Stories & Memories of Rabbi Chaim Meir Lieberman

By: Bella December 20

Memories of Rabbi Chaim Lieberman, Zatsal

To the family of Rav Chaim Lieberman, Zatsal,

I was shocked and terribly saddened when I saw an email on December 14th, in the middle of the night, regarding the untimely passing of your husband, father, and grandfather.

I'm sorry I could not write you during the Shiva as I was preparing lengthy research reports for my semi-weekly Gemara Shiur, using the Sforim and reference books I had bought from Rabbi Lieberman.

On December 8th, I copied Rabbi Lieberman on one of these reports, which discussed features of the Hebrew Steinsaltz - Masekhet Bava Kamma that I recently bought from him. Since a friend wrote me that Rabbi Lieberman was admitted to the hospital 10 days before his petirah, I wonder whether he was able to read that email.

I might have found a couple of minutes to write a quick note of condolence last week, but that is not my way: I either do something thoroughly or not at all. I wanted to share the many memories I have of Rabbi Lieberman--some very recent.

As a Librarian at YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, I cataloged the library of the late Max Weinreich, an expert on Yiddish linguistics. I started to emulate his practice of writing where and when he had bought each book.

In a recent Gemara Shiur, when we reviewed the commentary of the Steipler Gaon, the Rabbi told us to check an unfamiliar abbreviation in Otsar Roshei Teivot, a book I bought from Rabbi Lieberman. I submitted the answer on December 15th.

In a Parsha Shiur on December 10th, the Rabbi discussed the term Ish Matsliach. The next day I wrote him that I own a Tikkun Kor'im with that title; I bought it from Rabbi Lieberman.

On December 13th, a friend wrote me that he had been video-chatting with his son and daughter-in-law, who were lighting the Chanukah Menorah that I had bought them as a wedding gift. Rabbi Lieberman helped me find the Menorah with a modern design, which the couple loves.

A few months ago, I asked Rabbi Lieberman to send a Yiddish dictionary to a nephew who is trying to master that language. I learned that Rabbi Lieberman was a native speaker, as I am. In a Shiur on Parshas Bereishis, my Rabbi discussed the meaning of Lemekhl in Yiddish. Rabbi L. had a different interpretation, and even knew the feminine form, Lemishke. I shared this information with an expert on Yiddish.

For about 18 years, I have been buying a volume of the Steinsaltz Hebrew Talmud from Rabbi Lieberman each time my Rabbi begins teaching a new Masekhta. Rabbi L's warehouse was down the block from the home of my daughter and son-in-law. Once he dropped off a Masekhta at their house, and they delivered it to me.

One of the shuls my kids attend is Congregation Kol Israel. A couple of years ago, Rabbi Lieberman and his wife, she-tibadeil le-chayim, walked over to CKI to attend a Kiddush I had sponsored. I was honored.

Rabbi Lieberman was a true Yodeia' Sefer. I offer libraries as wedding gifts to my learned nephews. The lists they submitted often contained esoteric titles. Rabbi L. always knew which titles were available, and in which editions.

His knowledge of books was not limited to Sforim. For the wedding of my Rabbi's son in January, I offered the couple books. The Kallah requested a book on Jewish feminism, and Rabbi Lieberman was able to supply it.

The wedding of my niece is scheduled for next month, be-'ezrat ha-Shem. I was planning to offer the couple Sforim and to order them from Rabbi L. I'll have to find another dealer, unless one of his children will continue the business. If so, please let me know.

Some early memories: After my parents and in-laws passed away, I ordered a Torah scroll to be written in Israel. Rabbi L. supplied the 'atzei chayim and the mantl.

Since I taught Hebrew cataloging, Rabbi L. consulted me about the organization of his book business.

He was so modest: although he had Smichah, he always signed his emails "Chaim M." In contrast, he always addressed me as "Dr. Weinberg."

I guess he will be supplying Sforim to the Talmidei Chachomim in Gan Eyden.

Min ha-Shamayim Tenuchamu.

Bella Hass Weinberg

cell: 917-797-3260

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