Chassid and Businessman

Shalom Aleichem!

Tzipah and I returned last night from a few days in Florida, where we spent time visiting with alumni and parents of students — and taking in some sunshine!

Last night, we visited with the father of an alum in Boca Raton, who we became close with over the years. Dr. Steven Morris is a geriatric physician, and a warm-hearted man. His son Noah graduated from QC last year, is living in Queens and working in Manhattan for a not-for-profit. I am proud that I was able to be a reference for his job.

In the course of our conversation, Dr. Morris shared a few stories from the geriatric ward in the hospital. He began to describe a patient who it turns out that I knew quite well!

Rabbi Shmuel Isaac Popack was an elder Chabad Chassid and businessman who lived in Brooklyn. Interestingly, he was involved in 1940 with the purchase of 770 Eastern Parkway, the Chabad-Lubavitch world headquarters.

When I was a student at the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, NJ, I visited Burlington, Vermont, on numerous occasions, to assist with various activities in the local Chabad House. The local Chabad Shliach, Rabbi Yitzchak Raskin, grew up in Casablanca, Morocco. He married Rabbi Popack’s daughter Zissy, and moved to Burlington to start the Chabad House there.

I have many fond memories of my visits there, and found Rabbi Raskin to be a great source of inspiration. A few times when I visited, Rabbi Popack and his wife Miriam were also visiting. Rabbi Popack was always cracking jokes. On the one hand, he was an Old World person, deeply immersed in Jewish life; yet on the other hand, he was a “new world” savvy businessman. This combination made him truly a great person to learn from.

To make a long story short, Rabbi Popack ended up in the hospital in Boca Raton, and Dr. Morris was assigned as his attending physician. Dr. Morris recalled with great enthusiasm the vignettes of advice and wisdom that Rabbi Popack shared with him.

Here are two snippets of advice from Rabbi Popack – chassid and businessman — as told to me by Dr. Morris:

1. Even if you are a businessman and not a full-time Torah student, you should make sure to dedicate time to learn Torah daily. Aside from the obvious benefit of Torah study, when you retire, you won’t need to search for a new hobby, you’ll already have a way to fill your new, free time!

2. You should study the entire Mishneh Torah by Maimonides in the course of your lifetime. A good way to do that is by studying one chapter every day, which will allow you to complete it in just under three years. (Click here to access online audio & video classes in this epic work).

Shabbat Shalom!