A sound could be heard by some on the evening of March 23. It was the faint clanging of the gates of heaven. Accompanying that noise were the footsteps of angels who had come as a group to accompany the soul of Rabbi Asher Turin. They only arrive in groups for the righteous ones.
To those who heard that calm bustle, they no doubt felt a bursting sense of joy that comes with the knowledge that Rabbi Turin was free, travelling safely to the Eden he had attempted to understand through his study of the Talmud. To those who heard, they likely felt a deep sense of melancholy. They knew our home, this dimension, had been weakened, left to rely on fewer pillars of soulful heartiness wrapped in an influential love of Torah and its scholarship. They knew Rabbi Turin had moved on.
Rabbi Turin was a husband, a father, a family man. While he spoke little about personal matters, it was clear from his cheerful and radiant demeanour, as well as his ironed shirts and the suspenders he wore so ubiquitously, that he was well taken care of. “Every day is a blessing,” was his mantra. Such an appreciation for life comes only from love.
Rabbi Turin was considered by both prodigious scholars and meeker folk to be a great talmid chacham. Within this attribute lies many definitions, one of which is from the Rivash, who said that, “A talmid chacham is God-fearing, and is worthy of teaching the multitudes,” of which Rabbi Turin was both. He was a fine educator with a godly spirit.
Rabbi Turin learned with gusto, uncovering nuances within Jewish texts and meticulously searching them for meaning.
Rabbi Turin would have known about the Rivash. He might have photocopied copious amounts of information about him, such as: the Rivash, Rabbi Isaac ben Sheshet Perfet (1326-1408), was a Spanish talmudic authority who lived in Barcelona and studied under Perez ha-Kohen. And then Rabbi Turin’s cerebral itch would have urged him to investigate Perez ha-Kohen. The depth of the rabbi’s inquisitiveness would then span the sefarim these sages had penned and then the mi’forshim (interpretations) on them.
For the many who were lucky enough to have Rabbi Turin as a chavruta (learning partner), they would also have become curious about, and ultimately aware of, who the Rivash was and his important contributions to Jewish thought.
That was inevitable because Rabbi Turin learned with gusto, uncovering nuances within Jewish texts and meticulously searching them for meaning, which often led to intellectual walls that compelled him to dig deeper with his chavruta, students and teachers, all the while reaching as far as his mind could travel to satisfy his pursuit of truth. Those who learned with, and from, him were privy to a limitless Torah and life experiences. As one of his friends described him, Rabbi Turin was “someone with an absence of ego and an immense intellectual curiosity … in fact, infinite.”
Rabbi Turin, was a decent man. He was the rabbi in yeshivah who would sit patiently with a student who was challenged by the Aramaic of the Talmud, or faced with the difficulties related to being Jewish. He was the person who would listen to the repetitious questions of a sick person at Baycrest. Rabbi Turin was the Jewish leader who embraced the convert wholeheartedly, the way we are supposed to.
Rabbi Turin probably wouldn’t have liked this article. He would have felt that I embellished him. However, I do not feel as though I have exaggerated. Regardless, I ask him for forgiveness.
Rabbi Asher Turin was a righteous Jew. For him, the gates clanged and the angels came in a group.