Rabbi Rodal. They sure don’t make Rebbeim like him anymore.
Perhaps that’s because he actually WAS around for thousands of years as he constantly claimed.
When I was around 11 years old Bill Moritz told me I had to switch to Yeshiva because “it’s going to be so much fun!!!” My parents told me that I had to switch to Yeshiva because “You’re going to have Rabbi Rodal!”
Rabbi Rodal was such a good Quarterback that if there was a kid who hadn’t caught a touchdown pass before recess was over he would make sure that kid caught a touchdown pass before recess was over. Neither 10 MISSISSIPPI nor our best zone coverage schemes could stop him.
It’s hard to express that feeling I had when I was informed that it was MY TURN to walk the two miles to the Ward Street Shul on Shabbos, in the Pittsburgh cold, with Rabbi Rodal. It meant he was sharing stories and advice with JUST me. Picture the excitement a kid has being told he’s going to the skip school for a baseball game (back when the Pirates were really good) that’s what it felt like.
Mikey Butler. Oh man we could fill up pages about that relationship. Rabbi Rodal would walk our class of 11 year olds to Chuldren’s Hospital at the edge of Oakland to visit Mikey on Shabbos. During the week, in class, oh how he would jump when Mikey answered a question via speaker phone on his desk. We were just kids and our buddy was really sick. The greatest lesson he ever taught us was how to respond to a situation such as that.
Our class was crazy. The amount of psychological damage we inflicted on our teachers is embarrassing yet astonishing. However, No one misbehaved in Rabbi Rodal’s class. Looking back on it there never was a reason to. I never thought of it that way until now.
And the jokes. Those terrible terrible jokes. “Rabbi Rodal Jokes” made Laffy Taffy Jokes look like stand up comedy. But his delivery of them? Unparalleled. Boy could he deliver a punchline. How we loved those jokes.
But the two things that stand out the most are as follows:
1) Rabbi Rodal was always positive. If you could take a genuine smile and put in into an entire person that was how he was. Even if saying something serious there was always that twinkle in his eye. His entire face would always and absolutely light up. Like when he was teaching Torah, saying good morning, throwing the occasional interception when we clearly ran the wrong route, and especially while…
2) He had the uncanny ability of being able to make you feel special. When you had a conversation with Rabbi Rodal you felt like you were the only thing that mattered – there was no mental multitasking – he focused on you and only you. He truly cared about you and truly cared FOR you; and yes there’s a difference between those two things.
Imagine being brought in to a class behind the curve, not good at school but really good at misbehaving, and somehow still feeling like you were vital to the class.
That was Rabbi Rodal.
He changed lives.