Rav Chaim Tzvi Hollander’s Major Question To Me That Took Many Years To Answer


Continuing from my previous Blog, I want to focus on one question that stands out in my mind from Rabbi Hollander that remained unanswered until a few years ago. This question was posed to me while learning with him during one of our study sessions.

Rabbi Hollander was very interested in not only teaching me but on occasion would pause and think about something that would be of interest to me personally. In this case, his comment was phrased in the form of a question which was as follows- Am I aware that some people with the family name Richter are Kohanim? He said he knew of one such family in Chicago.

His question came as a big surprise because I had never heard of any Richter family that were Kohanim. But this also was shocking because I once visited relatives in Chicago named Richter, but they never mentioned they were Kohanim. I then started to think what I must do to find out if there was a possibility this was true. And despite my efforts I could not come up with solid evidence that there were any relatives named Richter who were Kohanim.

One Shabbat Morning The Answer Arrived

A few years ago, as would happen often before the pandemic, our daughter Shani and husband BJ invited us to sleep over for Shabbat and spend quality time with their children. We loved coming to their house and receiving such a warm welcome with a special bonus hug and kiss for Safta and Zaidy.

They live very close to a Shul filled with Americans which accurately reflects who most of their neighbors are. But less than a few hundred meters or yards away, just across the main street running through their neighborhood on top of a small hill is a neighborhood mostly populated with very religious Israeli families, most of whom are Hasidim. In that neighborhood stands what I call the “Happy Shul”. That is because though I do not live there, everyone gives me a broad smile and treats me as one of the “Chevra”.

And because I wear my long black coat or as we call it a kapota, I feel right at home going to daven there Shabbat morning. On this Shabbat I was told there would be a big “Tish” in honor of a chasan who was to be married that week. So just as davening was about to finish, there was a sudden movement of tables and chairs to set up for the kiddush that was to follow. That is because many shuls here are not large enough to have an extra room devoted to functions such as a kiddush after davening and therefore the main shul is quickly converted into the same place where the kiddush is located.

I was invited to sit at a very long table where I soon found out the chasan was sitting. Some of the chasan’s friends and family began wanting to know who I was and those that understood English began listening. Kiddush had already been said many minutes prior to this and I began wondering when the Rav of the shul would begin speaking. As the minutes went by there was not any sign that a Rav would be speaking but many people began coming up to the chasan to wish Mazel Tov.

At the same time, as more men asked me questions, I noticed there was now almost a minyan listening to me speak while telling them from where I came and my experience while living in Crown Heights next to the Chabad Rebbe. It made me feel that instead of me coming to listen to the Rebbe speak at his Tish, that I was participating in a Tish where I was the speaker!

 And Then Hashem Arranged That I Receive The Answer To Rabbi Hollander’s Question

Suddenly someone came to me and confirmed that my last name was Richter. He pointed out a young man sitting at the other end of the table whose last name was also Richter. So, he called him over and we began speaking. He was dressed as a Hassid and my first reaction was that I did not think we were related.

But then in a split second that all changed because he had told me about his family living in America and that he was soon going to visit his grandfather who lives in Chicago. And then Rabbi Hollander’s question immediately popped up in my head and I said to him – Is Your Grandfather a Kohen and he answered YES!

Another Example That Hashem Constantly Is Watching Over Israel

 I could not believe what I was hearing and wanted to stay and ask many more questions to see if somehow, we were related. But the time was late, and I did not want to hold up Shani and BJ because by then I knew all our grandchildren were getting very hungry, so I bid my new friend goodbye and intended to contact him during the week as he said he learns in a Kollel during the week in that same shul.

On my way out I became very worried because if it does turn out that in fact, I am indeed a Kohen, that would affect not only myself but also my three boys and their male children. While I was thinking about all of this on my way out of shul, I was approached by a very friendly gentleman who gave me a warm greeting and thanked me repeatedly for taking time to participate in his family’s simcha.

At that moment I suddenly turned to him and asked if he knew the young man named Richter who was sitting at the same table as the chasan. He immediately answered yes and explained that man named Richter is his son-in-law and confirmed he knows the family very well.

I then said Richter told me he has a grandfather in Chicago who is a Kohen, and that worries me. He immediately told me to stop worrying because that family are NOT Kohanim and I asked him just how he knew. He immediately said that many years ago the family changed its name so today though they go by that name, Richter was not their original name. Therefore, I should have nothing to worry about regarding our family being Kohanim.

I am sorry I never had a chance to have discussed this with Rabbi Hollander. I am quite positive he would have been interested to hear my story.


About the Author
Born and raised in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park. Married to a South African, we lived in Johannesburg from 1979 to 1996. Made Aliyah with our seven children on Parshat Lech Lecha. BSB Accounting Degree from the University of Minnesota. Investment Portfolio Manager /Fundamental And Technical Analyst. Wrote in-depth research on companies, markets, commodities for leading financial publications. Served in the US Army Reserves Semi Retired spending quality time with my wife, children, grandchildren and attend Kollel while analyzing current events as they relate to Torah and Mitzvahs.
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