HaRav Dovid Lehrfield Z'L
For close to four decades, Rabbi Lehrfield, in his inimitable manner, full of שמחת החיים, infused our Young Israel family with a deep love and understanding for Torah and Mitzvos. His weekly drashos always touched on a practical idea allowing the listener to apply these lessons to everyday life. Acquiring a vast understanding of all areas of the Torah, especially תנ"ך and its commentaries, he became a wellspring for others to draw from and become inspired. The multitude of generations trained by Rabbi Lehrfield in preparation for Bar/Bas Mitzvos, went far beyond the parsha drasha. This was a “rite-of-passage"-training future generations in the art of public speaking, giving them the much-needed boost of self-confidence to become successful in all areas of life. Our Rav, with his incredibly busy schedule, always took the time to get to know the young student, listening, counseling, and ultimately developing a bond that carried them through adulthood.
Yet it was his sensitive nature with which he dealt with people that truly defined him. In times of crisis, he always knew what to say, and how to advise. In times of Simcha he celebrated with pure joy as if they were his own.
May we take comfort and solace in appreciating and spreading the life lessons our Rav has taught us, דרכיה דרכי נועם.
נפלה עטרה מראשנו, our precious crown has fallen, our כתר דוד. May his memory be a blessing and may his soul be bound in the bond of eternal life.
.ת. נ. צ. ב. ה
Stories & Testimonials
"Somachti V'simachti"- Torah was the Rabbi's "love language". He was happiest learning and teaching, but it was a two-way street. How many Rabbonim/Rebbeim/Moros are constantly cognizant of the reactions of the recipients of their droshos? Maybe more so in this 21st century, but for the Rabbis "trained" in the last century, scholarly erudition was front and center of a drasha. Rabbi Lehrfield was always aware of his audiences, and peppered his droshos with humor that was as sharp as the scholarly erudition, whether it was in shul, at Bais Yaakov (testimony from my daughters) or any other venue. He knew that his Torah would only be accepted by the masses if they enjoyed the process as much as he did, and he delivered, every time.
As we were melaveh down 10th Ave., I thought about how many times I called the Rabbi walking home from school to clarify some question or subtle point that I had come across while I was teaching during the day. Rabbi Lehrfield had such clarity on Chamisha Chumshei Torah that any of my questions or those that I passed on from my students were answered immediately and clearly, and connected the dots throughout the span of Jewish History. I feel so enriched having attended his Parsha/Perek Shiurim all these years. Not only did we gain in Yedios and Hashkafa, we gained from seeing the simcha that Rabbi Lehrfield had while giving these shiurim. You can't fake true simcha, and he never did.
I am so grateful that I was able to thank the Rabbi personally for a huge hashkafic "yeshua". I went over to the house on Erev Rosh Hashana about 2-3 years ago, probably to bring a hostess gift but I asked to speak to Rabbi Lehrfield because I needed him to know how while all his drashos were spot-on, one in particular seemed directed at me and something I was going through. While I had always known that my grandparents Hy"d had died in the camps, my mother had always tenaciously held on to the belief that Thereisienstadt was different, and while not a 5-star hotel to be sure, it wasn't as bad as some of the other camps. I grew up with this. Some years ago a Rov who had visited Thereisenstadt was speaking and mentioned the crematorium on the site, and even said "Most people don't know about this crematorium but I saw it with my own eyes..." Several very painful phone calls later to this Rov as well as corroborating the information with Project Witness, the facts were clear: the crematorium was operational for several years, including those years in which my grandparents were niftar.
I really had a hard time being mekabel this. For close to a year and a half this really plagued me, until a few weeks before Yuah's Bar Mitzvah, Parshiyos Behar and Bechukosai. In under ten minutes [because Rabbi knew how to pack a punch and say it straight] he spoke about "the ashes of Yitzchok" that are munochim tachas kisei hakovod. He asked what the obvious question was: There WERE NO ashes, because the actual shechita never happened. But Rabbi explained that there were generations of actual ashes, lo aleinu, and those were so precious to HKB"H that He kept them near and dear.
I walked home from shul feeling a nechama like I have never felt before, and that year before Rosh Hashana I thought to tell him how much that nugget of information helped me so much.
These are just a few reflections that came to mind as soon a saw the request to share. I have found that with those giants that are truly "larger than life", not a day goes by that we don't have a moment of inspiration from those lives lived to their absolute fullest.
Yehi Zichro BORUCH
Not only did Pesach have the privilege of learning his Chosson classes with the Rabbi (which he has plenty of funny stories of his experience with that) But on December 30th 2007, we had the honor of the Rabbi marrying us. As you know Pesach has a large family and I had a few friends and family walk down the aisle and it all took some time for that to happen. Then we had the Chupah ceremony and the Kibudim and whatever else comes with a typical Jewish wedding..which also took some time. And of course we enjoyed the Rabbis marital jokes that he’d say quietly to us as we would wait for the next person to come up!
