A Lakewood Legend
December 10, 2020
Reb Pinchus Gershon Waxman z”l
A Lakewood Legend
Lakewood has lost a legend.
Reb Pinchus Gershon Halevi Waxman z” l was a pillar of Torah, avodah, and gemilus chassadim for his family and for the entire Lakewood community.
Pinchus Gershon, also known as P. G., was born in 1958 to R’ Yeshaya Dovid and Chana Waxman, who were icons of Torah and chessed in Monsey. R’ Yeshaya Dovid learned in kollel for many years and finished Shas countless times. The family was close with Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l and proudly lived by his derech of middos tovos and dedication to Torah.
As a very young boy, P. G.’s mother told him the story of how Dama ben Nasinah fulfilled the mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim, refusing to wake his father even at the risk of losing out on a lucrative transaction. She then asked P. G., “What would you do in such a case?” He answered, “I would go in ever so quietly without waking up my father,” so that he could make the deal. His mother was concerned, thinking that most boys his age would answer that they would not go into their father’s room at all. She asked her husband to ask Rav Mordechai Schwab zt”l if there was anything to worry about. He reassured them, “He is an honest and smart boy.” How right he was.
Forever a talmid
From a young age, Reb P. G. was a tremendous masmid who displayed a love for learning. At 13, he won a contest by Agudath Israel for boys across America and Canada by memorizing 1,162 mishnayos.
As a talmid of Yeshiva of Staten Island, Reb P. G. learned next to the rosh yeshiva and gadol hador Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l. They grew so close that Rav Moshe once told him, “I love you like a son.”
Reb P. G. went to Eretz Yisrael to learn in Yeshivas Brisk under the tutelage of Rav Dovid Soloveitchik shlita and then learned for two years in Lakewood’s Beth Medrash Govoha. After marrying his wife, Zeldy (née Strauss), in 1984, he continued to learn in the BMG kollel for seven years.
Reb P. G. was a brilliant ben Torah who excelled in bekius. He was able to discuss many sugyos of Shas with others, even if he was not learning those sugyos at that time. He loved developing and writing original divrei Torah on parshas hashavua and the Yamim Tovim. These were compiled into kuntressim entitled “Palgei Mayim,” which were distributed with pride at family simchos as an expression of his hakaras hatov to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. These divrei Torah were also emailed weekly to several hundred people, including devoted readers as far away as Australia, and were often published in the Voice of Lakewood and Yated Ne’eman.
Once, while on a trip to Eretz Yisrael, Reb P. G. had a question in learning. He went to the Kosel and cried to Hashem, begging Him to help him find an answer. That night, he had a dream which provided the answer to his question! While the phenomenon of the dream is amazing, even greater was his deep passion that brought him to tears when seeking the truth.
Mrs. Zeldy Waxman explains that for her husband, “a sefarim store was like a candy store. If someone wanted to buy him a gift, all he ever wanted was a sefer.” Before every Yom Tov he would buy himself new sefarim. That was his ultimate simchas Yom Tov.
Clients or others who came to Reb P. G. for advice would often share a dvar Torah before proceeding to talk business. They knew he appreciated it.
Reb P. G. always had a sefer next to him at the Shabbos table. He would lead engaging discussions about the parshah with anyone present. He fostered in his children, and in neighborhood children, an interest and motivation to think and research in Torah, often giving monetary rewards after Shabbos for good answers or insights.
During the spring of the coronavirus pandemic, with challenges and suffering all around, Reb P. G. took to heart that Hashem was sending us a message. He used the extra time at home to learn more and write more divrei Torah. When he’d first left kollel and begun working, he had expressed his hopes to one day return to full-time learning. The COVID-19 shutdown was an opportunity to fulfill his dream.
Praying with passion
Reb P. G. put much time and effort into his davening. He thanked Hakadosh Baruch Hu for all the good that He bestowed upon him and his family and davened frequently and sincerely for many people in need of refuos and yeshuos.He had pages full of names of people for whom he davened and said Tehillim. When shuls and offices were closed during the pandemic, he used the extra time to daven for as long as he wanted since there was no need to rush to work.
Reb P. G. would often cry while davening. He was heartbroken that Mashiach had not yet arrived and expressed his strong sense of yearning for the geulah.
Helping with heart
Members of the community describe Reb P. G. as “a walking mussar sefer.” He was humble and had a great sense of humor which he used to cheer up those who felt down, and he discreetly performed countless acts of chessed and tzedakah.
