Rabbi Asher Finkel (1934-2020): Rest in Peace

Rabbi Dr. Asher Finkel
Professor Emeritus
Jewish-Christian Studies
Graduate Program
Seton Hall University

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).

6 thoughts on “Rabbi Asher Finkel (1934-2020): Rest in Peace

  1. After class (at Seton Hall), I would drive Asher to the Path station in Newark. On the way, we would discuss in Hebrew his lecture, and then delve into Israeli affairs.

    Asher left an indelible impression on all his students. His being an orthodox rabbi with a keen knowledge of both Jewish and Christian theology, made him a unique scholar.

    May his memory be a blessing to all of us…

  2. Thank you for the information about Rabbi Finkel’s death. I appreciated him very much as my teacher, both at Seton Hall and Maryknoll Seminary. A person’s death always leaves one with a deep feeling of loss and sadness. At the same time, I am grateful to have drank from the well of his knowledge, tradition, and deep spirituality. His was a life well-lived. May he rest in peace in the arms of a loving God. Condolences to his family, colleagues, and friends.

  3. זכר צדיק לברכה
    May the memory of our righteous Rabbi Asher Finley be for a blessing! Amen.
    The world has lost one of the greatest, most incredible teachers of Written and Oral Law. With contagious passion Rabbi used to transmit his messages to his students. They never wanted the class to end. Rest In Peace, our beloved, Rabbi Finkel. Thi Nishmato Tzrurah Bitzror H’chaim.
    Miki and Cantor Perry Fine.

  4. He was a champion among educators in Jewish-Christian Studies. His years of teaching at Seton Hall opened our graduate students and colleagues alike to the richness of the Jewish-Christian interface in scripture and tradition. He lived a life of observant dedication and gracious sharing. We all lament the day of his passing.

  5. I am sad to hear of Rabbi Finkel’s passing. I was honored to be one of his students. May his family go from strength to strength. May his memory be for a blessing.
    Sincerely,
    Donna Burkat

  6. We here at Maryknoll also mourn Rabbi Finkel’s passing. He was a light in the darkness, luminating the gospel as only a rabbi could. He challenged us with insightful questions and helped us all appreciate our roots in Judaism. May his memory be as a blessing.

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