By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
Last week, I reminisced with you about how Miriam Libby and I first met. Now, let me share with you something personal about our courtship. My Rebbetzin was a stunning girl. If she wasn’t religious, she could have easily been a model or an actress. She was so pretty that I was afraid that my head was being turned by her looks and that maybe I might marry her for the wrong reasons. So, very early on, I did some investigating to determine whether she was kind – since I have always considered that to be the Number One Priority in a mate. The following story clinched the matter in my mind.
While we were dating, my future mother in-law, Mrs. Devorah Gelbtuch, a”h, was very ill and was being treated in Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in Washington Heights. My wife would take a train from their home in the Lower East Side to the dangerous neighborhood surrounding Washington Heights. One of her acquaintances told me that one day Miriam Libby arrived by train, an arduous trip for a young girl, with a tuna sandwich for her mother. Her mom was very ill and not fully aware of the journey her daughter took every day in order to see her. That day, she enjoyed the tuna sandwich and asked Miriam Libby for another one. My kallah-to-be promptly got back on the train went back to the Lower East Side and then took another train back to her mom with another tuna sandwich. This story was such a raw example of pure kindness that it sealed the deal in my mind.
I’ve been asked by people who knew her more recently and by others who have read about her unique acts of chesed if she was always this way. So besides the aforementioned story, let me tell you another anecdote from her youth that I discovered just recently.
I received a letter from a woman in West Hempstead. She wrote to me that my wife was her babysitter on the Lower East Side around 38 years ago. One time, their mother made them a supper of sandwiches which she described as being rather foul tasting. Before leaving, their mother cautioned Miriam Libby, the babysitter, to make sure that the girls eat their supper. Afterwards, the girls begged Miriam Libby that they shouldn’t have to eat those sandwiches. “But your mother said you have to,” was my future wife’s reply. After insisting to her that they just couldn’t, Miriam Libby went ahead and ate all of the sandwiches herself so their mother shouldn’t be upset but the girls wouldn’t have to. This was the kind of unique chesed that my dear Rebbetzin practiced throughout her extraordinary life.
Recently I was asked by several people who observed our children during shiva and the sheer admiration and adoration that all six of them exhibited for my wife. They wanted to know what parenting technique she used to earn such raw amazing feelings from all of our children. Off the cuff, I answered that throughout their lives, she asked from them very little for herself, but gave to them with her entire neshama and all of her 252 limbs. Upon further reflection, while I believe my initial answer is true, there is another more Torahdig answer. The Fifth Commandment teaches us, “Kabeid es avicha v’es imecha ka’asher tziv’cha Hashem Elokecha lma’an yaarichun yomecha – Honor your parents, as Hashem your G-d has commanded you, in order that you should live long.” And we are taught that if we honor our parents, we will live to see our children honor us. I told you one story of her amazing honor for her mother. It was not an isolated occurrence. She adored and revered her parents. After we got married, her father lived with us for two years and she put her entire life on hold in order to take care of him. Hashem remembers these things and just like she cherished and was dedicated to her parents, so too her children admired and honored her.
May it be the will of Hashem that we exhibit respect and care for our parents and in that merit we should be blessed with the same from our children, from our grandchildren, and hopefully great-grandchildren, with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Please learn, give tzedaka, and daven l’iluy nishmas of Miriam Liba bas Aharon.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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