Address delivered by Rabbi Raymond Apple at the funeral of Rabbi Dr Benjamin Gottshall, on 1 May, 1978.On the Sabbath day which was the eighth day of Pesach, when our tradition prescribes the reading of the Song of Songs with its message, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth”, the soul of the tzaddik„ Rabbi Dr Benjamin Gottshall, departed with a Divine kiss — for, say the sages, the way the righteous die is that the Almighty kisses then gently and their souls depart.
Rabbi Gottshall’s death has plunged us all into sorrow. Yet today when we farewell his earthly remains before laying them in their last resting-place we do not lament but rather give thanks.
The Song of Songs says, “My beloved is gone down to his garden”. We give thanks that Rabbi Gottshall was to each of us dodi, “my beloved”. There once was an English king who was referred to after his death as “the king that nobody loved”; of Rabbi Gottshall it is true to say that he was the Rabbi that everybody loved.
He had a rare quality combining heart, humanity, humility, harmony and humour. He had a rare ability to be friend, colleague and brother, with the gift of making you feel better because you had seen him and spoken to him, and he had this wondrous effect on his rabbinical colleagues too, because even rabbis have their moments of depression when they need a Rabbi Gottshall.
“The righteous shall live by his faith”, said the prophet. Rabbi Gottshall lived by his faith, through all those terrible years of anguish and suffering during the Holocaust period. He lived by his faith after the war, when he and his talented wife had more than their share of problems. He lived by his faith during his long illness, when every day was a victory, when nothing dimmed his belief or diminished his cheerfulness, when he was grateful for the blessing of nachat that he derived from hie wife, his children and his grandchildren.
When one speaks of his wife and children and grandchildren, that is indeed where one recognises something truly holy, for with all his work as a loved and trusted rabbi, teacher, counsellor and chaplain, it was in the way he and his wife — with such evident joy and unity — created and maintained a remarkable quality of marital and home life, that one sensed his (and her) true worth.
Now, sadly, but in gratitude for his life, we farewell him from this earth. A myriad angels await his precious soul at the gates of Gan Eden. As we say tzetecha beshalom, they join in angelic chorus with the words bo’acha beshalom. May peace be his reward.