Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Singular Solace

Yisrael Groweiss

Rav Daniel Chaim Alter finds pinpricks of light amid the loss of his wife, Rebbetzin Hinda Rachel Alter a”h

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

 Mishpacha image

“Chesed umishpat ashirah,” Rav Daniel quotes the pasuk and explains that no matter whether one is subjected to Hashem’s attribute of lovingkindness or that of strict justice, he must still sing and thank Hashem (Photos: Family archives and Shlomi Trichter)

The Pnei Menachem’s kinder…

In Gur, and even beyond, those words are said with reverence. The children of the previous rebbe are all marked by their brilliance, dynamism, and oratorical abilities. His son Rav Daniel Chaim Alter has gone even further, bearing these gifts — the fire of Kotzk and the radiance of Gur — to an audience beyond the large beis medrash.

And it’s in this most tragic of venues that we get a glimpse of Rav Daniel’s full greatness.

It was just last week that we found the bereaved husband sitting on a low chair, surrounded by his children, mourning his wife, the tzadeikes Rebbetzin Hinda Rachel a”h, who had tragically succumbed to a protracted, draining illness. Rav Daniel’s face is shadowed in pain, but still bears an uncanny resemblance to the face of his illustrious father, Rav Pinchas Menachem Alter of Gur. Not just the facial features; it’s the mannerisms, the accent, and the way of speaking that elicit intense longing for the beloved Rebbe.

In the court of Gur, discipline and order reign supreme, even during times of mourning. It’s not yet 24 hours since the burial, and already, crowds of chassidim have arrived. Watching Rav Daniel in action is a lesson in bein adam l’chaveiro. Thousands have come, and yet he remembers virtually each one by name, summoning up his celebrated memory to recall the personal details that make each comforter feel valued.

It’s not easy for a man who was raised with the idea that each minute is meant to be used for Torah, to sit and answer the same questions over and over again, but this too, apparently, is Torah.

At one point, his face darkens. “Rabi Alexandri said: ‘One whose wife died in his days, the world is darkened for him,’ ” Rav Daniel quotes Maseches Sanhedrin, then adds, “The greater the light, the thicker the ensuing darkness.”

“Hashem gave us such a wonderful reprieve of a year and a half, a prolonged parting — a gift during which we had so much chizuk and nachas”

A heartbroken sigh is followed by a few minutes of tortured silence, and then he continues, his pain clearly evident: “When Heaven wants to punish a person, the blow is given in the place that hurts most, so that he’ll do teshuvah sheleimah.” 

For every comment offered by a guest, Rav Daniel replies with a brilliant observation, gematria, or roshei teivos. At times it seems that this is not a house of mourning but a beis medrash of Gur or Peshischa, with specific references understood only by those fully conversant in the chassidus’s teachings.

“Chesed umishpat ashirah,” Rav Daniel quotes the pasuk and explains that no matter whether one is subjected to Hashem’s attribute of lovingkindness or that of strict justice, he must still sing and thank Hashem.

“How?” I dare to ask. “How does one turn one’s own personal grief into a vehicle for spiritual growth?”

A moment of silence follows, then he answers. “At a levayah, we say the pasuk, ‘Hashem gave and Hashem took away — May Hashem’s Name be blessed.’ There is a very deep message here. When we are in the anguished state of ‘Hashem took away,’ we must bear in mind also that ‘Hashem gave.’ Now the great gift that was given to us has been taken away. It was never ours, it was always only a gift; ‘nassan,’ and therefore, ‘lakach!’

“In our case, we saw it even more clearly, because at the very time that it seemed to us that ‘Hashem took away,’ we were also zocheh that ‘Hashem gave.’ A year and a half ago, we were zocheh to receive a Divine gift. From the minute the illness was diagnosed, it was immediately clear that the situation was very serious. But Hashem gave us such a wonderful reprieve of a year and a half, a prolonged parting — a gift during which we had so much chizuk and nachas.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 698)

Related Stories

Trapping the Disease of Escape

Barbara Bensoussan

Moshe Yachnes, founder of a frum rehab center, is one person on the frontlines who believes addicts ...

The Will to Win

Binyamin Rose

Billionaire Elie Horn has set the bar high. Fighting the battle against assimilation is not enough, ...

Secrets from the Grave

Shlomi Gil

Rabbi Herschel Groman of Jerusalem’s Perushim chevra kaddisha has seen it all. But once a year, on t...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
No Misunderstandings
Rabbi Moshe Grylak Hashem revealed the secret of a balanced life
What Was the Court’s Rush?
Yonoson Rosenblum The Democratic Party’s descent into madness
Survey? Oy Vey
Eytan Kobre How could YAFFED promote such a farce?
Filling the Void
Rabbi Henoch Plotnik Jewish leaders don’t need to be declared or coronated
Top 5 Ways We Remember Our Rebbeim (and we love them for it!)
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin An ode to these pivotal people in my life
Hanging On in Newark
Rabbi Nosson Scherman Rabbi Nosson Scherman remembers the shul of his youth
A Fine Kettle of Fish
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman The “minor” chasadim are often the most meaningful
The Next Hill
Jacob L. Freedman The look on Malachi’s face nearly broke my heart
Tradition and Modern Meet in One Long Dance
Riki Goldstein Fusing tradition and modernity comes naturally to him
A Playlist for Shabbos
Riki Goldstein What does Moshy Kraus sing at the Shabbos table?
With Flying Colors
Riki Goldstein My 15 seconds of fame on the Carnegie Hall stage
Full Faith
Faigy Peritzman With emunah, everyone’s obligation is the same
Speechless
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Silence isn’t always golden
The Only One
With Rav Moshe Wolfson, written by Baila Vorhand Within every Jew is the flame of instinctive emunah