Taking Inspiration from Aron z”l


aaron-tepferBy Rabbi Yaakov Bender

Rosh Hayeshiva, Yeshiva Darchei Torah

It has been a very hard week. But as difficult as it has been for all of us, it is nowhere near the pain of the Tepfer mishpachah. During these very challenging days, we need to think about how best to be nosei be’ol, feeling the pain of others.

When paying a shivah call, you are going there to help ameliorate the family’s pain. It is not important how a person passed away. It is also not important how old they were, how sick they were, how long they were ill, and whether they suffered.

What is important is whatever is important to the family.

What is important, as well, Chazal tell us, is to speak about the achievements of the niftar/nifteres. I have had no problem saying to an avel, “Tell me about your mother,” or, “Tell me about your father,” If you are not sure about saying something, don’t say it. Try to bring the level of conversation to a higher plane.

Chazal also tell us that the avel should open the conversation, but sometimes they are in too much pain to speak. If you react by just sitting quietly, it can be best, even though the quiet can be deafening. When you feel you must speak, say something nice about the niftar, if you can.

Try to focus on their spiritual accomplishments, or the history, dynamics and events of the family. You will be surprised how easy it is to get into a conversation like that. Stay away from questions that can cause pain.

My father once told me that when his rebbi, Rav Shlomo Heiman, was very ill, he was one of the talmidim chosen to take shifts with his rebbi in the hospital. During one of my father’s shifts, Rav Moshe Feinstein came to pay Rav Shlomo a visit. The doctor had given my father very strong instructions that no one should disturb his rebbi. My father did not know what to do. After all, the gadol hador, Rav Moshe, just walked in. The doctors’ instructions won out, and my father meekly and deferentially told Rav Moshe that Rav Shlomo cannot have any visitors. Rav Moshe took a Tehillim, stood by the door, and said some Tehillim. “Please tell the choleh that I was here to visit,” he said, adding, “Bikur cholim does not mean visiting. Bikur cholim means doing what’s best for the choleh. If it is best for the choleh for one to leave, then I was mekayeim the mitzvah of bikur cholim by leaving.”

I believe the same holds true regarding nichum aveilim. Ringing the doorbell at 11:30 at night because you have to pay a shivah call is incorrect. And if there is no other time for you to come, call the avel after the week of shivah and explain why you couldn’t be there.

Agav, another thought: Unless you absolutely must call, because you are from out-of-town, you make it very difficult for the avel when you call during the “prime time” of visiting. It is not fair to the avel or to the people paying the shivah call to have the avel answer the phone to talk to you, even if you are in Eretz Yisroel.

After a tragedy of this magnitude, we must feel the pain of those in pain, but keep our emunah strong and not let ourselves get depressed.

It is important and essential to walk away from a levaya or a shivah and internalize the message: How can I further elevate the neshamah of the niftar? One way is to accept upon oneself new ideas to improve, perhaps finding a special middah of the niftar to emulate.

I think, in our case, though I knew Aron well, I came away from the levaya astounded by Aron’s caring for others.

The story that his father related, how at a very close baseball game Aron gave up his pitching position to a much lower-caliber friend/player, because that boy wanted to pitch, is incredible. He knew full well that his team may lose the game, but the wellbeing of his not-so-talented friend was uppermost in his mind.

This was his general derech in life: always worrying about the underprivileged.

And he went out of his way to make these children feel happy, oftentimes at his own expense.

We just began yeshiva. I know it’s very important to get our child into the perceived “best” rebbi‘s and teacher’s class, with the most popular boys from your neighborhood, but is it important to insist that certain children not be in your son’s class? I don’t think that’s fair.

Put yourself in the position of that other child. Is it fair to you/him?

Perhaps if you would invite the young man to your house and teach him not to be bossy or the center of attention all the time, you would accomplish so much more. You might even find out that there are issues in this young man’s home that you never knew about and that you can perhaps help with.

Aron Tepfer a”h grew up in a home surrounded by parents and siblings who are forever worrying about others. Aron did not grow up in a vacuum. Such sterling middos cannot develop except where a child is surrounded by them. Can we all make an attempt to leave the pettiness behind and take this terrible tragedy and do something positive with it? That would be the most wonderful thing we can do for Aron’s family and for Aron’s neshamah.

May the neshamah of Aron Sholom ben Naftoli Hertz Yisroel be a blessing for all of Klal Yisroel and may we be reunited with him with the coming of Moshiach very soon.

A kesivah vachasimah tovah to one and all.

{Matzav.com Newscenter/PHOTO BY TSEMACH GLENN}


  1. Hard to come to grips with this tragedy. He was a great and sweet boy. I had this feeling of Mi Keamcha Yisroel at thr levaya, with the overflowing outpour of support from the community. Tachel Shana Ubirchosecha.

  2. Thank you Rabbi Bender!
    Can the Rosh Yeshiva provide an email address for me, a total stranger to the Tepfer family, to express feelings of sorrow that I feel “with” them; nosei b’oil im chaveiro.
    Tichleh Shana Vekilleloseha
    Gut Yohr to all Yidden