Of Blessed Memory

For many, the proximity of Reb Malka’s passing and our commemorating the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem did not go unnoticed. For many, the mourning over our historic loss in Jerusalem was carried over to our most recent loss at Tiferet.
For those of us who are “regulars” at Tiferet, we are very much aware that it has been a goodly number of months since Reb Malka was able to attend services. And even though Reb Malka’s absence has in no way gone unnoticed, there still has been any number of occasions when his spiritual presence has been warmly felt.
Personally speaking, from the very moment I arrived at Tiferet close to eight years ago, I was able to immediately recognize that Reb Malka was a godsend. I say this independent of the fact that Reb Malka was a prolific Torah reader and that Reb Malka’s ability to lead services at breakneck speed when confronted by limited time, was nothing short of miraculous.
It’s not hard to see that an individual of Reb Malka’s caliber, given his incredible knowledge as well as his phenomenal mastery of text, could easily have been a threat to any rabbi. Yet, because of Reb Malka’s temperament along with his humility, Reb Malka’s ego was such, that he never felt the need to prove himself to anyone. It was of no importance to Reb Malka whatsoever, to show others what he knew and to impress others with his knowledge. Reb Malka was far too focused on proving himself to HaShem! As such, ego was never an issue with Reb Malka, as it sadly all too often is when it comes to synagogue leadership. There was never any “one up man ship” or G-d forbid clash of personalities between Reb Malka and rabbinic leadership at Tiferet. From my point of view, I immediately felt certain magnetism towards Reb Malka, the very first time we met. I can only pray that Reb Malka was aware of that magnetism as well.
Reb Malka had an incredible sense of humor. I’m not sure that it came across all that often, nor am I sure that Reb Malka would have wanted it to, but there were more occasions that one could have imagined, where Reb Malka had me in stitches with his wit. Quite often, it was little more than an innuendo on Reb Malka’s part. It got to the point where, despite his Sephardic Moroccan background, I would go out of my way to purposely wish him a Gut Gebentshed Shabbos (a good and blessed Sabbath) in Yiddish, in that it hearkened back decades to when Reb Malka, newly arrived in Israel, found himself working alongside immigrants from eastern Europe. Needless to say, there was no common language available to them.
At the beginning of this article, I drew a parallel between Reb Malka’s passing and Tisha B’Av. Yet, the parallel is far from apt. Remembering Tisha B’v, we are suddenly aware of how very fragile the holy temple really was; remembering Reb Malka, we again become aware of how truly strong Tiferet remains, due in no small part to Reb Malka’s exemplary leadership.
May Reb Malka’s memory be an inspiration to us all.