By COLlive reporter
Lead photo by Marko Dashev
A LIGHTNING VISIT
Rabbi Mordechai Einbinder, Associate Director of Chabad of the Valley in Tarzana, CA
On at least 3 occasions, I heard the Rebbe telling Rabbi Gordon the known saying of “tracht gut vet zein gut” (think good and it will be good). The Rebbe also wrote him this instruction when there was a personal problem and Rabbi Gordon had it framed in his office and a copy of it in his pocket at all times.
This attitude of his was expressed in a story we heard at the Shiva this week, when I saw a person enter the Gordon’s residence for Shachris. He looked familiar but I couldn’t recall from where.
Here is what he told us:
On a late night around 10 years ago, someone knocked on the door of Rabbi Gordon’s house. He was an Israeli youngster spending time in California. And he came to seek advice.
He was about to get married in Northern Israel but family members from the USA were hesitant on participating because of the security situation. They asked the chosson and kallah to postpone the wedding ‘until things calm down’.
Rabbi Gordon answered without hesitation, like the Rebbe would often say, that the land of Israel is the safest place and that there is no reason to postpone a simcha even by a single day.
To prove the point, Rabbi Gordon flew to Israel to attend the wedding. Family and friends were gathered there and heard Rabbi Gordon read the Rebbe’s letter under the chuppah and then explaining the meaning of its blessings.
After the chuppah, wedding participants saw Rabbi Gordon preparing to leave. They asked whether he can stay for the meal and dancing. He replied that he needs to catch his flight back. He flew across the Atlantic, to be in Israel for 3 hours so a couple will not postpone their wedding.
A SUMMER DILEMMA
By Menachem Mendel Gordon, Rabbi Gordon’s grandchild
When my Zaidy, Rabbi Yehoshua Binyomin Gordon, the Rebbe’s Shliach to the Valley of California, was about sixteen about years old, he went to the Rebbe for a Yechidus, just prior to his birthday; the custom in the earlier years of the Rebbe’s nesius was that every person was allowed to schedule a Yechidus with the Rebbe once a year, in honor of one’s Yom Huledes.
One would write a Tzetel (a note) to the Rebbe stating all of your requests and questions (if any) and asking for a bracha for a Shnas Hatzlacha U’Bracha, a year of blessing and success.
Under ordinary circumstances, these meetings would last for only two or three minutes and in that way the Rebbe could see many people in the course of one night. During the later hours of the night, the Rebbe would be visited by great community leaders and people of influence whose meetings might sometimes last hours.
That particular year, my Zeidy had a very important question to ask the Rebbe. He was studying in the Chabad Yeshiva in Montreal, Canada. As his birthday is in early Tammuz (June or July), it usually occurred just before the summer months.
One of his teachers in the Yeshiva encouraged him to remain in Yeshiva and study that summer, in a quasi “summer school” program. He felt that the extra summer studies would be of great benefit to my Zeidy and help propel him to the top of the class. Another teacher however felt that my Zeidy would gain more from experiencing a change of scenery by going to a summer camp.
My Zeidy posed the question to the Rebbe. This was my Zeidy’s ‘big question’ for the year; should he spend the summer in Yeshiva or should he go to summer overnight camp?
The Rebbe quickly read my Zeidy’s Tzetel and began to offer him his brachos. The Rebbe then said, “And with regard to your question of what you should do this summer, you should go to camp and become a Counselor.”
The Rebbe then added that our sages teach that in the merit of doing for others and helping others, your own studies improve, “Na’aseh moichoi ve’liboi zachim elef pe’amim kacha – His mind and his heart become purified one thousand times over.”
The Rebbe later explained this principle at a Farbrengen that by the virtue of what we do for others (case in point, becoming a Counselor in a summer camp), our own learning becomes better. The Rebbe pointed out, that in the merit of doing for others, that which would ordinarily take us “one thousand hours” to accomplish, can and will be accomplished in one hour.
Needless to say, my Zeidy went to overnight summer camp that summer.
PERSONAL FAVOR OF ANOTHER KIND
Rabbi Yanky Kahn, Director of Development of Chabad of the Valley in Tarzana, CA
Rabbi Gordon always led by example. We, all of the shluchim, knew we weren’t in this alone. If something needed doing, he was right there to lead us. If there was a simcha, he were there. If people were in need of comfort, he was there as well.
He would walk in to Chabad every day with so many burdens on his shoulders, yet he greeted everyone with a smile and a good word. No matter who the need was for, he was always there to help in any way, whether it was listening, giving a helping hand or giving financial support.
One day, on a Tuesday afternoon, he called me to ask a personal favor. I was eager and happy to help him. He then told me there was a woman staying at a motel on Sepulveda Boulevard and this woman was in terrible need of help. She had run out of funds and the motel manager was about to kick her out onto the street. This is what Rabbi Gordon considered a personal favor – helping someone in need.
I remember once, during our weekly staff meeting, he expressed frustration at another similar situation. On his daily walk down Ventura Boulevard he saw a homeless woman living under a pile of blankets. He made it his mission to take care of her, and he did.
ADVICE ON THE GO
Rabbi Yosef Levin, Executive Director of Chabad of Greater South Bay in Palo Alto, CA
When I first came to Palo Alto and was working on building the day camp, Camp Gan Israel, I was having difficulty figuring out the finances. I called Rabbi Shlomo Cunin in Los Angeles for some advice, and the next day Rabbi Gordon flew up and spent the day helping me set up the camp.
Whenever I had a thorny question relating to our Chabad Center, Rabbi Gordon was available to help. I would call him on his cell phone and ask him for a phone appointment, knowing how busy he was, and 9 times out of 10 he said “how about right now?”
I spent a few days in his office over the years getting his advice, and he met with me and my staff on a few occasions to advise us on community affairs. Each time I felt as if he had all the time in the world for us.
What is so amazing about this is that many other Chabad Shluchim had the same experience.
At the funeral, attended by a huge crowd, I heard several Rabbis marvel at how whenever a colleague needed help or advice, he would behave as if there was nothing else for him to do and give all the time necessary. He also did this for any person who turned to him.
May his memory and his life inspire us all to use our time and our resources to make a difference in the world, and may we merit the ultimate fulfillment of the Mitzvah, to see the third temple standing in Jerusalem.
A tribute to the life and legacy of Rabbi Josh Gordon