A Rebbi Like No Other – Rav Dovid Trenk
Dearest Reb Dovid,
Knowing how much you love stories, I’ll begin with a few.
When Rav Gad’l Eisner was appointed the principal of the Yeshivah Chiddushei HaRim in Tel Aviv, a friend of his asked him to define his role. He said, “I still don’t know. It depends on what the students need. If they need me to be a mashgiach, then I will be a mashgiach. If they need me to teach a class, then I will teach a class. And if they need me to serve the food in the kitchen, then I will do that. But most important, if the boys need me to be a friend, then I will be their friend.”
Every child has different needs, and great teachers are able to accommodate their students. They may not always have the answers. But love for a student overrides all else.
A dormitory counselor was frustrated with the behavior of the boys in his charge, and he decided that he had had enough. When he went to hand in his resignation, the rosh yeshivah asked him what he was planning on doing instead. He responded that his grandfather had been a scribe, and he planned to follow in his footsteps.
The rosh yeshivah complimented him on his choice, but then he told him that there is one difference between the two jobs. A scribe, even if he is writing Sifrei Torah, is writing on parchment – dead animal skin. But a teacher writes on the hearts of Jewish children, an imprint that will last forever.
The boy stayed on as a dorm counselor, and went on to become a great rebbi.
No story describes you better, Reb Dovid. You have left your indelible mark on the hearts of thousands. You have given them a reason to believe in themselves, thus writing on countless hearts. Sensing the needs of every talmid, you set aside your own kavod and give the young man your heart and soul, for nothing is beneath your dignity.
If they needed a teacher, you taught them.
If they needed mussar, you chided them.
But most of all, if they needed a friend, you befriended them – and loved them.
And that is something they will never forget.
In Jewish tradition, the number 50 represents an elusive, nearly inaccessible number. Had the Jewish people sunken to the 50th level of impurity in Mitzrayim, they would have never been able to leave Egypt. Conversely, although the Jewish people reached the 49th level of holiness, no one ever achieved the 50th level, the chamishim shaarei binah.
While it is remarkable that you have educated talmidim for 50 years, even more remarkable is the manner in which you educated them. Your 50 years are different from most. You never asked for the best or brightest; you did not feel that was your calling.
Instead, you delved into the depths of the Yiddishe neshamah. Where others saw imperfection, you perceived beauty. Where others found weakness, you uncovered strength. Where others noticed only failure, you discovered triumph.
And that is what makes you so beloved in the eyes of so many, but most of all, in the eyes of the Ribbono Shel Olam. In you, the Melamed Torah Le’amo Yisrael sees a non-judgmental, loving melamed – the quintessential rebbi, who has never and will never quit on a talmid. Your warm and loving embrace engulfs the child inside us all. Your unfailing efforts and burning desire to see the goodness in others humbles the greatest educators. And every time you refused to give up, we were able to see the beauty you perceived inside us; that’s why we treasure the opportunity to be called your talmidim.
Gleaning from the guidance of your rebbeim, Rav Kalmanowitz and Rav Shmuel Brudny, you quickly transformed what they invested in you into a peerless warmth, connecting to the next generation and the generation after that. And now, 50 years later, you continue to teach and inspire the eineklach of your first talmidim.
The talmidim of Moreshes Yehoshua are the latest links in a legacy of talmidim who owe their lives to you. Today, they look like great success stories. But where would they be without you? Their families, until the end of time, owe you a debt that cannot be repaid.
Aside from the time spent in the classroom, you have influenced talmidim in camp, as well. Over the summers of the past half a century in Camp Munk, your ability to connect has reached even the most challenging neshamos, who respond to your purity and approachability, forming an eternal bond.
In truth, I came along quite late in the game. It wasn’t until I wrote my first book that I had the privilege of meeting you. But immediately, you acquired me as one of your countless admirers and talmidim. Your effusive praise can only be taken seriously because it comes from you. No one else can possibly put such genuineness in a compliment. Stemming from the expansiveness of your neshamah, you somehow manage to find the right emotion for everyone. A gaon in hergesh, you have touched our lives more than we ever thought possible.
The Ramak, quoted by Rav Yaakov Meir Shechter, writes that if not for the sin of Adam HaRishon, Shlomo HaMelech would have written Shir HaShirim in another manner. Instead of using a parable of a husband and wife to represent our relationship with the Al-mighty, he would have written of the love between a rebbi and a talmid. For that is the greatest love that exists.
Reb Dovid, you have proved it.
So on behalf of your talmidim of the past 50 years, we say thank you. Thank you for showing the world what a rebbi is meant to be.
Yechiel Spero, another grateful talmid
Please Daven for Rabbi Dovid Trenk’s Refuah Shelaima – Menachem Yechiel dovid ben Batsheva.