Remembering Froman

Hand in hand with his support of settlement enterprise, Rabbi Froman backed dialogue with religious-nationalists on the Palestinian side.

Rabbi Menahem Froman 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Rabbi Menahem Froman 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Rabbi Menachem Froman, rabbi of the settlement of Tekoa for 32 years, died on Monday after a long battle with cancer. Despite living in Tekoa for the past two years I never got to know Rav Froman. I never attended his classes, and never had a personal discussion with him.
I admit my reticence to get close to the man was ideological, perhaps even petty. I admired him personally, if from afar. The man was a ray of sunshine. Even as he became gaunt with his suffering from colon cancer, he was never shy with a smile, always greeting everyone with a sever panim yafot, a beautiful countenance. But almost any pronouncement of his on political matters made me shake my head in disbelief. And because of this I did not want to draw near to him. A pity and a shame, as they say.
Such is the complicated legacy of a great teacher, a beloved communal leader, a political maverick within his own community, as well as an Israeli soldier and father to 10 children. Rav Froman was a founding member of Gush Emunim, and helped to establish the settlement of Tekoa 32 years ago, where he served as the community’s rabbi until his death. Hand in hand with his support of the settlement enterprise, he supported dialogue with religious-nationalists on the Palestinian side, including Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, former religious leader of the terrorist group Hamas. He believed that this was a religious conflict, and thus that if peace was ever to be achieved there had to be dialogue between religious leaders, not just politicians.
He also taught well attended classes at the Otniel Yeshiva and weekly Zohar classes open to the community in Tekoa, as well as many other classes. He was known to have touched the souls of a few famous Israeli musicians, a number of whom came to participate in prayer and song events in Tekoa over the past few years as his health declined. He would have participants join in his pleading for the Creator to grant him life, moving seamlessly from crying out in prayer into song which was also prayer. He so much wanted to live, to carry on his work for Torah and for peace. It was an extremely powerful experience, and a lesson in prayer.
I will never forget the first time I met him, three years ago. I came to Tekoa from where I was living, a five-minute drive away in Nokdim, to kasher pots and pans for Passover. He was presiding over the event, and I remember wondering why he was so very, very happy to be pouring soap into a tub of boiling water. He radiated joy and kindness. He was laughing and smiling the whole time. As the years passed and I would occasionally have the honor to pray with him at the local synagogue, I could always rely on him for a big smile, as if to declare his wonder and joy in beholding a human being, something created in the image of G-d.
And now that the rabbi has passed, I am left not knowing how to explain my feeling of loss. After all, I didn’t know the man, and never benefited from his wisdom or drank at the well of his Torah. I merely basked, a little bit, in the warmth of his presence. In the end, I feel a loss of potential, of possibilities unrealized by myself due to my own arrogance and by him due to G-d’s decree that his time had come.
The writer is a rabbi and tour guide
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