How A Haircut Can Change A Life!

Sadly the passing of a true Tzadik Rabbi Yosef Herman occurred a week and a half ago. I had the merit to learn with him at lunch time for 20+ years.

My contact with Rabbi Herman began when another Rabbi I was learning with pointed him out to me as he walked by. He said that there goes a real Torah Scholar who never wasted time. He said that besides being an engineer in an international corporation, he teaches Daf Yomi and is the world renowned expert on Chodosh, publishing books on this topic. A few years later while waiting to get a haircut where I work in Briarcliff Manor, a place that is not known for seeing Orthodox Jews, I sat down next to the man whom I recognized as being the Talmud Chachum pointed out to me prior. When I mentioned that we had a lunch time learning group with non religious coworkers which had just ended because the Rabbi that taught it had left the company he said that we were welcome to join him as he teaches a group of his coworkers at his office at Philips Research USA where he worked as an engineer. Little did I know that the haircut I received that day would be the start of a life altering relationship.

From that point on a group of my coworkers would drive a few miles to learn at lunch with Rabbi Herman and a group men from his company. Philips Corporation had such respect for him that every day they would designate a conference room for him to teach a group of non religious Jews Torah. He dressed different than everyone at the company and it was obvious that he was a proud religious Jew who created a true Kiddush Hashem. One could see how much he was liked and respected by his co workers since everyone who would see him would greet him with a big smile and a warm “Hello Steve”.

For the last several years after he retired it was on Tuesday through Friday that we learned together on the phone. Even though I could not continue learning on Mondays he continued to teach another man in my office. On Fridays he would conference call us and teach a group including some of his old colleagues from Philips Electronics. He would always prepare uplifting stories to tell us about the weekly Parsha. Rabbi Herman loved every Jew, no matter their religious status and would take the time out of his busy schedule to prepare a shir on the Parsha every week for us.

He never wasted a minute as he saw every moment as an opportunity to serve Hashem. He raised a beautiful family, worked as Masters Degreed Engineer, spent hours daily preparing and teaching Daf Yomi, and researched and wrote the booklets on Chodesh. He once told me that he was initially distraught when he left his job a Philips but then realized how fortunate he was. He said that he had to travel quite a lot for his job and realized the longer the trip one is embarking on the bigger the suitcase one needs to pack. Therefore as he gets older and closer to going on a eternal trip he now has a lot more time to pack his bag with more Mitzvahs by being able to spend more time learning, especially with his grand children, etc.

I heard from other Rabbi’s that he revolutionized the world to the point that probably a million plus Jews keep the Mitzvah of Chodosh when prior to publishing his booklets only a few pious people kept it. Just shows how one person can change the world!!!

One of the Doctors I saw at my Shiva visit remarked that Rabbi Herman’s dedication to his wife after she unfortunately became ill was truly remarkable.

He saw the positive in all people. This was especially amazing as he was a child in Hungry during the Holocaust and certainly had reasons to be bitter. Due to his great humility he would never let people know that he was a Rabbi and insisted on calling him Mr. Herman. To see him pray was a something special. You could see that he was really talking to Hashem. His son said he was like a soldier who perfectly carried out the orders of Hashem. I can attest that he did it with love, joy, pride and humility.

I was truly blessed that he taught me so much about the meaning of life and he is missed beyond words.

By Jeff Gordon


Jeff Gordon is a long time, 30 plus years, resident of the greater Monsey area and currently resides in Pomona with his wife, Melissa.  Jeff and his brother, Alan are partners of The HealthSearch Group located in Ossining NY.