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To Be Big

Zehava Kaner

When one considers the life and legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld, ztz”l, many words spring to mind. Rosh yeshivah. Rebbi. Mashpiah. Oheiv Yisrael. When one asks the wives of his beloved talmidim to describe their connection with Rabbi Freifeld, they have only one word: Father.

Monday, September 20, 2010


The women of Sh’or Yoshuv could and did seek advice about all matters both big and small. “When we got married, Yaakov wanted Rebbi to be mesader kiddushin, but another relative was a rabbi and he wanted the honor. Rebbi told Yaakov to give it to his relative.”

Rebbi did everything a father does, including waking his children up in the morning.

“I’ll never forget this,” Mrs. Goldfeder laughs. “When we first got married, I had a job in Manhattan and in order to get there on time, I had to leave home at seven. Yaakov didn’t need to leave until later. So I used to get up and leave while he was still sleeping. Rebbi was aware that this could lead to resentment. Here was Yaakov rolling over, and I was on the way to work! Rebbi told him, ‘Yankele, get up and get dressed and have an early morning seder in yeshivah.’ If he was late, Rebbi would call on the phone to see where he was!”

Rabbi Freifeld was very aware of the challenges of establishing a healthy marriage relationship and kept his finger on the pulse of all his young couples.

“He constantly talked about shalom bayis in yeshivah,” Mrs. Hindy Sitnick remembers.

A couple was having a disagreement over whether or not they should buy carpet. The wife wanted it, but the husband thought it was a waste of money. Rebbi asked the husband, “If I can guarantee you shalom bayis, will you do what I say to do?”

Of course the husband said yes.

“Get the carpet. She needs it. You’ll show her that you understand and respect her needs.”

“We went to him with everything — big and small,” Mrs. Sitnick recalls, “and we followed his advice regardless whether we understood it or not.”

Mrs. Sussie Brecher elaborates, “Women knew there would be an ear for them, and they used it. I remember hearing that a man was leaving Rebbi’s house when he met his friend. The first man began to say that he had seen his friend’s wife there the day before. Reb Avrohom Mordechai, Rabbi Freifeld’s son, pulled him to the side and told him to never do that again! Women knew they could speak to Rebbi, and it would be completely confidential.”

In his shmuessen, Rav Freifeld spoke constantly about how to speak to a wife, how to compliment her, how to show appreciation.

The greatest lessons were those that the talmidim saw first hand; the way Rabbi Freifeld treated his Rebbetzin. “I was once to talking to him while he was eating lunch,” Mrs. Goldfeder recounts. “Even though he wasn’t well at the time, he began to sweep the floor when he had finished eating. ‘It’s enough that she cooks for me. Should she have to clean up after me too?’”

“We occasionally ate by Rebbi on Shabbos, and the Rebbetzin used to serve a certain type of fish. She used to put in tons of pepper. I’m Hungarian so I cook with tons of sugar. I could barely choke it down. But Rebbi would say every time, with such warmth and enthusiasm, ‘This is the best fish you ever made!’”


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