It is hard, almost impossible, to get used to the idea of adding z”l (ob”m) to the name Rabbi Daniel Beller.
Just two years ago we were standing in front of him under the chuppah, surrounded by our families and friends who had joined to celebrate in our simcha. With his classic smile from ear to ear, and with hundreds of people listening intently (not a given at an Israeli wedding), it was clear that Rabbi Beller was kvelling as much as our parents at our happiness, and at the part that he had played in bringing Maya and I together.
“I have been zoche to a balata in shamayim” (privileged to a place in heaven) he said as his began his remarks. He spoke about the power of the months of Nissan, in how G-d intervenes in the natural order of things.
Last week his words eerily resonated when we learned of his passing just before Pesach.
He played an influential part my family’s life since we made aliyah to Israel. He was the ‘gingy’ who came to my secular middle school and high school to talk to bewildered teens about this thing called “Judaism” and why it might be relevant to them. He was the rabbi who ran around Shivtei Yisrael on Shabbat and chag, making sure everyone had a seat, opening a siddur and offering welcoming words and guidance for any obvious non-regular visitor to the shul. He was the rabbi who spoke equally to religious and secular students in the Argov Program at IDC, challenging each to explore their own heritage, and deriving his own pleasure in the academic discussions and arguments with students in class.
He was a man who lived his life with a devout love for Am Yisrael, who taught with profound knowledge, and led by personal example. His ability to engage and educate though conscious and relevant Jewish thinking while acting or impersonating a perfect South African accent or celebratory figure is what truly made him everyone’s rabbi.
He met people where they were and opened the door to a Judaism that they could relate to, engage with, and adopt as their own. With all that he did throughout his life, Rabbi Beller was zoche to his balata in shamayim well before our wedding, and I was zoche to be a fragment in the mosaic of people he touched throughout his life.
His memory is not only a blessing, it is the philosophy of a true Tzadik, a pious and righteous man, who devoted himself fully to Israel and the Jewish people. His spirit lives on in the inspiration that he blessed our world with. His legacy will continue to guide the thousands upon thousands of individuals that he touched throughout his life simply by being Rabbi Beller.