served as rav in Beis Chayeinu and was referred to
by the Rebbe as "Abir Sh’B’Abirim." Sura, Nahardia, and
Pumbedisa - all the centers of learning in Bavel gathered and came here to Beis
Rabbeinu She’b’Bavel. All matters other than halachic queries
were submitted to the Rebbe, while halachic questions were posed to the rav.
we say that hundreds of questions came in daily to the office by phone and fax
from all areas of Shulchan Aruch, this would be far from the truth,
because the questions did not only come by day, but began before morning.
an exhausting day, my father would rest for a few hours at night. It often
happened that shortly thereafter, the phone would ring at home with halachic
queries. They came from all over the world. In Europe and South America it was
daytime, and here it wasn’t yet day, but an urgent question could not be
postponed. My father would get up, say the birchos ha’Torah, and answer
the question. He never took any credit for himself, nor did he ever say that he
was just a human being who needed some rest. That’s how a new day began.
his great kibbud av v’eim he would complete a tractate for the yahrtzeits
of his parents, his in-laws and his grandparents. He generally chose a large
tractate, completing a number of mesechtos each year. In addition to
that, of course, he had his other regular shiurim.
would put on Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam t’fillin at home at dawn and would
learn for a while, and then go to shul where he was busy most of the time
answering questions. He was careful to treat each person and question seriously,
and was the model of modesty and patience. Even regarding those who were drawn
into machlokes, and who in the heat of battle wrote terrible things - in
his great modesty he would not hold it against them.
cannot begin to write even a little bit of my father’s greatness and praise. I
haven’t even mentioned his awesome expertise in Shulchan Aruch and its
commentaries, his elevated midos, or his hiskashrus to the Rebbe.
Hashem, who is the Healer of the brokenhearted, send us balm for our pain,
"V’hekitzu v’ranenu shochnei afar" - b’karov, and may his
z’chus stand by us, and all his descendents. "And Torah will not
depart from the mouth of his children and children’s children forever."