Eulogy delivered by Rabbi Raymond Apple at the funeral service for Judge Samuel Hyman Simblist at the Great Synagogue, Sydney, 8 February, 1977.
Among the greatest honours a Jewish community can bestow upon one of its members is that it is from the synagogue that his remains are carried to their resting place. An honour such as this cannot be bought by benefactions; it has to be earned by faithful and exemplary service to the community. By that basic criterion Judge Simblist deserved honour.
We missed him last Shabbat at our annual Law Service, He was not in his usual place among the legal luminaries. He was not well. But who would have thought that a day Later he would no longer be amid the land of the living and we would meet here today under these circumstances?
Who too would have imagined that when, after a lifetime in the service of the law, he was appointed to the District Court, his judicial career would have been over almost before it had begun? The Ethics of the Fathers warn us, lo alecha hamelachah ligmor, “it is not your task to complete the work”, velo attah ben chorin lehibbatel mimenna, “but neither are you free to desist from it”. He was not a young man and he obviously knew he would not complete many decades as a judge: but that he had to desist so soon after his appointment – that is truly a sad pity.
The facts of his public life and career are probably not unknown. He was an excellent student at Sydney Grammar and at Sydney University. He represented the University in debating, an indication surely that he would become an expert and formidable exponent of the law and an impressive and articulate advocate.
He practised as a solicitor for twenty years, and as a barrister for just over another twenty years, and he took silk in 1970. It is not for me to presume to assess his abilities and achievements as a lawyer, but I know that his colleagues and friends recognised in him an outstanding all-round man of the law, understanding human beings as well as laws, making good use of a fine and quick mind but also well capable of acts of great generosity and compassion.
His chambers mere always open to students and younger members of the profession whose way he smoothed and whom he helped to understand some of the more complex and complicated concepts of the law.
His prominence at the Bar came from hard work. He might have found a great deal of truth in the words of Rufus Isaacs, Lord Reading, who once remarked, “The Bar is never a bed of roses. It is either all bed and no roses, or all roses and no bed…”
After recently conducting an official inquiry into a matter of great
public interest, the future of Botany Bay, he was appointed to the Bench of the District Court at the end of last year, and reached the pinnacle of his career. His family and friends rejoiced, and the Jewish community took pride in the fact that yet another link had been forged between New South Wales Jewry and the Judiciary of the State.
In Jewish life Judge Simblist was a member of almost every local Synagogue. He gave especial service to the Central Synagogue, which benefitted from his legal advice over many years and which made him a life member. His Jewish interests showed a deep concern for Israel. In his earlier years he was a pioneer for Zionist causes. He was deeply involved in schemes for cultural exchange between Australia and Israel. He held office in the Australian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He could look back upon a record of sterling service to our Jewish welfare organisations at a time of great immigration when newcomers had to be befriended understood and helped to settle into a new land and new ways of life.
He came from orthodox parents, but he would not have claimed to have been either strictly orthodox or a deep scholar of Judaism: but he was proud of being a Jew, he had a good grasp of Hebrew, he had intelligent and sometimes independent views on Jewish issues and our community was proud of him.
He was a man with a personality. He was highly intelligent with a quick mind, but he was also well endowed with wit and humanity and had many friends. He was good with words, he had cultural interests ranging from languages to the arts, especially music, and politics, but at the same time he was good company, genial and congenial. He was forthright, wanting to do and say what he thought was right; he demanded high standards from everybody, especially his children, but he was respected not despite but because of it.
He was proficient at many things, not only things of the mind but also sporting pursuits – golf, boxing, rowing, swimming, walking.
But with all these activities and interests he was fundamentally a man of the law. To be a lawyer can be exciting and colourful. It is also immensely demanding and responsible. I think it was the late great Justice Brandeis who said, “The everlasting pursuit of justice is man’s noblest enterprise on earth”. Did Brandeis realise that to speak of the pursuit of justice is to echo the age-old Biblical command, tzedek tzedek tirdof, “justice, justice shall you pursue”? I do not know. But justice can be elusive. One can never be certain in one’s mind and clear in one’s conscience and know that one has found the answer or come to the conclusion that truly leads to justice. One has to work with unceasing energy in the pursuit of justice. It is demanding physically, mentally, emotionally. But it is challenging exhilarating, and noble and sacred, and he who tries his hardest and maintains the pursuit deserves the appreciation of his fellow man.
I think it can be said of Judge Simblist that he devoted his life to this pursuit. How much his efforts succeeded is not for us to say: there is a higher Judge in heaven. How God will judge his life’s record is also not
for us to know: no man can or should ever be satisfied with himself and he should never be completely without apprehension at the prospect of the Divine decision.
But one thing we can know and we do know. Sam Simblist made a deep and abiding impression on so many people who will remember him for good. He played a leading role in the law in this State and the law was fortunate to have him. He played his role in Jewish life, and our community will honour his name.
To his talented wife, who was devoted to his welfare; to his children, of whom he was proud and who were proud of him, our affectionate sympathy goes out with our prayer that God may grant them Heavenly consolation and strength. And for them and us all, may Sam Simblist’s memory be a blessing.