We were all just having a good tome, laughing up there and excited to finally be getting married! When It was time for Pesach’s brother Reuven, who came in from Israel to read our Ketuva. And that again was taking a long time.
Pesach’s grandfather whom we all called Grandpa Sol, who wasn’t very patient to begin with had had enough. In the middle of the silence and Reuven reading our Ketuva he yelled out “OH JUST KISS HER ALREADY FOR CRYING OUT LOUD” and with that EVERYONE and I mean everyone started laughing hysterically! Rabbi Lehrfield didn’t quite here what he had said and said “I missed it, what did he say?” So Pesach leaned over and told him what he said, and with that I’ll never forget Rabbi Lehrfield threw his head back and also started laughing!! Which made everyone else laugh even more! I’m so happy I have it all on video! It was probably one of the best parts of the wedding, just everyone laughing, and having a good time. Even in such a time like in the middle of a Chupah the Rabbi always found time to laugh, or tell a joke, and make you feel comfortable. He always found the Simcha in everything, and always made us feel like we were somebody. He was very dear to us, and we are honored and privileged to have had a close kesher with him!
He is missed now, and will be missed forever. Baruch Dayan Haemes may his neshama have many alliyahs!!
-Penina and Pesach Rotenberg
First a note/memory from our children:
-When he was showing Rabbi Lehrfield his new hobby of making balloon animals. He really took an interest in what he was showing him and made him feel really good And connected.
-Bar mitzvah lessons the Rabbi taught him how to project his voice and act as if he was talking to a single person in the back. Not the front or the middle of the room. Also how to tap to slow down his speech. Which none of us were ever able to get him to slow down :-)
-R Lehrfield really seemed to enjoy when I showed him my drone. He always took an interest in things I was interested in.
Lastly, he just remembers how he always just looked so happy And that made him so pleasant to be around. He also always answered all of his questions no matter how concrete or random :-)
So relaxed and always smiling. When she was little and always used to go up on the Beamer and then actually even want to sit in the rabbis chair. He would actually let her! I would look on in horror on the other side of the machitza. And he would just smile. She remembers that fondly
First day of her bat mitzvah lesson she was really nervous. Rabbi Lehrfield got her out of her comfort zone. This was SO needed for her! He always had a special way about him. He always knew how to talk to somebody. And the best public speaker and teacher of public speaking ever ever ever!
Devorah also remembers Hurting her knee on the men’s side She was younger. Rabbi Lehrfield came up to her And asked if she was OK. But someone so choshev Like the rabbi, noticing and taking interested in her, left such an impression on her!
Now the hardest part, Damon and I. Well he can write his own thing, but for all of us, Rabbi Lehrfield is the head of our family. Our spiritual leader. If he said some thing we would do it. Damon became president, only because Rabbi Lehrfield continued to ask him. He was so accessible and made you feel like you were the only person in the entire world. I have countless examples, but one time, when Binyamin had just got diagnosed with diabetes, they sent us home from the hospital erev Shabbos. I was a wreck. I had no idea what we were doing to keep him alive with this new diagnosis, not to mention how to keep Shabbos. Erev Shabbos he saw me at his home, in his office and just sat with me (this huge Gadol took his personal time for me!) and even just his presence was comforting. He explained to me ths halachos. He explained to me the leniencies. He told me I could come by anytime over Shabbos. He told me not to worry. He made a few jokes also. Every single thing about him from what he taught to how he acted, to his one on one interactions, To how he treated my children, to hell he ran a congregation and we watched him interact with everyone, to his relationship with the Rebbetzin…. He was our role model and Rabbi Lehrfield and Rebbetzin Lehrfield, as a couple are our role model also! We are honored and grateful for every single moment we had with you and have so much of both of you inside our mind and our heart and how we live our lives! This note only touches the surface, but otherwise I will never send this note out. Thank you forever! May Hashem Continue to always bless you and all your following generations with nothing but love and growth and comfort like you’ve given to everybody else!
Its very hard for me to really explain the affection that we have had for your husband. Saying that, Ill try anyway.
Its not simply because he was a scholar of the rarest caliber, though he was. Nor was it because he possessed the skills of a master teacher and orator and the love and enthusiasm to share his knowledge. Ir was not even his ability to rally a community and a congregation to inspire them towards a greater good and encourage people to reach out and to grow.
