Eulogy for Chacham Yaacob Kassin

Eulogy for Chacham Yaacob Kassin

Although I have never had a meeting with Rabbi Kassin I have had two encounters with him. These experiences made a tremendous impact on me as a yeshivah student. Both were probably in the span of two weeks. I was visiting from Israel.

I went to pray at the Minyan in the Midrash of Shaare Zion. I am sure that many have witnessed this. After the prayers the elderly Rabbi Kassin went around the room collecting up the few Siddurim which were left on tables. He then put them in perfectly neat stacks on the shelves next to the water fountain. He straightened the stacks which were already fairly neat. Only after perfectly completing this did he part.

Only the humblest of people pay such close attention to such tasks. Ibn Pakuda in his Chovot Halebabot, written over a thousand years ago in Spain, said that humility is the most important prerequisite to serving G-d. True Humility includes feeling as if you are nothing. Humility is noticed through a person’s actions. I recognized that when I saw rabbi Kassin fussing over the Siddurim.

The second lesson which I learned from Him was the importance of unity. Relatives of mine had brought me to the dedication of a youth center. Rabbi Kassin had come to give a beautiful blessing to the place. At the time youth centers were in my mind an abomination. This is because I was a Yeshivah student on a visit from the holiness of Jeruaslem.

When I returned to Israel I discussed the subject with Rabbi Sammy Kassin. He told me that in Rabbi Yaacob Kassin’s eyes the most important concept for the community as well as for all Jews was unity. This is especially true when it involves the unity of young of men with their Zivug – match. The youth need an American way of meeting their spouse. Through the proliferation of such centers Jewish boys get to meet Jewish girls. If you do not provide them with such places the normal Yetzer Harah will drag them to the gentiles.

Keeping the community united was one of the most important goals of Rabbi Kassin. It was a very difficult task to keep all the different kinds of people together. Only a very talented leader like Rabbi Kassin could keep the totally opposing philosophies which pervade our community together.

Our rabbis of blessed memory have taught us that even if we are idolaters and we have unity G-d will not destroy us.

Due to Rabbi Kassin’s tremendous humility and his dedication to unity our special way of life has been preserved.