In Memory of Robert Sandler zt”l – An Inspiration to Us All
Robert Sandler passed away this Tuesday, October 12, 2004, the 27th of Tishrei, 5765. He was a young man, recently married, and had not reached 30 years of age. He dedicated years of his life to Torah study, and took this activity seriously. Robert was a kind, sensitive, pleasurable and understanding individual. I wish to make you all aware of Robert, sharing with you a very paraphrased glimpse into his character and perfections as I recall the best I can of the sentiments expressed by his many Rabbis and friends today:
Guy Tzadik: Robert was my brother in law. He was deeply brilliant and intellectually honest. He possessed the rare ability to attach himself to the 'idea', and not the self. When hearing another person's view, all that mattered to him was whether it was true, despite the fact that he did not originate the thought. He attached himself to the truth of others, as if it was his own. Originating the idea played no role in his value system. But he also respected individuals, never confronting anyone. He was concerned about people's feelings, to the point that even when he disagreed with others, he did so without rupturing their egos. He had no need to "show he was right". The self was never his concern, unless it was the 'self' of others, in which case he handled people's feeling delicately, and with genuine concern.
Robert was liked by all. He was extremely pleasant, and never burdened anyone with his own problems. He also never expected anything in return. He had the quality of always meaning what he said, "he was not "Echad b'Peh v'Echad b'Lave", two faced.
I will eternally miss his frequent Shabbos visits to my home, meals shared together, and most of all, working out ideas in Torah and life. He was someone I enjoyed just being with and talking to about my own issues. He was of my closest friends, my closest brother-in-law, he was my daughters favorite uncle. I feel that part of me was buried with him. There are simply no stories or words to describe this tragedy. I hope the family will have nachama.
Guy - Brother-In Law
Rabbi Israel Chait: We all feel the great tragedy and loss of Robert’s passing. Robert loved learning. He was a simple and humble person. We mourn not only what he was, but also what he could have been with an even a longer life. Unlike Job, of whom G-d told Satan to take control of all of him except for his life, this injunction was not applied to Robert - even Robert’s life was subjected to the Angel of Death: it came quickly, like a thief in the night. Robert was niftar (passed away) at a young age by the Avone HaDor (the sin of the generation).
Job was referred to as one who was “Tam v’Yashar v’Yiray Elokim, v’Sur may-Ra”, “a simple soul and upright, who fears G-d and avoids evil.” This was Robert. He loved learning Torah and led a life of Torah.
Rabbi Reuven Mann: Many people strive for knowledge and Torah. With knowledge, many can even see the faults that people possess. However, the greater challenge is to see one’s own faults, to accept them, to work on removing them, and to overcome them. Few individuals are totally honest about themselves. I worked with Robert, addressing his concerns, as we all have in our lives. I witnessed in him an unusual strength and courage to discover truths about himself, and to apply these truths in action.
Rabbi Chaim Ozer Chait: While dorming in yeshiva at Michmas, Israel, Robert exemplified a gentle spirit, never speaking bad about anyone, even at the early age at 15, and even when dorm life usually evokes friction among peers in tight-knit living quarters. Robert was unaffected by his environment, and remained true to the proper character of a Ben Torah.
Rabbi David Markowitz: Robert was a sincere and loving person. He looked at his wife with the same love as he did when they dated years earlier. He enjoyed learning, and possessed a very quick mind. When we learned together, I was amazed at his ability to instantly think of insights immediately after reading a Gemara.
Robert was very humble. Upon his inclusion into the Law Review, he said there must have been a mistake - and he was not displaying a false humility. He sincerely felt that some error was made. You would never know Robert was in the room until he spoke up. He sought no fanfare. Robert was once asked to speak to a crowd of co-workers at his office where I also worked, and as such a simple person, I didn’t know how he would handle it. But when he spoke, he was so articulate and intelligent.
Robert genuinely appreciated thought, and was a true “adam”, a true man - he was attached to what matters most, to learning, and he lived this way.
