It is hard to believe that a whole year has passed since the passing of the Hakham, Rabbi Yaa’qob Menashe. Indeed, many of us never imagined making it through a year without the Hakham’s advice, insights, Torah, teachings, and leadership. His passing has left a void in the hearts of so many, but his teachings continue to live on through the Torah he has disseminated through recorded shiurim and lectures, the ATorahMinute and NonStopTorah websites, and the books he has published on Halakhah and life events.
The Sixth of Av marked the year of his passing. To commemorate, a ceremony was held in Great Neck on Thursday night, attended by hundreds of people, whose lives were touched by the Hakham. It was remarkable to note how people knew the Hakham from so many different stages of his life, whether as young children growing up together in Bombay, as young men studying Torah and raising young families together, as congregants at Midrash Ben Ish Hai in Queens and Great Neck, as former students of the Midrash High School, and as people who attended the many lectures and singles events that the Hakham and his wife, the beloved Rabbanith a”h planned. All felt that their lives were touched and improved by the Hakham.
The program began with an address by Rabbi Avraham Kohan, Rabbi of Torah Ohr Hebrew Academy in Great Neck. He spoke about how when a person passes away, he leaves his family over in the world, and how his legacy is carried by future generations. Rabbi Menashe Manasseh, the Hakham’s only son, spoke next. He spoke about how the Hakham was a doer and an incredibly determined human being, and how he dedicated his life to the community (this was a conscious choice; as a young man the Hakham held a prestigious corporate position that he decided to leave to lead a life of Torah study and teaching, along with community service). He explained that the Hakham was deeply pained by the intermarriage and assimilation he saw in the Jewish community, and as a result, along with Rabbanith Ruth Menashe a”h, organized many successful singles events. When he saw that the Sefaradi heritage was being lost, and noticed that children were going to public school instead of yeshivot, he opened a high school to address these needs. The Hakham fervently believed that it was a requirement not only to learn Torah, but to also spread the words of the Torah and Halakhah. To that end, he would travel worldwide when asked to speak at organizations and events, even when it was inconvenient for him, and often without taking any compensation. It was this belief that also drove him to disseminate the daily TorahMinute emails, where he expounded on insights in Halakhah and Parashah. It was time-consuming and at times difficult, but the Hakham did this every day for years, because he knew how many people benefited from and relied on the Torah he shared.
Rabbi Ilan Meirov, Director and Spiritual Leader of Chazaq, spoke next. He recounted how, as a young boy, he was a regular member at Midrash Ben Ish Hai, attending prayers, joining as part of the Midrash Boys’ Choir, attending the Hakham’s Torah shiurim, and classes teaching boys how to lead prayers. He explained how it was always clear how passionate the Hakham was about maintaining the Sefaradi heritage. Rabbi Meirov recounted that as a young child, he did not always understand why the Hakham was so dedicated to this goal, but now sees it as critical, and it is an integral part of the work with which Chazaq is involved.
David Mottahedeh, representing the close family bond shared by the Mottahedeh and Menashe families, expanded on the Hakham’s greatness by noting how the Hakham was consistent in what he did and how he acted. David likened the Hakham’s consistency to the Korban Tamid. Indeed, we learn that the entire Torah is encapsulated by the pasuq that speaks about the Korban Tamid, teaching us the value of consistency, just as the Korban Tamid was there, every morning and night. Consistency was a trait that the Hakham displayed throughout his life. While times and communities change, the Hakham remained steadfast to his mesorah and traditions, keeping his legacy, pronunciation, and tunes, and teaching them to the next generation.
Siyumim were made by the Hakahm’s family as well, with his grandsons, Chaim and Mordechai Werzberger, and their father making a siyum on Pirkei Aboth. Representing his family, Zev Werzberger expressed his appreciation for his father-in-law, the Hakham, for the tremendous positive impact he had on him and his family. The Hakham’s son-in-law, Guy Shoshan, made a siyum on Masekheth Bezah, and explained that when he previously made a siyum for the Rabbanith’s iluy neshamah, the Hakham was so grateful, thanking Guy on the day of the siyum and then texting him the next day to once again express his appreciation. The siyum carried extra meaning, knowing how much such siyumim meant to the Hakham in the past.
At the conclusion of the program, the newly released A Torah Minute Book, A Torah Minute: A Legacy of Torah Gems and Practical Laws (Volume 5), was given to members of the audience. This book, published in time for the Hakham’s first yahrzeit, was the book that the Hakham was actively working on prior to his passing. Dr. Robert Rahmani, whose generous sponsorship brought the book’s publication to fruition, spoke about treating the Hakham and visiting him daily when he was hospitalized with COVID. He shared with the audience how important it was for the Hakham to be home for the Seder for Pesah, and how hard he fought to get better.
A video tribute was shared with friends of Midrash Ben Ish Hai following the event, offering a glimpse into the Hakham’s family life, values, and mission. The hundreds of people who remember the Hakham with love speak about how cared for and accepted they felt by him, as well as thousands whose religious practices were enriched by the Hakham’s teachings and who carry on their heritage with pride, are a testament to the Hakham’s legacy. May his memory be a blessing.
To view the tribute video, visit, www.nonstoptorah.com/2021/07/15/rabbi-yaaqob-menashe-moving-12-month-tribute-video-presentation/.
To purchase A Torah Minute: A Legacy of Torah Gems and Practical Laws (Volume 5) by Rabbi Ya’aqob Menashe, please contact Midrash Ben Ish Hai at 516-487-6676 or visit www.midrash.org.