Remembering Rabbi Sol Tanenzapf z"l
The Beit Rayim congregation suffered an enormous loss on March 18, 2006 when our beloved Rabbi, Sol Tanenzapf, passed away. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him. However, his words and wisdom continue to provide guidance and inspiration:
There is so much more I can accomplish as a member of a congregation than I can accomplish alone, as a single individual. Moreover, there is so much that the Congregation can do with your active help and voluntary participation in its programs.
The Congregation working together can ensure that there is a Hebrew School to educate the children of our community, and that there are programs of study for adults who want to increase their knowledge and broaden their experience. I alone cannot visit everyone in our Congregation who is ill or grieving or help to provide food and clothing for those in need outside our Congregation. The Chesed Committee, working together, does this effectively.
The Congregation is a force in Canadian society, acting as an advocate for Israel, fighting for tolerance and against hate crimes. The Congregation promotes social and recreational activities among its members, and encourages artistic expression in music, drama, and dance. The Congregation is an extended family with whom we can celebrate joyful times in our lives and with whom we can share our grief.
There are many things I cannot do acting alone; but together there is little you and I cannot accomplish.
Eulogy - Chuck Ticker:
Last year, I called Rabbi Sol to tell him I was chairing a committee at Beit Rayim. We were planning a celebration of our clergy. Rabbi Sol declined the honour: "It's OK - when I retire there will be plenty of time to honour me and thank me then." Today we come to honour and thank Rabbi Sol - but it was not supposed to happen this way.
I had the great pleasure of working with and knowing Rabbi Sol since the time he became our Rabbi at Beit Rayim. Rabbi Sol's involvement with the Jewish Community goes back over 30 years, starting with the Richvale Community Centre and then Shaare Haim. As a past president of the shul, I came to know the Rabbi quite well and we became good friends. I came to rely on Rabbi Sol frequently for advice, and I could always count on his reasoned and thoughtful advice on topics ranging from ritual practice to whether a particular single malt was kosher.
Rabbi Sol was unlike other Rabbis I have met. He listened more than he spoke and shunned the limelight. I remember him taking careful notes at Board meetings and, other than deliver the D'var Torah, at most meetings he would often not make one comment. The result was that when he did rise to make a point, you listened, because you knew it was an important and a well-considered opinion.
Rabbi Sol loved to teach. He taught weekly classes on Jewish history and Hebrew and, as a lover of art, a course on famous Jewish artists.
He was a quiet man. There are so many things that he did for us that many of our congregants do not even realize. He provided counselling to many of our congregants. As well, he confidentially disbursed funds from a mitzvah fund for members of the shul and community who were in need.
Rabbi Sol had a terrific sense of humour. He would always commence his sermons with a joke or humorous story that would introduce the theme of the sermon. While I do not remember all the sermons, I still remember several of the jokes. Humour is powerful and positive. And Rabbi Sol was probably one of the most positive people I have ever met. I never heard him say no - the closest to "no" he ever said to me was "I would prefer if you didn't."
He loved leading our congregation but as he wrote, he saw himself and the congregation as partners working together to do acts of Chesed, advocate for Israel, and promote social and educational activities among its members. He wrote "the synagogue is an extended family with whom we can celebrate joyful times in our lives and with whom we can share our grief."
Today we share our grief with Elaine, Shlomo Mark and Suzette and Melech and Heather and their children; we too have lost a member of our family. Rabbi Sol often spoke with affection and humour about his family and, in particular, Elaine. (The story about Elaine being too kosher to eat in her own home was one of my personal favourites.) He made no secret of the fact that it was Elaine who was responsible for checking and editing all his work, including the beautiful book of D'vrei Torah, which Elaine edited and put together as a true labour of love. It is a book my family will cherish forever.
In the last line of his book, Rabbi Sol writes:
"There are many things I cannot do acting alone; but together there is little you and I cannot accomplish".
Rabbi Sol was saying that, in partnership with the members of our congregation, he could accomplish more than as an individual. We have lost our partner, teacher, and friend. It will be more difficult to reach our goals without our beloved Rabbi Sol. May his blessed memory inspire us to study Torah and work together to reach our potential as individuals, Jews, and as a congregation. That is how we can honour his memory.
Eulogy - Irv Siegel
I have had the great fortune to have known and worked with Rabbi Sol at Beit Rayim Synagogue for the past 14 years.
Rabbi Sol was Beit Rayim's full time/part time Rabbi. Full time, because he was on call 24/7 for any congregant's concerns, assumed all the responsibilities of a full time Rabbi, and a commitment to see the success of Beit Rayim. Part time… because that's all we could really afford to pay him.
Rabbi Sol was an anomaly among the Rabbis that I had known. He was accepting, non-judgmental, and most of all humble in spite of his intellect, vast knowledge of Judaism, and status as University Professor and Rabbi. He never talked down to you…. always made you feel you had the potential to better yourself.
Listening was one of the great attributes that Rabbi Sol possessed. Many people in crisis sought the comfort and advice from Rabbi Sol. He gave you his undivided attention and made you feel that what you had to say was significant and held deep meaning to him.
Due to the distance from his home, Rabbi Sol conducted services at Beit Rayim only on the major Yom Tovim and special events. Our congregants kept connected to Rabbi Sol in part, through his insightful Divrei Torah. Every week Rabbi Sol would compose his interpretation of the week's parsha which would be printed in the Shabbat bulletin in the section called "From the Rabbi's desk". Reading the Rabbi's message at the Shabbat service gave you the sense that he was there with his congregants.
If you ever had the opportunity to listen to Rabbi Sol speak, you would have been, undoubtedly, in awe of his intelligence and amused by his humour. He was famous for his pauses, which allowed him to collect his thoughts. Those pauses also allowed the listener to digest and reflect on the Rabbi's message and their significance in your own life.
Last month Elaine Tanenzapf presented to her husband, and to the congregation, a compilation of the Rabbi's Divrei Torah. Many others will now have the privilege of learning from the Rabbi's teachings.
There is a D'var Torah that the Rabbi wrote on October 15, 2005 that I thought was poignant and had relevance for today.
I paraphrase the following excerpts from Rabbi Sol:
Now that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are concluded, what have we learned? The combined effect of these days is to remind us of two things:
Human life is fragile and vulnerable, on one hand, and…
Human life is the most remarkable enterprise in the universe, unpredictable and filled with surprises.
Another year has passed; we are each of us closer to the end of our lives. Our futures are uncertain.
We can in part control our own destiny. We can choose our path in life.
We are born against our wills at a given time and place; and we die against our wills. But it is we who decide how to live our lives; it is we who give meaning to the years between birth and death.
What a wondrous thing is a human being. A human can defy G-d; and a human can choose to "give glory to our G-d".
Rabbi Sol chose a clearly defined path in his life, giving great meaning to the years of his life and gave glory to G-d continuously. We have all gained a deeper understanding of our own lives through our association with Rabbi Sol.
Next Shabbat, when sitting at synagogue, I will miss my weekly dose of "From the Rabbi's desk". We will all miss him very much.