For me, I think, what really drew me as an individual, and us as a family, was his humanity. It was his love for each and every individual, and that he approached people with a smile and with humor. Its not everyone who can host a shabbos table, and take out a telescoping fork to reach for a piece of chicken. The warmth and caring that he had and he expressed, however, meant so much to us. When my son was ill, and he called every few days to check on him -- I can’t begin to tell you how much that meant. When the two of you visited my father in the hospital, that was really meaningful. How he was always available to answer my or my wife’s questions… When I would come into his office, and he would greet me with the warmest smile and a brightness in his eyes; or he would share one of his jokes with us -- he always made us feel so incredibly special.
I don't think that I really understand, though, his love for the community and the individual, until Hurricane Irma. As you may recall a few years ago, the news channels predicted an oncoming ‘Cone of Death’ from the hurricane and everyone was advised to flee the state. I asked the rabbi to consider closing the shul in light of the impending catastrophe. His response was, “How can I do that? How can I desert my flock and the people that depend on us.? “ That response made a lasting impression on me.
It has been a rare and wonderful pleasure and honor to have known your husband these last fifteen years. As you remarked so eloquently and clearly, “He was one of a kind, and he is impossible to replace.” He is and will continue to be very sorely missed.
Rabbi David Lehrfield was beautifully memorialized by his sons last week. He lived a learned life where he always put others before himself. That he was Adam Gadol is beyond dispute. Yet, I never remember him making it about himself. That he was a Talmid Chacham was not a well-kept secret. Above all, he was the essence of a shul or pulpit Rabbi.
As I remember very well the first winter we spent in NMB, there was a Lubavitch Bochur, who had been on Merkos Shelichos in Burlington, VT the previous summer. He was from Montreal though his father spent a fair amount of time in Miami, and his father had dropped him in front of our home. I asked him why. He said that his father told him that before even thinking about becoming a “pulpit Rabbi” he had to see a real one “at work”. Of course, this meant Rabbi Lehrfield. He was a Teacher’s Teacher.
I came to mincha-maariv on weekdays just to hear him speak on the Parsha. He taught with depth and breadth and with an amazing economy of words. I always brought my notebook and was glad that I did. For him, there did not, happily, appear any “foolish” questions. He comported himself with dignity, humility, and good humor and without a trace of self-importance. He responded to individuals, not abstract people in general. He never seemed to have an agenda other than Torah. And he gladly publicized shiurim given by others in addition to community simchas.
On a personal level, he was ingenious “at making time for others”. I never saw him turn away a meshulach; he always gave discreetly and personally. Since I preferred the early morning Shabbos minyan, I was delighted that Rabbi Lehrfield more often than not spoke at “our minyan” as well as the later minyan. There were people who attended both minyanim just to keep listening to him.
He went out of his way to counsel us on family matters and he and Rebbetzin Lehrfield were kind and generous in inviting us for Shabbos and Yom Tov meals. She has been a Rebbetzin’s Rebbetzin. What we had intuited, yet did not completely register, was the love and respect that they enjoyed for one another. The hespedim, unlike most, were more consoling than I would have anticipated. Your husband and father is unique and irreplaceable.
As I wrote to R’ Yaakov not long ago, his Thursday night shiurim, inspired by his father, were invaluable in educating the listeners. He half-joked that his congregants at Y. I. of Staten Island were getting “two for the price of one” as he explained the parsha each week; this lesson became more and more apparent. I maintain still if there is any way that R’ David Lehrfield’s reflections could be published, even in part, I believe that this would be a gift including but extending beyond his family, friends, and students. He truly understood the humanity of Jewish thinking in daily life. He spoke with clarity, brilliance and kindness that addressed and moved people of various ages and backgrounds.
We thank you for letting him into our lives and want you to know that. We realize that you have to stand in line to have appreciated and loved R’ Lehrfield. It is good for you to know that everything that could be done was done. I am reminded of a statement from a teacher of the past generation that “death ends a life, but not a relationship.”
Please accept our condolences and best wishes now and for the time to come.
Hamakom yenachem eschem b'soch sha'ar avelei Tzion veYerushalayim
Richard & Linda Sugarman
We wanted to share with you these photos and wonderful letter we received from Rabbi Lehrfield in October 1988 just after Avi’s Bar Mitzvah.
We kept his letter for all these years because it was so nice and incredibly warm, kind and thoughtful; and over the next three decades, we learned that was how Rabbi Lehrfield always was, to us and to everyone else in the community.
We miss him.