Rabbi Howard Bald: Robert sought admission to the high school where I was the director. I usually tested students after I interviewed them. I recall Robert’s humility as he said to me, “What can you test me on, I don’t know anything yet? I am here because I want to learn.”
Watching Robert child grow, his parents derived much Nachas (satisfaction and joy) from how their son developed into such a fine person. I too parallel this Nachas, although form afar, as I witnessed Robert become what he was, a true Ohave Torah. His desire to learn and discuss ideas, and then review them until they were clear to him kept me attentive on Shabbos, times when I would normally relax. His desire to learn was a pleasure to me.
Rabbi Zev Farber: Robert enjoyed making people of all ages laugh. He could go on for long sessions simply desiring to entertain others with his creative wit, and he would even play with my daughter for an hour, getting her equally amused. He truly loved people. On many USY bus trips together, Robert would amuse us all, what I feel is a sign of one who truly loves others. He was my best friend. I will miss the intelligent exchanges in social ideas, and our initiation together in Talmudic study. Without Robert around, everything in my life will be compromised.
Mordy Lahasky: Robert was a very pleasant person. Robert was also very compliant, and simply went with the flow. He was very accommodating, and never imposed his will on others. His love for others was unmatched. People are not born this way; his parents must have raised him in such a perfected manner, that Robert had such sincere care and passion for others. His parents should be proud, very proud of Robert.
Moshe Ben-Chaim: I knew Robert for many years as a fellow student. All of the Rabbis and friends who I have recorded from today’s funeral depicted the Robert I knew, but they also taught me things I was not aware of. I too will share with all of you an incident that took place just two months ago.
One evening I was traveling home on the train, and I saw Robert in the distance as we boarded, he did not see me at that moment, and I did not approach him, and I simply sat down to rest. Later, during the train ride, from behind me, I heard a familiar voice saying “hi”. I turned, and Robert was sitting right behind me. We had a pleasant conversation, and then a topic came up where I wanted to get in touch with someone, and Robert knew this person. Without hesitation, he pulled out his cell phone and called his wife Yafit to obtain the phone number of this person. A minute later, I had the number. I thanked him.
Robert did not have to interrupt his ride and relaxation time after a day in the City, as I poorly exemplified, but he wished first - to recognize me, and second, like Rebecca at the well, to inquire of my welfare and sought to determine how could help me in any way, and then proceeded to do so with zeal. I learned that Robert was the type of person who derived satisfaction from the happiness he could bring to others: “Vahavta Ray-Acha Camocha”, “Love your friend like yourself”. This is how Hillel summed up the Torah’s philosophy. Robert demonstrated this genuinely, with no interest in reciprocation – he acted this way by nature. Who is like this today?
Robert was a very patient and kind soul, and had a very subtle, intelligent, clever and effective manner in which he brought smiles to everyone. I also recall his precision and in-depth remarks and svaros (theories) in many classes we attended together under our Rabbis.
He exemplified par excellence, the most prized of the four types of personalities recorded in Pirkei Avos: slow to anger and easily appeased. I never saw him angry, and I can tell that even if he ever got slightly offended, he would be appeased even before being approached by those who might have slighted him. Such a character as Robert should be taken to heart. For with our duplication of his midos, his perfected character, much harmony will follow.
We may learn from people in their lifetimes, but as I discovered today, we can also learn even more from them after they have passed. Robert has certainly left an indelible impression on me, and in the minds and hearts of all those with whom he came in contact, one which we all will share with others.
I thank Rabbi Howard Burstein for helping recall these eulogies. He took a few moments with me at my request to remind me of what I omitted. I apologize if I misquoted anyone, or left out any sentiments expressed today. I wish to you, Yafit, Robert’s wife, and Robert’s parents, family, and friends, that you are all comforted among the rest of the mourner’s of Zion and Jerusalem.
I invite anyone who wishes, to email your memories, thoughts or sentiments of Robert so we may include them for others to read in next week’s issue: firstname.lastname@example.org