AS: You’ve captured so many facets of the Tosher Rebbe’s greatness. What went into writing this biography?
RYB: I live in Montreal, so I was able to go into the heart of Tosh, and the people close to the Rebbe opened up to me. Much of the historical material was documented, but the stories, the warmth, the heart of the book came from those close to him.
AS: The Rebbe was so saintly, yet he understood people’s everyday fears and challenges. How was he able to do that?
RYB: The Baal Shem Tov said that a neshamah comes down to this world for 70 or 80 years, just to do a tovah for another Yid. Because the Tosher Rebbe was such a chassid, all the taharah, Torah, tikun middos, perishus — they all led to helping others. He took a very pragmatic approach to shalom bayis. He was a big advocate of women having more cleaning help. He understood people’s needs davka because he was so holy, not despite being holy.
AS: There are so many stories in the book, about his chesed, his tzedakah, his vision, his berachos. Can you share one that made a strong impression on you?
RYB: Many wealthy people came and gave money to the Rebbe, because they were grateful to him for his help. But the money never stayed with him — he gave it to anyone who needed it. Once, a Yid came who was a maggid shiur; he was making a chasunah, and he didn’t have enough money. The Rebbe asked him what masechta he was learning. “Beiah.” The Rebbe asked him a question and they started speaking in learning. The gabbaim were surprised; the Rebbe didn’t usually do this. Then the Rebbe asked him about a Tosafos in Berachos that contradicted what they were discussing. As the man got up to leave, the Rebbe said, “Check the Tosafos in Berachos as soon as possible. Don’t wait, do it now. You’ll see I’m right.” There was a Shas in the waiting room. The man opened it, went to the Tosafos — and found a fat envelope full of cash! The Rebbe understood that his gabbaim wouldn’t want him give such a large amount to one person, so he found a way to use his learning and send the man the money. There are so many tzaddikim, and so many talmidei chachamim – the Rebbe merged both.