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Through his own pain and difficulties, and his genuine love for everyone, Rabbi Wallerstein illuminated our own path to building a relationship with God.
It's hard for me to accept that we have lost Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, a great man who was in the trenches with so many of us as we navigated teenage or young adult life. For years, while I was single, I went to Rabbi Wallerstein's Wednesday night class at Ohr Naava. Each week, Rabbi Wallerstein spoke about something timely and relevant.
From cell phone addiction to soda addiction, from dating to drugs, Rabbi Wallerstein spoke with a candor that was direct yet always respectful, and a tone that was exactly as harsh or as soft as it needed to be. He reached us by sharing his own personal challenges and letting us know that he empathized because of what he had gone through. Whether it was his struggles with listening to inappropriate music, coming to terms with bad things happening to good people, or dealing with the pain of his grandmother with Alzheimer's not recognizing him, he let us know that he was human and he understood.
Through his own pain and difficulties, more likely because of them, Rabbi Wallerstein was able to illuminate our own path to building a relationship with God.
During those years when I struggled with my own issues that felt so heavy and painful, I learned from Rabbi Wallerstein how to have a connection with God through and with my anger, confusion or worry. Rabbi Wallerstein taught me so much from his openness, deep understanding and compassion for teens and young adults. And I learned many more things from him indirectly that I continue to implement in my life. The impact he has had on me is so hard to quantify because it is so all-encompassing.
Because of Rabbi Wallerstein, I reevaluated and worked on my relationship with God for years while I searched for my soul mate.
Because of Rabbi Wallerstein, I quickly recognized that someone I was dating didn't have the same life goals as I did, and that our relationship would be doomed if it continued.
Because of Rabbi Wallerstein, I realized that I needed to make sure that a prospective husband truly prioritized Judaism and wasn't just going through the motions.
Because of Rabbi Wallerstein, when I sat with my own grandmother suffering from Alzheimer's, unable to recognize me, I remembered he had experienced this and I felt a tiny measure of comfort.
Because of Rabbi Wallerstein, when I find myself in a strange place, stranded at a pit stop I didn't expect, I choose to recognize that there must be a reason I am here and strive to create something positive out of every experience.
Because of Rabbi Wallerstein, I learned that God yearns to have a relationship with me, so every night I verbally thank Him and tell Him that I love Him.
Had it not been for Rabbi Wallerstein I would not be the person I am today. I would not have the life and family that I have now, nor the Jewish values and principles that guide my life.
Rabbi Wallerstein's delivery always had a certain resolute, brook-no-argument tone that was layered in care, concern and genuine love for the Jewish people. You could sense it emanating from his entire being. I have no doubt that his soul will beseech on our behalf, with the same vigor, determination and firmness, for our ultimate redemption. May it come speedily, in our days.