By Rabbi Jonathan Muskat
Rav, Young Israel of Oceanside
The following is the eulogy I delivered December 4 at the funeral.
We are here to mourn the passing of Rav Moshe Gottesman, Rav Moshe ben Asher Zelig, who passed away at the age of 86. Rav Moish is survived by his beloved wife, Sondra, his children — Malka married to Dovid, Shulamis married to Tzvi, Shlomo married to Judith, Yossi married to Gina, and Ariella married to Leibel — and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The halachah is that on Chanukah it is forbidden to deliver a eulogy. However, the Shulchan Aruch writes that an exception to this ruling is for a chacham —we eulogize someone who spread Torah to the masses, and Rav Moish was a chacham for thousands of students. The numbers at this funeral, including many distinguished rabbanim, attest to this fact.
On the surface, it may seem somewhat cruel that we are here today on Chanukah, the holiday of lights, mourning as such a bright light was extinguished from this world during this holiday, but in truth it may be fitting that Rav Moish passed away on Chanukah, because his life embodied the uniqueness of this holiday. This is the holiday of mehadrin, when we try to do everything in an extra-special manner—not merely one light for the entire household, but ner l’kol echad v’echad — a light for each member of the household. On a basic level, the light of Torah must burn brightly in every Jewish home, but on a mehadrin level, on a higher level, each child must light his or her own menorah, each child must add his or her own unique contribution to our mesorah, to our tradition. On Chanukah, we celebrate ner l’kol echad v’echad. We celebrate difference. Everyone has a chelek, a portion, in Torah.
That is what Rav Moish created: a ner l’kol echad v’echad. He created thousands of Chanukah lights: students from HANC, campers from Sdei Chemed, and members at the Young Israel of Oceanside. Whenever I was with Rav Moish at a simcha, at an event, without fail, Moish would turn to me and point to a person and say, “He was my student” or “she was my student” or “he was my camper.” Rav Moish created thousands of lights. He was so successful as an educator because he loved everyone and appreciated everyone’s uniqueness. He always saw the best in everyone and he literally created miracles! Students on whom everyone else gave up now have beautiful families and are shomrei Torah and mitzvot because Rav Moish never gave up on anyone.
Rav Moish and Sondra recently moved out of Oceanside so that they could be closer to their children and we celebrated them as a couple on a Shabbat in June. When I spoke about Rav Moish then, I spoke about Rav Moish as someone who inspired people to love to do mitzvot, to love to give tzedakah so that it wasn’t seen as a burden but a wonderful opportunity. I spoke about Rav Moish as someone who introduced the Oceanside community to Yeshivot Bnei Akiva and to Mesivta Tiferet Jerusalem and he brought Rav Dovid and Rav Reuven Feinstein to Oceanside many times. Rav Moish was someone who was able to spread the light of ahavat Yisrael and ahavat Torah across such a broad hashkafic spectrum. I spoke about Rav Moish as someone who founded Bikur Cholim of Oceanside, who was one of the founders of the Oceanside Chevra Kadisha, who was the first chairman of Yom HaAtzmaut events at our shul, who was our gabbai for so many years, and who was instrumental in bringing a mikveh to our community.
When I think back at what Rav Moish did for me when I moved into this community 15 years ago as a young rabbi, I’m simply in awe. It is humbling and intimidating to move into a community with a gadol like Rav Moish, and at the age of 70, when most people could reasonably retire from public and shul life, he didn’t do that. He immediately opened up his heart to me, my wife, and my children. He made me feel like his rabbi with him being the student while simultaneously taking me under his wing and guiding me about the community, always being there to offer sage advice with a wonderful sense of humor, inspiring me with amazing stories of different gedolim that he met and, most importantly, demonstrating to me that no mitzvah or cause was too big for him or too little for him and that every single person was important.
He tried to teach me to garden, but he ended up doing the gardening in my front yard mostly by himself. Even though he wasn’t successful in teaching me to garden, my daughter Leora, with whom he shared a special bond, would drop everything and anything that she was doing so that she could garden with him. He would always give her candies in shul, although they were always dairy so she could never eat them after the meat Kiddush in our shul. We had the zchut to have him name our youngest son Daniel Moshe at his b’rit milah. Even though we don’t name children for living people, when we picked his second name, we couldn’t think of a better role model for our son to share his second name. Now we always know that Rav Moish’s name is part of our family. I cannot fully express my relationship with Rav Moish. He was my father, he was my grandfather, he was my friend, and he was my mentor, and I will miss him very dearly.
Sondra, I cannot even begin to imagine how you can move on from your devastating loss. On this day of Chanukah, his light has been extinguished, but he has kindled thousands of lights, ner l’kol echad v’echad. He has created so many miracles and the two of you have built an empire of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who are all shomrei Torah u’mitzvot and who absolutely adored him. My hope is that this will serve as some small token of nechamah for you and your entire family. Tehei nishmato tzerurah bitzror ha’chaim. May his soul be bound in the bond of eternal life. n
Link to the levayah: https://vimeo.com/304490131/304dfa25f4.