The Kosher Bookworm: Alan Jay Gerber

Herbert Bomzer: The rabbi who spoke with a smile


He was born 86 years ago on New York’s Lower East Side, the son of Jewish Polish immigrants who arrived on these blessed shores right after World War I. His name was Rabbi Dr. Herbert Bomzer, zt”l, and his first yahrtzeit was recently commemorated with the publication of a collection of Divrei Torah, entitled “Keter Harachzav,” compiled and edited with an eloquent and informed introduction by his grandson, Aryeh Sklar of Cedarhurst.

This volume is a meaningful tribute to the life’s work of a dear friend and valued companion of many years with whom we shared many efforts on behalf of our Jewish youth in the Young Israel movement; the sacred cause of Israel through the Religious Zionists of America; Soviet Jewry, and numerous local causes.

Throughout those many years, Rabbi Bomzer never lost his stride. Whether it was his low profile visits to the evil empire of Communist Russia, or his or his valiant efforts on behalf of the many converts to our faith he nurtured with dignity and respect, Rabbi Bomzer never lost his poise. He was a musmach of two of the greatest rabbinical giants of the 20th century, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, and Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, both of blessed memory. It was from the spiritual legacy that he inherited from these two leaders that Rabbi Bomzer was enabled to lead his fellow Jews through many tough times.

Through it all Rabbi Bomzer was able to faithfully adhere to that famous saying found in the Talmud, Mesechet Shabbat 30b, wherein we learn the value of humor as a teaching tool in our faith: “Before beginning a lecture to his students, Rabba would begin by saying something humorous.” Rabbi Bimzer did this to near perfection throughout his life.

In his foreword to this work, Rabbi Aharon Ziegler, a longtime friend of both Rabbi Bomzer and of this writer, observes:

“Rabbi Herbert Bomzer was very fond of this statement [from Mesechet Shabbat], for he often articulated it, and virtually lived it. He was highly skilled in defusing a tense situation by injecting a humorous story. He did this when he saw a student in his class who, being called upon, would feel tense or nervous. Rabbi Bomzer broke that momentary tension with an anecdote.

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