You are righteous, O Lord
And all your deeds are just;
All your ways are mercy and truth;
You are the Judge of the world.
(Book of Tobit 3:2)
As the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies and the Master’s Program in Jewish-Christian Studies commemorates 45 years of academic work, it is with great sadness that I share the news that Rabbi Asher Finkel departed from this world on August 17, 2020. He was surrounded by his beloved wife, Jane, and his children and grandchildren as he gave his life into the merciful hands of his Lord.
“You are righteous, Lord, and your judgment is right. True and righteous Judge, blessed are you, all whose judgments are righteous and true.” (Philip Birnbaum, Daily Prayer Book, p. 738).
When we studied the Book of Tobit, probably from the third century B.C.E., Rabbi Finkel pointed to the above quoted prayer of Tobit as an example of the continuity in the tradition of Judaism. Over the decades of his teaching as well as in his publications, he often drew attention to the resonances of the Biblical heritage that are shared in teachings of the Rabbis and the Christian Scriptures. His knowledge of both Jewish and Christian classics was unparalleled!
Over several generations the Finkel family has brought the profound moral message of Lithuanian Jewish education to Israel and the Diaspora. Rabbi Finkel’s uncle had brought the entire Mir Yeshiva to safety in Shanghai in 1940, thanks to the heroic deeds of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese Counsel in Kaunas, Lithuania. This is background to the message in Mishpacha at the occasion of Rabbi Finkel’s death.
This story of Rabbi Finkel’s deep love of Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) reminds me of a quotation in one of Father Thomas Stransky’s essays:
Youth, what man’s age is like doth show,
We may our ends by our beginnings know.
(Sir John Denham (1615-1669), On Prudence).
May Rabbi Asher Finkel be bound up in the bundle of life, in the care of the Lord, his God! (1 Samuel 25:29).