CHIEF RABBI, HACHAM SHAUL KASSIN 5681 – 5779 / 1921-2018

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By: Jack R. Avital

I would like to express my thoughts, feelings, and experiences with the Spiritual Leader of my community for the past 25 years, Chief Rabbi Shaul J. Kassin, zt”l. Baruch Hashem, throughout all these years, I had the privilege and honor to develop a close relationship with many of the great sages and Chief Rabbis of Israel. It was a blessing for me and my family to create a close bond with Torah Giants such as Hacham Ovadia Yosef, zt”l, Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, zt”l, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Shalom Messas, zt”l, the great Mekubal and Tzaddik Rabbi Kadouri, zt”l, Chief Rabbi Bakhshi Doron, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, and many others. Whenever they came to this country, I was fortunate to be chosen to host them, and whenever I was in Israel, they hosted me as a close member of their family. 

Similarly, I was very close with Chief Rabbi Shaul Kassin and spent an enormous time with him, and got to know him very well both as a Rabbi and on a personal basis. It is very difficult to describe the holiness, the purity, the humility, the ethical behavior, and the gentle and kind conduct of Chief Rabbi Shaul Kassin with Jews and gentiles alike. I know with certainty, that Chief Rabbi Kassin can be placed on the same level of righteousness as the above Chief Rabbis. 

The great sage Ramban asked the following question: Why is Sefer Bereshit included in the Torah? After all, the Torah is supposed to teach us the 613 mitzvot (commandments) a Jew is supposed to adhere to and observe properly; so why the stories of our patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? He answers that the Torah wants us to learn from the middot (virtues, qualities) and ethical behavior of our patriarch before we study the Torah. The middot, says the Ramban, are a prerequisite for Torah study. A great Rabbi must first and foremost perfect his behavior and conduct with others prior to his expertise in Torah study; and when it comes to good virtues, Chief Rabbi Shaul Kassin was a towering figure. His gentle personality, his soft and sweet words, his calm and composed arguments would convince even tough people to return to true Torah and mitzvot. Chief Rabbi Shaul Kassin will always be remembered as a model of great middot in our community for us and for future generations.

As part of my close association with Chief Rabbi Shaul Kassin, I introduced him to several Heads of State such as Presidents, Kings, Prime Ministers, and others. All of them were impressed with his wisdom, his noble personality, his kindness, and sincerity, and as such they gave him the highest respect, as if he were a Head of State. Chief Rabbi Shaul Kassin, was blessed with the ability to leave a warm feeling and a sense of dignity and graciousness. Despite his high position of leadership, he was there for anyone that asked for his help, regardless of the status of the person, regardless of the situation, regardless of time of day.

The Kassin family spans over 500 years of unbroken scholarship and leadership, forming a dynasty which can be compared to the great Jewish dynasties of Eastern Europe. Since 1540, there were both lay and religious leaders who devoted their time for the benefit of the community. In some cases, there was poverty in the Kassin family, yet it did not deter them from seeking to teach, guide, and develop a community based on high standards of piety, modesty, and observance of our mitzvot. Chief Rabbi Shaul Kassin, followed that same path of giving himself entirely for the welfare of the community regardless of any hardship or sacrifice involved, and solely for one objective: to develop a community that would [and did] become a world success story. In that, his father and Rabbi Kassin succeeded with great honor.

Hacham Kassin’s departure from this world left a great void in the hearts of the whole community. It is incumbent upon all of us to continue his legacy: to adopt a behavior of humility, kindness, and strong inclination to help others; to emphasize respect, reverence and observance of our mitzvot and traditions; to be kind to others, to do whatever possible to help in the development of the community.  These are the middot he lived for, and these are the middot his offspring and all of us should follow.