In Memoriam of Rabbi Lamm: A Personal Reflection From Pearl Berger
There was an inherent dignity to Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, Z”L. He had a majesty of spirit and bearing, an aura of kevod harav somewhat reminiscent of European rabbis of old. Yet he was approachable and exuded warmth in his personal interactions. Notwithstanding his countless concerns and responsibilities as president of Yeshiva University, there was not a single instance that I can recall during my 35 year tenure at Yeshiva when he failed to respond to an inquiry or return a phone call.
A visitor to the presidential suite of offices at a university would not be surprised to find the president ensconced in a book-lined study. In the case of Rabbi Lamm, however, the suite was more like a mini-library, where several rooms housed shelves filled with seforim and books. Indeed, at one time a member of the library staff spent several days at the president’s suite to help organize Dr. Lamm’s “office library,” so much had it grown. And these volumes were not for show, as evidenced by his many publications and by the rich content of his speeches and lectures. Torah and scholarship remained constants in Rabbi Lamm’s life, while he worked to achieve academic excellence and financial stability for the yeshiva and the university.
My most significant and most currently relevant interaction with Rabbi Lamm was in the creation of Derashot Shedarashti, the digital publication of his sermons, delivered during the rabbinical career that preceded his presidency of YU. His practice was to record the full texts of his sermons, primarily in typewritten form, and most of the sermons had formal titles. He saved these texts and after a few decades had passed, he approached me about the possibility of transferring them to CDROM. (Remember those?) We agreed instead to create a web publication.
Rabbi Lamm presented the Library with the files of his sermons, and he gave us free reign to proceed with the project. The files are currently preserved in the Rare Book Room at the Mendel Gottesman Library. When I asked him if he was concerned about his sermons being used without attribution, Rabbi Lamm thought for a moment and then responded without hesitation. He had no problem with letting people use them. That was the intention after all! As Rabbi Lamm wrote at the conclusion of his article discussing shiurim and sermons, “The end of both is and should be identical—le’hagdil Torah u-le’haadirah. (See “Notes of an Unrepentant Darshan”) Judging by the many hundreds of hits per week soon after the website was launched, Rabbi Lamm’s sermons were very much in demand. In fact, to this day, even after publication of the Derashot Ledorot book series and other volumes based on the website, people are still searching the Lamm Sermons website.
It was a privilege to have led Yeshiva University’s Libraries during Dr. Lamm’s presidency and to have enjoyed his confidence.
Yehi zichro baruch.
Benjamin Gottesman Librarian and Dean of Libraries, Retired.
Photo Caption: Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University