Reb P. G. thought deeply into how others may feel in their moment of need and shared his insights with his children, raising them to develop empathy, compassion, and a drive to help others. Always sensitive to the underdog, he gave his boys extra money when returning to yeshivah so they could give to those in need. On Purim, he brought his children to deliver mishloach manos toclassmates and others who may not have received so many.
The Waxman family often hosted for Shabbos and Yamim Tovim guests who appreciated an invitation and could benefit from a warm and welcoming home environment. The positive experience helped inspire several guests to become shomer Shabbos.
Reb P. G. was the quintessential nosei b’ol chaveiro. He cried for and with others and sought to alleviate their troubles. He knew what to do and how to do it, and he followed up with everyone he helped with matters large and small.
“My father was a true connector,” reflects one of his daughters. “He was so generous with his time, money, heart, and kochos for individuals, families, mosdos, and the whole community. He always knew his priorities and was a role model for his family and others.”
Rabbi Yehuda Kaszirer, director of Lev Rochel Bikur Cholim of Lakewood, conveys, “Reb Pinchus Gershon was a silent partner in many Bikur Cholim endeavors. With foresight and hatzne’a leches, he introduced the concept of Friendship Houses adjacent to hospitals to serve the personal needs of family members helping hospitalized relatives.”
R’ Dovid Lichtenstein, a close friend, shares how he was encouraged and propelled to develop a chessed building near Kimball Hospital for the aforementioned purpose after Reb P. G. found the location and secured its zoning.
Reb P. G. cared immensely about others’ parnassah. He often met with individuals who struggled with their businesses and helped them to strategize, offering advice and guidance. Reb P. G. was not only a listening ear to them when they were laid off from their jobs, he also assisted them with enhancing their résumé and arranged job interviews to help them secure another position.
Once, while on a family trip, he noticed that a food vendor had dropped a box of (kosher) cookies. Some passersby mocked him for his clumsiness. Reb P. G. quickly realized that the vendor would not be able to sell the damaged goods. He said to him, “I love smashed cookies!” and bought them all.
When a new restaurant or grocery store opened in town and multitudes ran to try out the new store, Reb P. G. encouraged his family to continue to patronize the existing food establishments for a few more weeks to ensure that their owners would feel supported.
As a rodef chessed, he sought and identified opportunities to help. When the simcha halls were closed during the peak of the pandemic, Reb P. G. couldn’t sleep, worrying how a neighbor’s daughter would have a decent wedding. He offered his front yard for the wedding and arranged for a landscaper to plant flowers that same day to make it look more beautiful! He was always genuinely happy for others who were making a simcha and would try to be one of the first guests to arrive.
Yet despite his many accomplishments, he ran away from kavod, never wanting to be honored by the numerous mosdos that sought to do so.
Following in his mother’s ways, Reb P. G. would constantly express his sincere hakaras hatov to everyone: his wife and children, guests who joined his meals, employees, co-brokers, postal workers, nurses, customer service representatives, etc. He often sent personalized thank-you notes and gifts of appreciation to those with whom he did business or who helped him, inspiring many others to make similar simple efforts to brighten someone’s day.
Indeed, Reb P. G.’s initials reminds us of two of the many middos that he excelled at: P—praising Hashemand others, andG—giving chizuk!
Sales with soul
Reb P. G. followed in his parents’ footsteps with his chessed and Torah as well as his choice of profession. His father had a real estate agency in Monsey, NY, and when the time came to enter the workforce, Reb P. G. joined the field. He became the number-one broker for volume of home sales in New Jersey for several years while working at Century 21 Value Plus Realty, and at one point he became 10th in the entire United States.
During his time at Century 21, Reb P.G. “made history,” in his boss’s words. “He made real contributions to Lakewood. He serviced everyone.”
In 2002, he opened his own firm, Waxman Realty, one of the first frum-owned brokerage firms. He focused on serving the needs of the community, contributing to the growth of Lakewood over the last several decades. Still, he continued to appreciate the wonderful years that he was employed at Century 21. He sensitively made the sign for his new office low and subtle, as it was down the street from his previous one and he didn’t want it to be in direct view of his old boss and serve as a constant reminder that he’d left that company to start his own.
He was sensitive to residents and tenants while conducting showings in their homes. He freely shared his valuable professional advice with the many who sought it, even with agents and buyers who were under contract with another real estate office. Reb P. G. was eager to help others succeed in the industry.
