Rebbetzin Finkel was the wife of Rav Yitzchok Finkel, veteran mechanech who served for many decades as a rebbi and as the menahel of the yeshiva ketana at Yeshiva Torah Temimah in Brooklyn, NY. Rav Yitzchok was in shul at the time of the incident. The Finkels had arrived in Eretz Yisroel last Tuesday.
Rebbetzin Finkel was born in Mir, Lithuania, to her parents, Rav Yosef Dovid and Rebbetzin Shaina Itta Epstein zt”l. Rav Yosef Dovid was a respected member of the Mir Yeshiva, where he maintained an especially close relationship with the rosh yeshiva, Rav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel zt”l, and was the mazkir, or secretary, of the yeshiva. The Epstein family spent the war years with the Mir Yeshiva in Shanghai and ultimately made their way to American shores, residing in Williamsburg.
Rav and Rebbetzin Finkel married in 1957 and settled in Lakewood, NJ, where Rav Yitzchok learned at Bais Medrash Govoah under Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l. Five years later, they moved to Boro Park.
Rebbetzin Finkel was well-known for her many acts of chesed, including founding and managing Ezer Halbasha L’yeled, an organization that provides clothing for those in need. Rebbetzin Finkel personally sorted through the many articles of clothing and funds were raised to sustain this chesed undertaking. “She put her life into it,” a relative related.
The initiative began following the petirah of Rebbetzin Finkel’s mother, l’illui nishmasah. The project started with a few articles of clothing. Over the past 28 years, it has expanded to a yearly shipment of three 20-foot containers, with over 1,000 egg boxes of clothes, servicing over 9,200 children.
Rav and Rebbetzin Finkel would visit Eretz Yisroel each year to follow-up on their efforts, to observe how the project was operating, and to see if there was any way they could improve the chesed endeavor they were spearheading.
Rav Shmuel Tzvi and Rebbetzin Raizel Fried of Yerushalayim knew Rebbetzin Finkel for close to thirty years.
“There is no one like these people,” Rebbetzin Fried, who is a daughter of Rav Yisroel Grossman zt”l, rosh yeshiva of Pinsk-Karlin, said of the Finkels.
Rebbetzin Fried was Rebbetzin Finkel’s liaison, running the Ezer Halbasha L’yeled operation in Eretz Yisroel.
“She was moser nefesh for this chesed, and Rav Yitzchok worked with her yad beyad,” said Rebbetzin Fried. “Remarkably, all the clothes they sent here were already checked for shatnez. They spent thousands of dollars doing so, making sure that the garments were ready to be worn by the recipients. When they asked rabbonim if perhaps that money should be used instead to purchase additional clothing, they were told, ‘No.’ They had been doing the correct thing by ensuring that the clothes were shatnez-free and ready for wear.”
This past Shabbos, after attending a shiur, Rebbetzin Fried accompanied Rebbetzin Finkel to the steps leading to her apartment. Nearby is a Vizhnitzer shul, where Rav Finkel had gone to learn a bit earlier. When he emerged to ask his wife if he should daven Minchah elsewhere so that they could eat seudah shlishis or if he should return to the Vizhnitzer shul to continue learning and then daven Minchah there a bit later, Rebbetzin Finkel instructed her husband, “Gey zitz un lern! Go learn!”
Those were the last words she would utter to her devoted husband. “Gey lern.”
“This was so apropos,” remarked Rebbetzin Fried. “Everything in her life was about Torah, and avodah, and gemillus chassodim. All she wanted was for her husband to go back to learn Torah.”
She was supremely devoted to her children and grandchildren. “One of the reasons she came to Eretz Yisroel each year was to daven for her mishpachah,” Rebbetzin Fried said. “This meant so much to her.”
Rav Fried, who is a respected dayan in Yerushalayim, said that he was always amazed not only by Rebbetzin Finkel’s ehrlichkeit and attention to detail, but her simplicity, humility and modesty.
“Her whole life, she ran from kavod,” he said. “Now she deserves to receive the respect that should have been accorded her all the years by highlighting what a tzadeikes she was. She was an ishah kesheirah who was oseh retzon baalah. She was a chad bedara, singular in her generation.”
Rav Fried also recalled the unbelievable kibbud av that Rebbetzin Finkel displayed for her father. “I never saw anything like it,” he said.
At the levayah, Rav Fried quoted the well-known Gemara which asks, “Esther min haTorah minayin? Where is Esther mentioned in the Torah? V’Anochi hastir astir…” He went on to state that Rebbetzin Esther Finkel lived her life in a hidden fashion, shunning all attention or credit and seeking only to help others and create nachas for the Ribono Shel Olam.
“Her life was chessed — aTorahdike chesed,” said Rav Fried, who also spoke of her punctiliousness in mitzvah observance. She demonstrated zehirus in tefillah and other aspects of avodas Hashem. She possessed remarkable knowledge of halachah and lived her every day with that awareness. She maintained a wonderful sense of simchas hachaim and served as the consummate eizer kenegdo, supporting her husband’s chinuch endeavors and raising a beautiful family of bnei and bnos Torah together with him.
Rebbetzin Finkel had mentioned to Rebbetzin Fried that she would like to visit both the Kosel and the kever of the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh, whose yahrtzeit was Sunday. The tight security measures implemented in Yerushalayim had made these visits impossible. Heaven ordained otherwise, however. At Rebbetzin Finkel’s levayah, the usual route from the Shamgar Bais Halevayos to Har Hazeisim had to be rerouted. The new route entered the Old City through Shaar Yaffo, passing the Kosel and then the kever of the Ohr Hachaim on the way to the kevurah. Rebbetzin Finkel merited being buried within hours of her passing.
For security reasons, the levayah and hespeidim were abbreviated. Hespeidim were delivered by her husband, Rav Yitzchok; by a grandson, Rabbi Avrohom Tevlovits; and by Rav Shmuel Tzvi Fried.
Rebbetzin Finkel is survived by her husband, Rav Yitzchok; her brother, Rav Chaim Epstein, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Zichron Meilich in Brooklyn; her children, Rabbi and Mrs. Tzvi Tevlovits, Rabbi and Mrs. Moshe Chaim Pollak, Rabbi and Mrs. Avrohom Zalman Finkel, and Rabbi and Mrs. Shmuel Aryeh Kaplan; and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Yehi zichrah boruch.