There are many stories behind the creation of my new website. One is an old story, the love of the written word. However, there were some towering figures I came across in my life whose impressions have not been lost on me. One such figure is Rav Avrohom Genechovsky zt”l, my father’s first cousin who was the previous Rosh Yeshiva of Tcshebin. Interestingly, his last name is transliterated as Genechovsky though many in America would more likely know the name “Genachowski” (i.e., previous FCC chairman).
I had the privilege to know Rav Avrohom over a four-year period when I studied in Israel. He was close with Reb Chaim Kanievsky shlita and his sefer Bar Almugim has a haskama from Reb Chaim. It’s hard to explain his greatness. Rav Avrohom was the classic story of a man of genius wrapped up in humility, and I saw it firsthand.
His personal words to me at a Shabbos table inspired the name of the website Aish Haolam, “Fire of the World.” He said that the makeup of the world should be the model for one’s behavior. He said the world is covered by water on the outside to teach that just as water is bending and flexible so must man be flexible and harmonious on the outside with others. The center of the world is aish (fire) symbolizing the Torah, which must be at the center of one’s existence, and the inner core of the world is rock, to inform us that one must be rock solid in one’s inner beliefs. These words never left me and provide the framework by which I see the world.
On the website, I translate a small piece of Torah that Rav Avrohom wrote on Pesach and include on the homepage a link to sheets in Hebrew that were put together to discuss his Torah on Purim along with a video that captures his essence. Each new issue will have a new translated piece of Rav Avrohom’s Torah. Also, in regards to Rav Avrohom, I will constantly share new insights he told me and bear testimony to stories I witnessed that continue to guide me today.
Due to the fact that Rav Avrohom and Reb Chaim were so close, I present Reb Chaim’s weekly parsha sheets, Divrei Siach, to read and print. Whenever Rav Avrohom took me to see Reb Chaim, Rav Avrohom had such reverence for Reb Chaim even though Reb Chaim would stand for him when he entered the room.
The genius of the Genechovsky name transplanted itself to America, and within the rabbinic field Rabbi Genack carried on this name, achieving global fame. I have the privilege to work with him every day and his humility matches his genius as well. He does hidden chesed for the Klal and remains a force behind critical Jewish happenings. It’s an honor to present his Torah.
My first cousin in Israel, Rabbi Yaakov Nagen (originally Yaakov Genack) is a Ram in Yeshiva Otneil and a very influential figure in the movement to achieve peace between the conflicting religions in Israel. (His writings often appear on Arutz Sheva.) Not too long ago, he published a best seller in Hebrew, Awaking to a New Day: Stories and Insights from Life (Jerusalem - Koren Publishers, 2014), to which I provide translated excerpts.
In addition, my great-great-great-grandfather Rabbi Levine zt”l—which was our original last name - authored the Yad Eliyahu which is featured as well.
In today’s time when many hide their religious identity, the guest writer for the first issue not only proudly expresses his religiosity but he does it on a worldwide scale. Tamir Goodman, an internationally recognized basketball player—dubbed “The Jewish Jordan” by Sports illustrated—travels the globe to share his skills and lessons learned with thousands of other religious sports enthusiasts in addition to carving out substantial time to coach and mentor children with special needs. On the website, he shares 10 important lessons to teach your kids when they lose games in sports, for as he writes, “even the best of the best lose.” He expressed to me that this is a very important topic and one that needs to be discussed.
The writing team includes author Aleeza Ben Shalom on “Dating and Texting”; mental health practitioner Chana Kaiman, LCSW on “Mood Dysregulation in Children”; Rabbi Binyomin Adler, a talmid of HaGaon; Rav Tzvi Kushelevsky on “Shabbos”; Moshe Stempel, who helped edit Great Jewish Letters by Rav Moshe Bamberger; Mashgiach Ruchani of Touro College for Men, on “Pesach” and Professor Alan Mond, Deputy Chair of the Touro College Political Science Department, on “The Campaign Trail.” My lovely wife is a contributor as well.
To conclude, as a child graduating from eighth grade, I was presented with a set of Hamek Davar written by Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin. Only later I would learn that the inside page indicated that the set was published by Shlomo Yosef Genechovsky, zt”l and his sons, who as it turned out published many Talmudic books in Israel. Shlomo Yosef Genechovsky was my great-grandfather whom I am named after. I hope and pray that I will dutifully continue in his tradition and stay true to the mission he began many years ago. Please visit www.aishhaolam.com.
By Steven Genack
Steven Genack is an attorney and the former editor-in-chief of the Five Towns Far Rockaway News. He works in the Kashrus Division at the Orthodox Union and resides today in Passaic.