When he was a child, his parents recognized in him a hechere neshomo, a higher soul; and in his 87 years he proved it over and over. At 8, Yaakov Yosef Herman arrived with his parents from Eastern Europe in 1888, into the bustling, teeming Lower East Side of New York, a new world too busy for the "old-fashioned" ancestral religion of observant Jewry. It was a world where if you didn't come to work on Saturday, you went looking for a new job on Monday. For 5 years his father tried to earn a living working or teaching Torah, and he failed. He had to take his family back to the Old Country, without enough money to take Yaakov Yosef along. At 13 the boy was left to fend for himself in a milieu that frankly thought you were a little crazy if you insisted on sticking to the Torah's laws. With dogged determination he clung to what he had been together, as he made his way in business, brought his family back to New York, and began raising a family of his own. With a genuine eishes chayil at his side (and how he managed to marry her without a dowry, in the face of family opposition, makes a fascinating story all by itself), he took to inviting people home for Shabbos. It was nothing unusual for the family to have 30 guests at one time. He took special pains to invite the gedolim, the great Torah scholars of Eastern Europe who came to America in search of support for their famed yeshivos. As his fame spread, arriving gedolim sought him out, and his "hachnossas orchim business" prospered. In return for his Shabbos food he received inspiration and guidance to grow in Torah knowledge and observance in his adult years. This is the full, blazing story of a man who, in the bewildering night of a New World, chose one fixed point as his polestar. His age-old religion told him that this world, in all its complexity, has one Boss: the Almighty who created it. Yaakov Yosef Herman's slogan for life became: All for the Boss! For the sake of that Boss's Torah and mitzvos he was ready to move. And move he did. Out of his love for Torah he became a prime educator. With his dedication and enthusiasm he infected others, who became devoted talmidim, among them, for example, Rav Nosson Wachtvogel of Lakewood's Torah center; Rav Boruch Kaplan, who founded the Bais Yakov school system in America; and the immensely influential Rav Avigdor Miller, who pays a glowing tribute to his teacher in his Foreword. Among other things, it might be noted that Yaakov Yosef Herman also helped found the two major, pioneering yeshivos of the Lower East Side. Only one person could write this story, to tell it all, from the early years in New York to the final decades in Yerusholayim. His daughter Ruchoma knows it all: the struggles and the triumphs, the heartbreak and the happiness; and with growing understanding through the years, all the power and the glory of a life lived "all for the Boss." To quote from Ruchoma Shain's Afterword:"...in 1963, as I sat in his store [in the Me'ah She'arim section of Yerusholayim] the thought suddenly came to me, 'Papa, I should write your life-story...I want my children, grandchildren, and all our generations to follow, to know who their Zeidy was. Secondly, I am sure it will give many people chizuk...'Papa was still for a few minutes. Then, pointing his finger at me, he said firmly, 'Ruchoma, not in my lifetime.' The look he gave me sanctioned my writing his life story after he passed on." Like the Chofetz Chaim (whom he knew personally) Yaakov Yosef Herman wanted no fame while alive. His "Boss" would give him all the reward he needed. With the publication of this book, we believe the fame he deserved will catch up with him at last. As Rabbi Avigdor Miller writes in his Foreword, "The biography of this servant of Hashem is long overdue."
by Ruchoma Shain
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