The Talmud, at the end of the third chapter of tractate Yoma, relates that there were families associated with the Temple ritual that refused to share with others their secrets in providing necessary services.
The family of Beit Gormo did not teach others how to bake the showbread that was displayed on the table in the sanctuary. The members of the Beit Avtinas clan kept to themselves the recipe for preparing the incense. Hagros ben Levi produced beautiful melodic sounds by tapping his mouth with his fingers, but did not tell others how he was able to produce those sounds. Finally, Ben Kamtzar did not reveal how he was able to hold four quills in his hand and write the Tetragrammaton, the name of God, simultaneously.
On the other hand, there were those who were willing to show and instruct others in their skill sets.
The Torah relates that Bezalel, the engineer of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary project in the desert, was granted a God-given talent to not only develop and execute God’s plans for the Mishkan’s construction, he was willing to teach others, guide and inspire them in participating in the mitzvah of building a structure to reflect on God’s presence among the people of Israel. The Or Hachaim comments that Bezalel was worthy of the appellation of Tzaddik (righteous person) because he was willing to share his wisdom with others.
“Zecher Tzaddik Livracha” was attached to Bezalel’s name, and so, too, it is connected to the name of Rabbi Yehuda Simes, a beloved teacher and rabbi to many of us here in Ottawa and elsewhere. On the morrow of the conclusion of the Shloshim (30-day observance) service held at Beit Tikvah Congregation – livestreamed with Yeshivat Chafetz Chaim in Queens, New York – numerous rabbis reflected on his life of Torah and Judaism.
The Ottawa contingent was represented by Rabbi Reuven Bulka, Rabbi Baruch Perton, former principal of Hillel Academy and spiritual leader of Beth Zion Congregation in Montreal, and this writer. Roshei Yeshiva, friends and family spoke of Rabbi Simes’ life of Torah and mitzvah observance.
It is difficult to put down in writing one’s thoughts about Rabbi Simes, husband and father par excellence, teacher of thousands, and a great religious influence not only to his students in Hillel Academy/Ottawa Jewish Community School (OJCS), Torah High and elsewhere, but to Jews of all levels of observance and affiliations.
After his catastrophic accident, he continued to inspire others by his example, his speeches and his blogs. After he lost his ability to communicate by voice and later by computer, he transmitted his messages through his smile and warmth.
His eyes taught pearls of wisdom to those around him. When he came to shul on Shabbat in his wheelchair, the atmosphere in the sanctuary was enhanced by his presence. I remember that when he had his first aliyah to the Torah after his tragic accident and was wheeled to the bimah, there was a hush in the crowd yearning to hear each word of the brachot of the Torah coming from him. We had removed the elevated step to the shulchan to allow him to ascend.
It was a great honour for this writer
to tilt the Torah in his direction so he could see the holy words of God during his aliyah.
When Rabbi Simes came to the OJCS for the first time after his accident, his visit was a happy surprise for his students and the faculty. His words about his unshaken faith in God were memorable. He could only ask what God wanted him to do. And he did.
He spread the word of Torah to Jews locally and internationally. He and his beloved Shaindel and their nine children, Yibadlu Lechaim, represented all that is beautiful in Judaism.
The rabbis in Yoma also tell us that God saw that there was a limited number of tzaddikim and placed them strategically in different generations. Rabbi Yehuda Simes was one of them, and we were fortunate to know him, to learn from him, and to be inspired by him. Yehi Zichro Baruch (May his memory be a blessing).