The Rebbe of Sacher Park

The Rebbe of Sacher Park

Ohhh, Sacher Park on a Chol HaMoed morning…It’s Heaven.

The kids giggling as they pour water through the deep moat around their sand castle. The light breeze cooling my face as I chomp on palm oil potato chips and skim through a magazine. The holiday chirping of picnicking families all around me, the men tending to their barbecues, the women chatting about the latest family news.

But yesterday morning, there was an unusual addition to the Chol HaMoed regulars. And he really got on my nerves.

On the bench next to me was a serious looking young father who spent the entire morning at Sacher Park with his nose in a sefer. He and his wife looked to me like recent baalei teshuva who, I quickly determined, had gone totally overboard. The whole morning, I didn’t see this father look up once from his book, and after about an hour, his equally serious looking wife took out her own book of Psalms, and started reading with as much determination as her husband. Their only child, a toddler, sat silently between his parents, the Rebbe and Rebbetzin of Sacher Park.

“Come on guys, lighten up!” I wanted to yell at them. “It’s Chol HaMoed for G-d’s sake! Get your noses out of your sefarim and buy yourself some ice creams! Go for a stroll! Laugh a little for once…maybe eat a hotdog or two! It’ll do you some good, Ivdu et Hashem b’SIMCHA!”

In the early afternoon, I walked home with my crowd of kids and left behind the Rebbe and Rebbetzin of Sacher Park and totally forgot about them until….

I opened my Binah Magazine this morning on the treadmill, and I saw this painting entitled “A Scholar in His Study” by Alois Heinrich Priechenfried.

And that’s him…It’s the Rebbe of Sacher Park!

Not really, but it could be…The same face with the same serious, totally focused expression, the same down-turned head, the same black clothing, the same book in his lap.

The article tells the story of the ferocious bidding war that broke out when this painting went on auction at Sothebys this past December. Shoshana Bernstein writes, “At one point, a fierce bidding war broke out between a gentleman on the [auction] floor and a bidder on the phone. Determined to gain ownership of ‘A Scholar in the Study’ by Alois Hinrich Priechenfried (1867-1953) the gentleman ‘in house’ kept increasing his bid…The painting was ultimately sold for $39,250, well above the $20,000 high estimate.”

Reading the article, I imagined the men bidding higher and higher into the stratosphere for this painting. I don’t know anything about these bidders, but if they have $40,000 to spend on a painting, I imagine that these are not people who have so much time to spend in a Beit Midrash, like the subject of this painting. They probably spend most of their lives in offices, working in finance or law or business.

And why is this painting so precious to them that they were willing to spend twice the high estimate to hang it on their living room walls? Probably because this painting captures something that is profoundly precious to them…Something eternal, something greater than themselves. A glimpse of a person deeply connected with Hashem’s omnipotence and guidance, who spends day in and day out basking in the incomparable light of our holy Torah.

And looking at that painting and imagining its buyer, I felt a pinch of understanding and even admiration for the heilige Rebbe of Sacher Park and for his Rebbetzin too…

Because if a painting of a “Scholar in a Study” is worth $40,000, then how much is an entire life as a “Scholar in a Study” worth?

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14 comments

  1. there are some people who are blessed with this countenance, and it graces their faces no matter what they are doing.
    my husband (and hence some of my children) have this down-tilted, high foreheaded, slightly scowling, intense face. after twenty-six years of marriage, my friends and family still don’t believe my husband has a sense of humor and fun.

    it is a daily reminder that we should be careful not to make assumptions about others based on their outer packaging…

  2. it takes a very special woman to marry such man

  3. I’m trying hard not to judge but I’m not impressed with this couple. There are ways to incorporate fun and simcha and age-appropriate activities for little kids in a frum atmosphere. And even find time for learning and davening. Maybe they just needed some guidance. Having written this, I realize I’d better get off the computer and help get ready for our tiyul to the Kotel before my kids go crazy!

  4. i dont know, live and let live. did the todler get to play at all?

    • JewishMom

      no, but the truth is that he looked very young. Maybe a year and a half. So he seemed fine just sitting the whole time.

  5. don’t judge. period. we have no idea what is going on with the couple, at home, in their lives. maybe they were up all nite with their toddler , and decided just to sit and relax and learn in the park. g-d knows. leave it to him.

  6. Ok, you’re all right. I was reminded, though, of a thread on imamother were someone questioned the kollel avrechim’s devotion to learning since bein hazmanim they were seen doing other stuff. A kollel wife then explained that her husband is exclusively with the family during bein hazmanim since the rest of the year he is out of the house learning.
    All of our thoughts on this couple are just conjecture. We don’t really know their story.

  7. Hello Jewish Mothers out there. I am a proud Jewish Dad, and I have to respectfully disagree. I learn in Kollel most of my day and try very hard to find the balance between having my nose in the book and being with my family. I would like to make two points: (1) Being a masmid means doing what you are doing when you are suppose to being doing it. That means when you are learning – you are learning, and when you are with your daughter or wife – you are with your daughter or wife. The Chazon Ish, as well as Rabbi Akiva Tatz (whoever speaks to you) explains that simcha is and outcome of knowing that you are doing exactly what you are suppose to be doing when you are doing it. When we focus our attention and total self to the present moment we live in, then that is living life itself. (2) As I am sure you Jewish Mothers know, children are sponges… and they are smart. They will pick up the values of Abba learning Torah in the Beit Midrash as well as Ima pounding away at her tehilim, and all that leaves a big impression on them. With that being said, if the child doesn’t feel that they are receiving the proper attention, then they will also pick up that Abba doesn’t have time for me bc of Torah learning, and Ima doesn’t have time for me bc she is davening. What impression will that leave on our children about Torah, Tefilah, and family values?
    Thank you Jewish Mothers for helping inspire other Jewish Mothers and Abbas out there. Yashar Kochachen!

  8. JewishMom

    thanks eitan, this is a fantastic response. Would love to track down the Rebbe of Sacher Park and give him a Hebrew translation. I agree that “the Rebbe” is confused, and needs guidance (as Debi said) about being a masmid at the right time and being a father and husband at the right time. I think that the story with the painting, though, gave me some new-found sympathy for “the rebbe’s” confusion…I also want to point out that ALL the other religious fathers in the park, and there were many of them, were following the Chazon Ish/Akiva Tatz’s advice.

  9. Hi, I think that if they really didn’t want to be “out there” they wouldn’t have gone to Gan Sacher. Perhaps if their child had wanted to play, at least one of the parents would have gone with him to play. Perhaps they were going with the flow with their child – if he was content to sit while they learned, then they continued to learn. Chag sameach!

  10. I just have to jump in here with one thing I thought of immediately when reading this….how do we know that a family member had not fallen violently ill and that is why he was learning and his wife saying tehillim? or something else was going on that really needed their focus. They also wanted to let their kid play …. I agree in general that learning needs to be in the right place and time, but since we don’t know anything about these people it’s very sad to judge

  11. I’m shocked that so many of you are judging. My first thoughts were…how beautiful that they’re so immersed in learning, and then I thought perhaps they are saying Tehillim. It’s simply not for us to ever judge. We should be so involved with our own lives, so aware of our own children, so immersed in our own happenings so we have no reason to judge the actions of anyone but ourselves.

  12. A young couple with only a toddler usually means very very young parents. Weren’t most of us a bit intense about some cause when we were 20? Life experience and several more children loosens everyone up a bit 🙂
    And hey – they did plan a day in the park, so they are, in their own way, enjoying chol hamo’ed. Even if it’s not exactly how we would have done it.

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