Borough Park, NY - Yoka Rov Recalled As A Respected Torah Luminary
Borough Park, NY - Just hours after his passing, the Yoka Rov, Rav Chaim Yeshayahu Koenig, is being remembered as a Torah giant and one of the last remaining links to pre-war Hungary.
“He was the type of rov that doesn’t exist anymore,” Ezra Friedlander, CEO of the Friedlander Group told VIN NEws. “He was a traditional no-nonsense Hungarian rov who said it as he saw it and whose demeanor reminded everyone of a bygone era.”
Rabbi Koenig, a Holocaust survivor, was a long time fixture in Borough Park who was widely respected as a talmid chochom and a posek. His straightforward approach to halacha was simple and direct, with his teshuvos based solely on the Shulchan Aruch, paying no regard to whether or not his answers would be popular.
“He wasn’t afraid to say what needed to be said,” said Israel Friedlander, who learned in the Yoka Rov’s kollel for three years. “That was how it was done back in Europe and he didn’t adapt to the system where you had to buy points with people. He would tell people that if they wanted to smirk at a psak they could, but this was the halacha and if they wanted to alter it or doctor it in any way it was up to them.”
Friedlander recalled being amazed by Rabbi Koenig’s vast breadth of knowledge.
“His bekiyus was massive,” said Friedlander. “He could quote teshuvas from the Chasam Sofer by heart, the Noda B’Yehuda and the Chochom Zvi, just as an example. Any place you wanted to ask him about in Shas, he could pinpoint the exact page.”
Rabbi Koenig would often bring a vast amount of history in his shiurim, and had a unique ability to give over his thoughts with tremendous clarity.
“He gave a shiur in a Hungarian style, taking it apart and making it very easy to understand even if it was a difficult sugya,” observed Friedlander. “He would explain it with his own chidushim and was able to keep things short so that people could really grasp what he was saying.”
While the Rov was well known for his humility, it was his passion for Torah that was most notable according to Friedlander.
“When he opened up a Gemara every day it was a pure example of someone who was a real, true masmid,” said Friedlander. “There was nothing better for him than someone coming to him for a Torah discussion. He literally swam in an ocean of Torah.”
The Yoka Rov, who was estimated to be in the high nineties, shared a close relationship with the Satmar Rebbe Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum Zt’l.
In a videotaped discussion with a distant cousin Rav Tzvi Hirsch Friedlander, the Liska Rebbe, the Yoka Rov discussed asking the Satmar Rebbe not to publish his sefer Vayoel Moshe, afraid that telling Satmar Chasidim not to live in Israel would be fulfilling David Ben Gurion’s goal of keeping Israel as a non-religious state.
Several hundred people turned out at noon today for the Yoka Rov’s levaya at his 55th Street synagogue in Borough Park. Among those who spoke were his sons, Rabbi Shlomo Koenig, his successor.
Two grandsons also eulogized the Rov, with Rabbi Srul Meir Koenig speaking about his own grandson, who was hit by a car yesterday in Borough Park as previously reported on VIN News.
Rabbi Koenig related that throughout his lifetime the Yoka Rov said that he no longer had the privilege of doing the mitzvah of honoring his parents who died during the war, but that now on Pesach he would have be able to recite Ma Nishtana for his parents in the next world.
The Yoka Rov was buried at Pupa Cemetery in Kiryas Pupa in Ossining.
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