By Rabbi Mendel Duchman – Los Angeles, CA
As I stood in front of your new space “On High”, Rabbi Yehoshua Binyomin Gordon, I was reminded of 3 powerful lessons you have taught.
I’m not talking about the countless shiurim you have selflessly given to thousands around the world. Rather these are lessons you have personally demonstrated in your unique conduct during your lifetime and that will remain with me forever.
1. People are the biggest resource in this world.
Many people think the most important thing in this world is money. You have taught me that, even if you have all the money in the world, you cannot survive without other people.
You taught me that one must love people, not judge people. You taught me to find a way to get along with people at any price. Not only did you preach that, but you truly practiced it.
People came from all over the world to seek your advice and encouragement in how to deal with interpersonal issues. With your kind smile and communication skills, you were able to rebuild marriages, diffuse employer-employee disputes and settle tensions in communities.
Most of all, you taught me that when hate comes your way from people, push it away and do whatever you can to turn it into love.
2. Stand up for what’s right.
As a young man of 22 years of age, my wife and I moved to California to serve as Shluchim in Irvine. Full of ambition and wanting to change the world (without the necessary experience), we held a gala banquet to mark our first year there.
We hired two leading entertainers – one from the Jewish world and the second from the Hollywood world. You were in the crowd as the celebration was going full force with everybody saluting Chabad’s achievements in just one short year.
But then the fast-talking Hollywood comedian was called up (upset that he went on second) and he immediately began delivering an off-color routine, unbefitting for the evening. Leading rabbis and respected people were in the audience and the routine was getting worse by the minute.
As a young man, I froze, not knowing what to do, when suddenly you, Rabbi Josh, emerged from the crowd. You just walked up on stage and bravely said, “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s hear it for Mr. So and So.”
At which point, the Hollywood star said, “I’m not done.”
You responded, “Yes, Mr. So and So, you are done!” and you gently escorted him off stage.
That evening was a life changing experience. It taught me what kind of special person you are and it taught me to stand up for what’s right – regardless of the consequences.
3. Think big.
Rabbi Josh, you were standing at the podium during the first Universal Chanukah Walk organized under your guidance by your nephew Rabbi Yossi Baitelman, the Shaliach of Studio City.
I remember thinking, what are you going to say to the thousands of people standing in front of a 100-foot giant screen displaying Jewish pride. You had 2 words to share and teach the public about the power of imagination and determination. You told everyone to “Think big!”
This morning, as I stand in front of your tombstone reflecting on your life, I know you have portrayed exactly that. Your life was big, your success was big, your relationships with friends, Shluchim and the world was big.
You practiced what you preached. Your message then was, and still is, the world is here for the taking. Make your impact, do it big, bring naches to the leader of our generation, the Rebbe.
Dear Rabbi Josh, my dear fellow Saliach, friend, mentor and teacher, may you rest in peace.
May you look down from On High knowing that you changed the world. Let me be one of thousands to commit to you that every day we will work deliberately to live like you, and continue the incredible holy work that you left upon all of us.
Looking forward to the coming of Moshiach where we will all be united again.
Zei Gezunt, Josh.
P.S.: To Rebbetzin Debbie and the entire Gordon family – thank you for sharing this giant, legendary, human-being with all of us. May Hashem give you all Kochois during these trying times.
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