Mrs. Blima Goldberger, an agent at Waxman Realty for 18 years, says, “Mr. Waxman was the king of real estate.” While many agents wanted to piggyback on his reputation and join his firm, he kept his staff small. “Even though it would not cost him anything to have more agents listed under him, he wanted his current agents to each be able to earn sufficient parnassah. He took achrayus for his employees. He wanted us to succeed and was happy for our success.
“He never viewed others as competition; he was never aggressive. His goal was to serve Hashem; he knew he had to work to do his hishtadlus and the rest was up to Hashem.”
He gave honest advice, even sacrificing his commission or an entire sale if he felt it was not in the buyer’s best interest. Often, he discouraged yungeleit from buying a home and encouraged them to rent instead if he realized that they would be better off without the responsibility of owning a home if they wanted to remain in kollel.
His honesty in business was legendary. He was a problem solver who sought resolutions with each party involved. When dealing with non-Jewish sellers and lawyers, he knew he was their window into the frum community and felt responsible to make a kiddush Hashem. And he succeeded in showing them the beauty of a Jew who behaves according to the Torah. A non-frum neighbor said, “The word ‘mentsch’ was created for P. G. Waxman!”
His adherence to halachah meant that he did not do business on Chol Hamoed and tried to finish work by chatzos on Erev Shabbos. Someone referred to him as a “tremendous talmid chacham who was disguised as a realtor.”
Mrs. Waxman invokes the gemara(Shabbos 31a) that lists the questions one will be asked upon entrance to Olam Haba: “Did you do business with honesty? Did you set aside time for Torah learning? Did you wait for the geulah?” These were three values that guided his life.
A precedent for askanus
The roshei yeshivah of BMG encouraged Reb P. G. to enter askanus when they saw it was an “eis la’asos laHashem” and the community needed a representative in the local government.
As the first frum person to be nominated and elected to the Lakewood Township committee in 1999, he was a trailblazer who set the precedent for others to follow. He served as deputy mayor during the frightening and uncertain time of 9/11/2001; he quickly understood the threat and dispatched emergency services to local yeshivos.
Reb P. G. was a leader guided by the principle of doing what’s right, and he often consulted with da’as Torah. He cared for all people and was beloved by all. Non-frum and non-Jewish township leaders felt close to him and greatly respected him.
Meir Lichtenstein, current committeeman and former mayor of Lakewood, reflects, “He showed me the way.” He explains that Reb P. G. understood that the frum community needed representation among various groups to improve our communication and work together with them, allowing better and balanced access to authority figures. He credits him with building an “openness toward the frum community,” from which we all benefit. As someone mentioned during the shivah, he was the “ambassador” who represented the Jewish community.
He was a commissioner of both the Ocean County Board of Taxation and the Lakewood Municipal Utilities Authority until his untimely passing. Previously, he held various positions on local boards and worked closely with officials from different parties and departments to ensure that the community’s needs were fairly addressed. His askanus benefited BMG as well as many other mosdos and shuls.
He earned respect as a leader and ba’al achrayus. Eventually, he stepped back to allow the next generation of askanim to follow in his footsteps, providing guidance when asked.
As devoted and active as he was for the klal, everyone knew that for Reb P. G. Waxman, family came first. He was mechanech his children with a love for learning Torah and doing mitzvos. Even with his busy schedule, he spent quality time with each child individually, developing a close relationship with each one. He not only felt but expressed his love and support for each child and helped each one identify and build upon his or her unique kochos.
As the oldest of his siblings, he was considered the “rosh mishpachah” who loved his siblings and their families and helped them in many ways.
This past Motza’ei Yom Kippur, he told one of his sons that he could not get past the words, “mena mageifah mi’nachalasecha” in Avinu Malkeinu. While crying, he asked, “How can someone not cry? There are so many people dying from this terrible tzarah!”
Four days before his petirah, Reb P. G. was intubated due to complications from COVID-19. Earlier that morning, he had said Vidui, donned his tefillin with mesirus nefesh, announced that he was mochel others, requested to be forgiven by all, and recited Shema.
Reb Pinchus Gershon Halevi Waxman was niftar on 9 Cheshvan. He is survived by his wife, Zeldy, their seven children, grandchildren, two brothers, and two sisters.
Yehi zichro baruch.
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