By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
Last week, we said that my dear wife’s name, Miriam Libby, can be translated in Yiddish to mean “The Loving Miriam.” And how accurate her name was, for she truly loved everyone. This could be seen by how the entire Thirteenth Avenue in Boro Park mourned her passing. From the Mexican who cleaned the floor in Food Mart, to the workers in Amnon’s Pizza ship, the wonderful brothers at Linnicks Toy Store, or Montgomery Press where she would go for Zichron Shlomo Refuah Fund, to Cohen’s Hardware where she would get our Pesach equipment, to Meal Mart for Shabbos food, to the many vendors and collectors on the Avenue that she schmoozed with and put a smile on their faces, to the countless shops – too many to mention – that were always excited to see her as she spread her warmth and smiles to all.
Her overflowing love for people could be seen by how she often woke up at 4:30 a.m. to wish someone a successful surgery before they embarked on a scary day and how she told them to make sure to call her to report that all went well. From the way she picked up the phone and said, “Hello, gorgeous,” or “Hello, doll face, how can I help you?” with an eagerness to please. How she would tell countless people to call after 10:15 p.m., when my husband says shiur, and then give them all the time they needed even if she was tired and had planned to go to bed.
How she would go to as many weddings as she could to cause the families joy; how everyone vied to sit at her table for she was hysterical to be with! At her table there was always room for someone who didn’t have a seat – even if there was already sixteen people there. She would call over a waiter, saying, ‘Please bring another chair, a setting and an appetizer.’ It was amazing how even with advanced pancreatic cancer and great pain, she still found the strength to go to weddings.
But it was not just weddings. How many graveside funerals did she go to traveling deep down the Southern State, giving her entire day and standing in the freezing cold to be at many a sparsely attended burial? She would tell me, “I need to go. The family came a few times to the Tehillim group,” or “If I don’t go, who will be there for the lonely mourner.” How she would take care of our cleaning ladies like they were prestigious guests and load up charity collectors with drink and nosh. She would give drinks to the sanitation men and leave muffins for the mail man. She would get a cake for the children’s bus drivers. She would regularly go to Maimonides Hospital on Thursdays and ask who needed a visitor the most. How she would have all the time in the world to talk to a mentally challenged adult even if the phone rang several times a day. She would raise money for single moms; she would look for jobs for depressed job hunters and find new shadchanim for older singles.
Although she was the Rebbetizn of our shul, she eschewed a front seat in the women’s section, choosing instead to sit against the wall in the back so she was able to notice who needed a seat or to help find for them the place in the siddur or to just give someone a friendly greeting. How many people tell me that she was their first call to share their good news or to get comfort, encouragement or common sense advice? It was a common occurrence for me to hear her end-off a conversation with ‘I love you too’ and ‘Call anytime.’
When I took her out to eat, she would ask the waiters if they already ate and would tell them to make sure to find time to take care of themselves. If it was a waiter that we used more than once, she would inquire about their family and wish them well. If she would see a group of people celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, or a reunion, she would run over and ask if she could take the group picture. She did this for Jew or gentile alike. When coming home from a wedding, people would vie to take her home if I had already left to say shiur. She would say dismissively that they did this to get the carpool reduction. But, the truth was that everyone wanted to have her in the car for she was so much fun to be with. She loved making people laugh and seeing people happy.
Chazal teach us, “Kol she’ruach habrios noche hemenu, ruach haMakom noche hemenu – Whoever people are at ease with, Hashem is at ease with them as well.” Everyone was at ease around my Rebbetzin and that’s putting it mildly. She filled any room she walked into with smiles and pleasantness. How I miss her warmth and her smiling eyes. May we merit to spread good cheer and happiness to our loved ones, to our neighbors, to our co-workers, and our shul mates, and in that zchus may Hashem bless us 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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