The last time I was with Rabbi Leiberman was a few short months ago. I was dropping off my girls at their dorm and although stopping by was not really nessesary, I used it as an excuse to get together. And I am so glad I did. It will be a lasting memory that I will cherish forever.
It was a motzei shabbos, no one else was in the office. It was late, but not too late. As has become our custom, whenever I would pick something up, we would spend 15, 20 sometimes 30 minutes schmoozing.
Rabbi Leiberman, in my mind, was a busy man, large family, many responsibilities I'm sure. And I always questioned myself, how does he have the time for me. When he spoke to me, everything else seemed to stopped, even though I'm sure there was much to do. In a way, I felt bad, but in a selfish way, I wanted time alone with him and I got it. So we had our conversation/farbrengen, then he insists on walking me to my car, which was parked on Union. I felt rather uncomfortable. This man is my mentor, he's not old but he's a lot older then me, he's probably got a million things to do, especially that time of year... and here he is, insisting on walking me to my car and won't take no for an answer. (To be fair, I was walking with a cane after an ankle sprain, but still, I got to the house on my own. I didn't need the assistance. He didn't do anything physically to bring me to my car, but there he was, and there I was.) So at the car, I looked at him before I got in and said, "I need to ask you something that's been on my mind for a long time. I am your son Mendy's age. Why do you treat me like this. So kind, almost as if we are friends." He says, "we are". I said, "but you are so much older then me. I look up to you. I call you with questions and seek your guidance."
He tilts his head to the side, his signature smile and twinkle in his eyes on full display. He then said something I will never forget. "Treat everyone with respect and kindness. It doesn't matter the age". Our conversation continued for a while before I headed home to NJ.
I believe I had a unique and special relationship with Rabbi Leiberman.
Over the years, I would seek his advice, most of which is personal so I cannot share publicly. He had an amazing ability to custom fit his guidance into my personality and my situation.
I can still hear his voice in my head saying, "Mendy, don't do that.... It's not you. Do this instead."
I wish I could tell him how one piece of hadrocho that he gave me years ago, literally changed my entire approach in life in a particular area and doors have opened for me/us because of it. Well, actually, I don't have to tell him, he knows...
When I heard the news about his passing I didn't want to beleive it. I cried then as I cry now for the loss we all feel for this special man.
I feel for the family, I feel for his children, I feel for his wife, grandchildren, mechutanim, nephews, nieces, but also for all the people who will miss him so dearly. He treated us all like family. I hope we all find comfort and strength to overcome his loss.
May his memory be for a blessing.