Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Barukh Dayan ha-Emes: Rabbi Dovid Zeitlin, zal

With a heavy heart, we announce the passing of Rabbi Dovid Zeitlin—Eliezer Dovid ben Perel and Yosef—on Erev Pesach, 14 Nissan, in the early hours before dawn at Brooklyn Hospital.

Shortly before Shavuos last year Reb Dovid was diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumor (GBM). When informed of the test results, he thanked the doctor and told his family at his bedside, “Whatever Hashem wants, I accept.” His emunah was unshakable, and as always, he never complained.

A descendent of the Baal ha-Tanya on his father’s side, and Rabbi Yechiel Schlessinger, a talmid muvhak of the Chasam Sofer and father of the Lev Ivri, on his mother’s side, Reb Dovid was born in New York in 1950. His parents, Reb Yosef, zal, and Perel (may Hashem give her strength at this time of grief), survived the Holocaust and settled in America after World War II. He attended the Viener Yeshiva as a boy, during the years when the melamdim were all Holocaust survivors, and often broken, traumatized men; lacking funds, the yeshiva was often forced to move from place to place, and its facilities consisted of the bare necessities. However, one of the highlights of his youth was his relationship with Rabbi Yonah Forst, zatzal, Rosh Yeshiva of Nitra, renowned for his shiurim in Chovos ha-Levavos, which had a profound effect on Reb Dovid. A spiritual seeker, Reb Dovid also became close with the old Skulener Rebbe and Reb Herschel of Spinka, and also felt a connection with the Satmar Rov, Shoproner Rov, Rav Moshe Bick, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zikhron tzaddikim levrakha. Throughout his teenage years, he assiduously studied the classics of Chassidus, such as Be’er Mayim Chaim, Maor va-Shemesh, Yosher Divrei Emes, Likkutim Yekarim, Tanya and the Chabad teachings. Then one day his father came home with a dozen seforim for him—which Reb Dovid later noted was the only time in his life that his father did such a thing—telling him that they were being sold in shul for very little money, and he thought that his intellectual son might be interested in them. These were the Breslov seforim that he would spend the rest of his life exploring, and whose teachings he would follow with exemplary devotion.

His main teachers in Breslov were Rabbi Gedaliah Kenig, zatzal, and his son Rav Elazar Kenig, shlit”a, the mara de-asra of the Tsfas Breslov community, whom he attended devotedly during the latter’s many visits to America, particularly before and after Rav Kenig’s lung transplant surgery some ten years ago. He was also one of the founders of the New York Breslov Center, and author of a still-unpublished translation of Rabbi Gedaliah Kenig’s Chayei Nefesh, and in more recent years, Breslov Eikh she-Hu on Breslov minhagim and hanhagos tovos (both co-authored with Dovid Sears). He first went to the Rebbe’s tziyyun in Uman with several friends during the early 1980s, during the Soviet years. During that period, he would travel to Meron for Rosh Hashanah to join the Breslover gathering near the tziyyun of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. After it became possible to attend “the Rebbe’s Rosh Hashanah” in Uman, beginning in 1989, he traveled there every year with mesirus nefesh until the last year of his life. He fully intended to go to Uman for Rosh Hashanah, even when he could no longer walk or feed himself, and traveling was impossible.

Reb Dovid was a talmid chokhom who learned bi-hasmadah throughout his life, even while working in various clerical positions, but who finally achieved his goal of studying full-time in kollel more than fifteen years ago. He was highly knowledgeable in both nigleh and nistar, and, although he held no formal rabbinic position, was fluent in halakhah. For most of his life he faithfully attended the Shabbos morning Shulchan Arukh shiur of Rabbi Ben Zion Strasser, shlit”a, Nitra Rov of Borough Park, who was his lifelong mentor and friend, as well as a relative through marriage. Ironically, another relative through marriage of Reb Dovid, the esteemed Rav Shmuel Wosner (author of the halakhic responsa Shevet HaLevi and Rosh Yeshiva of Chachmei Lublin in Bnei Brak), zatzal, passed away at age 101 on the same day.

According to Chazal, petirah on Erev Shabbos is an auspicious sign. Surely Reb Dovid Zeitlin’s neshamah tehorah went straight to gan eden.

May Hashem comfort and give strength to his mother, Mrs. Perel Zeitlin; his brother Hillel Zeitlin in Los Angeles and sister Mrs. Sheindel Vider in Brooklyn; his devoted wife, Mrs. Malka Zeitlin; his daughters Mrs. Gitty Brown and Mrs. Hindy Hecht; his sons Ben Zion, Yissachar Dov, Mordechai and Shmuel; his many grandchildren, as well as his extended family, friends and neighbors. May he be a meilitz yosher for them and for Klal Yisrael. Yehi zikhro barukh, may his memory be a blessing, amen.

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