A Journey of Twenty Years with R. Dovid Steinberg
The first time I opened a Talmud was with Rabbi Dovid. Even years before his encounter with academic Bible, he always made space for me to argue points that I disagreed with. I became hooked on Torah study.
About 20 years ago, I met Rabbi Dovid Steinberg. I was in my late 50s and had already served as the president of a Conservative synagogue on Long Island, and at the time I was the Ritual Vice President. My youngest son was enrolled in a Solomon Schechter day school and was learning more about Jewish history and practices than I ever learned. I decided I needed to find more Jewish education.
I saw a flyer from the Mesorah Center in Huntington, which I had never heard of, advertising a Jewish lecture in Oyster Bay, Long Island, on a Sunday morning with Rabbi Steinberg. After the lecture, as I was leaving, Rabbi Steinberg approached me and asked about my background. He offered to come to my home and give a class to my friends in my community. I agreed, and he came and spoke to my group. Unfortunately, I was the only one there who was looking for more. He then offered to meet me weekly and learn together. What followed changed my life.
Week in, week out, we met at the Young Israel in Huntington, and for the first time I was exposed to Talmud. He opened a tractate that was totally in Hebrew and Aramaic and started translating. The following week I brought an ArtScroll version of that tractate that had an English translation so I could follow along.
During this period, I met Rabbi Steinberg’s family. My wife and I felt like grandparents with his children. Like all grandparents, when we visited with them we always brought gifts. We were invited to their home for Shabbos dinner but declined because there was not a lot of room for guests. We suggested that they come to our home for Shabbos. Even though we kept Kosher, the Steinbergs’ visit to our house was difficult. They insisted that all food be prepared in their kitchen, so my wife went to assist. They arrived at our home before Shabbos carrying enough food for Friday and Saturday’s meals.
The “trouble” didn’t end there. Our refrigerator had a light that went on when you opened the door. We had to turn on our old fridge in the basement because the bulb inside could easily be removed. I also learned about a blech. This metal tray was placed on top of my stove. I’m still not sure of its purpose. Shabbos morning I drove to shul, but Rabbi Steinberg declined to join. After praying at home, he walked over with two of his boys for Kiddush.
We learned together for several years until the Steinbergs moved to Passaic, New Jersey, in the summer of 2007. When Rabbi Steinberg left, I wrote him the following email:
Dear Rabbi Dovid,
I wanted to let you know how much I will miss our study time together. You have introduced me to many texts that I had never read. You have shown me how to study Mishna and Gemara. You have opened my eyes to many Jewish rituals and practices.
Since meeting you I have taken advantage of many sources of Jewish study which I would then discuss with you. Your knowledge of the subjects would always amaze me. Though our practices of Judaism are different, you never made me feel less Jewish because I didn’t do all that you do. You would always allow me to argue points during learning that I disagreed with. You got me hooked on study.
I want to wish you and your family a healthy and happy summer. Thank you for all your teaching. May you go from strength to strength.
Over the years, we kept in touch, and I have followed Rabbi Steinberg’s journey from Aish HaTorah to TheTorah.com with amazement. It hasn’t been an easy one.
In large part thanks to Rabbi Steinberg, my wife and I have continued our learning. We attended LimmudNY for 13 years, and I also kept learning Gemara with a Chabad rabbi. After 15 or more years of learning, I now lead “Torah Talk with Bill” at my local synagogue every week, and I often use material from TheTorah.com.
With gratitude for twenty years of learning and friendship,
Bill (and Susan) Friedlieb
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Bill Friedlieb is a retired NYPD Deputy Inspector. Over his 35 years as a member of Congregation Tifereth Israel (CTI), Glen Cove, NY, Bill has been an educator on many levels. He served as President, Treasurer, Ritual Chair, head of the Cemetery committee and teacher of a weekly Torah Talk study class.