Carolyn and Sheldon Beckerman
Rabbi,father,grandfather,great grandfather: my Zaidy had the privilege of being called all of that. Throughout my life my Zaidy has been a role model for me. He taught me right from wrong, how to daven on shabbos, how to put on tefillin, and he did it all with a smile on his face no matter how much I annoyed him or if he was sick. He was my Zaidy. The city of north Miami Beach new him as rabbi Lehrfield. He wrote gittin and kidushin,taught all kids how to Lein their bar mitzvah pashas,always gave tzedakah, and whenever someone couldn’t pay him for their gittin he gave them a smile and said don’t worry about it. I remember one time I got to watch him write a get for someone and when they told him they couldn’t pay he responded to them “don’t worry about it” gave them a warm smile and sent them on their way. Every shabbos when I would eat by him he would sit down at the table after the meal, open a Chumash, and learn for hours on end with no breaks. When he was sick over corona I remember going to his house every Friday night to daven kabala shabbos and maariv for him and then talk to him for a while before the meal. During shabbos day I would go over and daven musaf for him,leave for the meal and walk back for shalosh seudat and sing carlebach for him then say maariv and make havdala for him. He was someone who was generally happy and walked around with a smile on his face. This was my Zaidy for as long as I knew him and I’m very glad to say I was close with him and had a chance to learn from him
A Series of Emotional Purim-time Emails. Not long after Rabbi Lehrfield Z"L passed away, members of the Board of Directors of Yeshiva Toras Chaim were exchanging emails about what a Kiddush Hashem it would be to have Bochurim from the Yeshiva participate in the Federation's fundraising campaign. This suggestion sparked Rabbi Lehrfield Z"L's son, R. Moshe (a member of the Board), to reminisce about the times when Rabbi Lehrfield's shul would host a YTC Shabbaton. He noted that his father "would always remark on the incredible difference between the behavior of our students and other students. It gave him such a sense of pride." I responded to that email with a simple "loved" and thumbs up emoji. I didn't realize that trite response would engender such an emotional response from R. Moshe, who said: "Thank you. Brining tears to my eyes." By the same token, R. Moshe probably didn't expect my next response. It was getting close to Purim, and I let R. Moshe know by return email that I always thought about his father at Purim-time because about 25 years earlier I had attended a series of Shiurim on Megillas Esther given by his father for Rabbi Moshe Gruenstein’s Project Heritage program in downtown Miami where I worked. I told him, "I never understood the depth of the Megillah until your father opened my eyes." I closed with the traditional words, "Zecher Tzaddik L'Bracha," and let him know, "this brought tears to my eyes too - Mamash." But that wasn't the end of the email chain. R. Moshe replied with a similar story, but with a funny twist. He related that one day, when he was in ninth-grade at the Hebrew Academy on Miami Beach, he was sitting in class, acting like a wise guy, maybe a little more than usual because there was a substitute teacher that day. The substitute happened to be Mrs. Seidel, mother of Mrs. Deborah Chames, another YTC Board member. R. Moshe believes he was pretty rotten back then and is certain Mrs. Seidel didn't know who he was (thank goodness). It was also around Purim-time and somebody in the class asked Mrs. Seidel to teach them something about Megillas Esther. Before she began, she said: "You have to realize that I have a whole different perspective on Megillas Esther, because I have been studying this with Rabbi Lehrfield for the last several weeks. So what I am going to tell you is going to blow your mind because it is a whole different way of looking at the entire story of Esther." One of R. Moshe's "friends" then piped up and said to Mrs. Seidel, "do you know who this ninth-grade student sitting in front of you is? This is Rabbi Lehrfield's son." Mrs. Seidel then very slowly and deliberately, stared at him and said in her booming inimitable voice, "YOU are Rabbi Lehrfield's son? You should be so ashamed of yourself." R. Moshe said those words still ring in his ears just like he heard them yesterday. That whole exchange shed light for me on the traditional blessing “Zichrona L’Bracha” (May his memory be for a blessing). Till then, it never really made sense to me . Now I better understood that we’re blessed to have the wonderful memories Rabbi Lehrfield left us with. What a blessing indeed.
Rabbi Lehrfield was incredible. He related to everyone and was there for my family for generations. My mother taught at the Hebrew Academy in the 1970s with Mrs. Lehrfield and my father, A”H, a Judge, found in Rabbi Lehrfield a teacher of Jewish learning and a Rabbi and a friend. We had Seders at the Lehrfields house and Rabbi Lehrfield was always affable and gracious in his explanations and the love and camaraderie at the table we’re something special. This was truly Torah we all felt. Rabbi Lehrfield stood with my father under the chuppah at my wedding, told my husband jokes throughout the decades and always a beautiful Torah thought of course. When my father passed and I had a question, he took my call even though he wasn’t well and had the right answer for me. When my children were born he was always at the bris. When my grandkids were born he came to the bris. Most of all he explained things. He learned about things and talked about important ideas. Whether I was 7, Bas mitzvah age, a new mother, in aveilus, celebrating milestones, he explained. He was there in the way that extraordinary people are. He lived what he taught in his obvious love of his Rebbetzyn, his community, his students and simple Jewish kids like me whose entire relationship to Torah was quietly changed and inspired through decades of observing this lovely, authentic, good man. I miss him and appreciate having had the privilege of his inspiration for over almost 50 years.
- Michal Neuman