Some people are so big, yet are so humble, that there is nothing said about them. That is how I felt when I read the announcement about Chaim Meir’s untimely passing. It said, Rabbi Chaim Meir Lieberman, a resident of Crown Heights and member of the Vaad of Tzach, passed away 26 Kislev, 5781. He is survived by his wife Sara and children. Just a resident? Just a member of Tzach? Just a father? Just a husband? If you just read some of the comments you will see that everyone knew what a giant of a man Chaim Meir was. Everyone knew he was not ‘just’ in any way.
In 1979 I was a swan (woman private) in the South African Navy. I needed a Kashrus booklet and called Chabad in Cape Town. Chaim Meir answered the call. After basic training I spent a few shabbosim with Chaim Meir and Sara before they moved back to Crown Heights. A year later I landed at Kennedy airport to begin my new life move – a Lubavitcher! I walked into the airport to get my luggage, and Chaim Meir was waiting for me on the other side of the baggage carousel. I had not even told the Liebermans when I was arriving! I moved to Machon Chana Dormitory in Crown Heights and was welcomed into the Lieberman home with open arms.
Shabbos and Yom Tov meals, listening to the Rebbe’s farbrengens in Sara’s kitchen with her, and feeling the warmth of this special family was a treat which I appreciated immensely. Far from home, far from family, the Liebermans became our family. Sara and Chaim Meir were the ultimate role models. Caring, love and generosity flowed from both of them. They were at our wedding and hosted a sheva brochos for us. We moved away, but whenever we came into town, we always spent an afternoon at Sara’s kitchen table, sharing our life’s journeys. Chaim Meir always expressed a genuine interest in where and what we were doing, being a voice of reason, balance and sensibility in some of our difficult decisions. Sara and Chaim Meir made a special effort to be at many of our L’Chaims, held in Crown Heights. One of my children’s weddings was in Crown Heights. Despite having a full house, Chaim Meir and Sara insisted that we stay with them, notwithstanding renovations going on in the basement where we slept. Their hachnosas Orchim was truly magnificent.
The pinnacle of our relationship with the Lieberman’s occurred 4 years ago, when my daughter Shevy married Roovy Shapiro, son of Susan and Aaron Shapiro from San Diego, formally of Cape Town. During my navy days, the Shapiro’s and I had spent many Shabbosim together in the Lieberman home and became good friends until we parted our separate ways. 35 years later, Hashem saw fit to pair our children together, and we merited to have the L’Chaim in Chaim Meir and Sara’s home.
The greatest gift was discovering the morning of the chassonah that Chaim Meir was on a plane to Pittsburgh to be at the wedding. We have so many beautiful pictures and memories of that beautiful time together.
My heart is broken. I will miss Chaim Meir very much. Just knowing he was there was very settling and stable for me. I know I am only one of many, many people who feel the same way. Knowing Chaim Meir has made me a better person, and I aspire to be more caring, more generous, more engaged, more sensitive, more loving, more forgiving, more attentive just as I learned in his house, watching his interactions with his family and friends.
May his memory be for a huge blessing.
My heart is with you, Sara. May Hashem comfort you and your beautiful family just as He comforts the other mourners in Tzion and Yerushalayim. May He bless you all with long life and simcha.
The pictures are from Shevy and Roovy's wedding. What a zechus to have had Chaim Meir with us!