This past Succos, Klal Yisroel suffered the loss of R’ Tzvi Hertz a”h. His passing was most sudden, and left his family, friends and greater Lakewood kehila in shock, trying to comprehend the heartbreaking tragedy that had occurred. Such a young man, a blossoming talmud chochom had been snatched from their midst as he was entering the prime of his life.
There is an old adage, recited tongue in cheek, “acherai mois, kedoshim emor.” A play on words of the order of the parshiyos implying that after someone’s death, then revisionist history takes place and the meis’ deeds are exaggerated and overstated. What was incredible about R’ Tzvi, is that even at such a young age, his greatness needed no embellishment whatsoever.
I was by the shiva for a relatively brief time, and stories were recounted about his tremendous hasmada, yiras shomayim and middos tovos. The level of his outstanding scholarship and diduk hamitzvos is not what I will recount, because quite frankly, the ways he conducted himself in those regards were simply above my pay grade. It was as if a seasoned Rosh Yeshiva was being discussed. I for one could not relate to the lofty levels being spoken of.
What I do want to share is an invaluable vignette of R’ Tzvi’s ehrlichkeit which I believe we all can learn from and try to emulate in our own way.
A few months ago the R’ Tzvi and his family moved into a new home. When they were searching for a house, their former neighbor, who is a real estate agent, showed them some homes to consider. Ultimately the house they purchased was not one the neighbor suggested, and did not even involve a real estate broker at all, which usually translates into considerable savings. Money apparently did not occupy a prominent place in R’ Tzvi’s mind; at least as it pertained to him.
Upon closing of their new home, the Hertzs presented the neighbor with a heartfelt thank you card and a substantial amount of money. A candy platter would have been classy, but R’ Tzvi’s sense of integrity ascertained that this real estate broker spent time and made efforts on their behalf and therefore should be compensated.
What a unique approach of dealing with others. Usually we can relate to appreciation only when it amounts to something tangible given or done for us. Conversely, not only did R’ Tzvi feel indebted to someone who tried to help him, but it was also for their own financial gain, not merely out of kindheartedness. Yet he did not differentiate; you extended yourself on my behalf, so I must show hakaras hatov, regardless of whether there was a beneficial outcome for me.
Perhaps R’ Tzvi didn’t do it out of thanks, but rather to prevent any possible ill will that could have been directed at him and his family. But this was a former neighbor; someone that they did not have to feel wary of as they moved into a new home. Either way, R’ Tzvi Hertz was clearly an individual that was prepared to go above and beyond when dealing with other people’s feelings.
The next time we’re tempted to haggle with a store clerk, or try to negotiate a bill, we should try to keep in mind that the other person is trying to make a living and not begrudge them any extra dollars we think we may be able to fight for. Isn’t someone else’s dignity worth something too?
I just wanted to end with an expression of hakoras hatov to the family whom displayed such a tremendous degree of composure in face of such tragedy. The manner with which they conduct themselves is truly inspiring and gives chizzuk to all those around them.
Umacha Hashem dimah m’al kol panim.