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Jerusalem - Rav Shlomo Moshe Epstein, One of The Last Remaining Talmidim Of The Chofetz Chaim, Zt"l

Published on: February 18, 2009 08:27 AM
By: VIN News By Ezra Reichman
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Rav Shlomo Moshe Epstein Z'lRav Shlomo Moshe Epstein Z’l

Jerusalem - Rav Shlomo Epstein, one of the last remaining talmidim of the Chofetz Chaim, passed away on Tu B’Shvat at the age of 95.

He was born in 1914 in Vilna, the Jerusalem of Lita, to a rabbinical family. His father, Rav Sender, was a member of the mehadrin shechita rabbinical board, and his mother was a gabbait tzedaka of the Remailles yeshiva ketana in Vilna. Many of today’s gedolei Torah ate “teg” in their home, including Rav Michel Yehuda Lifkowitz, the rosh yeshiva of Ponevezh yeshiva ketana, who remembers the family fondly.

From his youth, Rav Shlomo was known for his noble and pleasant ways. He studied in the local Remailles yeshiva under Rav Meir Bassin (the father-in-law of Rav Yisroel Gustman, the rosh yeshiva of Netzach Yisroel) and then continued his studies in the Radin yeshiva under the Chofetz Chaim. Until his last days, he considered himself a talmid muvhak of the Chofetz Chaim, and frequently quoted his words and his personal experiences with him.

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Rav Shlomo regularly attended the private vaad of divrei chizuk and mussar which the Chofetz Chaim gave on Shabbos night after candle-lighting. He was also among a small group of bochurim who accompanied the Chofetz Chaim on his famous trip to Vilna to give a chizuk talk to the city’s Jews.

“It was impossible to enter the Vilna shul,” Rav Epstein recalled, “and all the roads and alleys leading to the shul were also packed by thousands of men, women and children. He couldn’t even reach the dais where the rabbonim were sitting, so strong fellows simply lifted his fragile body above the audience and carried him aloft to the front. Because of his frailty and old age, he couldn’t speak aloud, so Rav Baruch Ber Lebowitz was asked to repeat his words. Before he did so, Rav Baruch Ber opened the aron hakodesh and implored, “Ribono Shel Olam, guard me so I won’t stumble and add or detract from the rebbe’s pure words!” During this meeting, the Chofetz Chaim spoke of the many tikunim that the generation needed.”

Rav Epstein was also one of the bochurim who stayed with the Chofetz Chaim on the last day of his life. “We were painfully listening to his heavy wheezing, which echoed throughout the little house. For two weeks, all of us bochurim took turns staying with him, and now it was my shift. I looked at the clock and it was 3 in the morning. I was exhausted and told the other two boys with me that I was going to nap, and they should wake me up in an hour. Just as I laid down to sleep, my friend Yehuda Shulman barged through the door, looked at me with anguished eyes and said, “The Chofetz Chaim is no more!”

Rav Epstein left Europe to study in the Chevron yeshiva under Rav Yechezkel Sarna. From these years, he remained close friends to Rav Simcha Zissel Broida, Rav Avraham Farbstein, and Rav Meir Chodosh, zt"l, who took over the helm of the yeshiva until their passing.

When he left Radin, his friends gave him a parting gift of chiddushei Torah on Shas said by Rav Naftali Tropp. These maamorim were the only remnant of Rav Tropp’s shiurim that survived the Holocaust, and were eventually published.

He married into the Malinik family, one of the founders of Kfar Chassidim, and moved to the town. As the town secretary, he completely accepted the authority of the rosh yeshiva, Rav Eliyahu Mishkovsky. He was instrumental in the founding of Knesses Chizkiyahu yeshiva, gave shiurim to the local baalei batim, and generally raised the esteem of Torah in the local community. He headed the local Chevra Kadisha and instituted the stringencies of bnei Yerushalayim in its constitution. He was pivotal in the establishment of the many Torah institutions in Kfar Chassidim, and it becoming the Torah center of Israel’s northern coastal region.

He was an example to all of what a talmid chachom from the former generation looked like.

Ten years ago, he moved to the Mattersdorf neighborhood of Jerusalem to live near his children. His tefillos were passionate and he overflowed with stories of gedolim from the previous period, particularly those he grew up among and who were his mentors.

In the last few weeks of his life, weakness overcame him and he was hospitalized. On Tu B’Shvat night, he passed away.

His levaya was held in Torah Ohr yeshiva. Hespedim were said by the rosh yeshiva, Rav Simcha Sheinberg, who mentioned his great affection for the yeshiva’s students. Rav Yitzchak Ezrachi of the Mirrer yeshiva spoke about how Rav Epstein carried the demeanor of a ben yeshiva in every stage of his life, and how he faithfully passed on the teachings of his rebbeim, the Chofetz Chaim and Rav Naftali Tropp.

Rav Yaakov Krieger, rav of Kehilas Chaim in Mattersdorf, said that the verse “And Yosef and all his brothers and all that generation died” could be said about the niftar, who was closing the period of the prior generation. His sons also said heartrending hespedim.

He was buried in Kfar Chassidim, after being eulogized by the local rabbonim for his immense contribution to the town’s Torah development.

He left behind sons who followed in their father’s path: Rav Alexander, rosh yeshiva of Shaarei Torah, Rav Benzion, a maggid shiur in Torah Or, a daughter, and many grandchildren and greatgrandchildren.


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Read Comments (17)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Feb 18, 2009 at 07:43 AM Charlie Hall Says:

Baruch Dayan HaEmet.

There still remain a few Jews with personal memories of the Chofetz Chaim z'tz'l. Rabbi Gershon Yankelevitz learned at the Chofetz Chaim's yeshiva as a boy; he still gives shiurim at YU and at the Young Israel of Pelham Parkway in the Bronx. And Israel's President, Shimon Peres, grew up in a non-observant family but recalls receiving a bracha from the Chofetz Chaim.

2

 Feb 18, 2009 at 07:46 AM Anonymous Says:

isnt Rav Shachne Zohn also a talmid

3

 Feb 18, 2009 at 08:13 AM Anonymous Says:

Was he related to Reb Zeidel Epstein z"l who passed away several years ago?

4

 Feb 18, 2009 at 08:35 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

isnt Rav Shachne Zohn also a talmid

Yes he is. So is Horav Cofnas Shlit"a who was Rov for many years in Birmingham UK and now resides in retirement in Manchester!

5

 Feb 18, 2009 at 09:34 AM iib001 Says:

Reply to #1  
Charlie Hall Says:

Baruch Dayan HaEmet.

There still remain a few Jews with personal memories of the Chofetz Chaim z'tz'l. Rabbi Gershon Yankelevitz learned at the Chofetz Chaim's yeshiva as a boy; he still gives shiurim at YU and at the Young Israel of Pelham Parkway in the Bronx. And Israel's President, Shimon Peres, grew up in a non-observant family but recalls receiving a bracha from the Chofetz Chaim.

Do you have a reliable source that Peres got a Brocha not arguing but would love to know the source

6

 Feb 18, 2009 at 10:15 AM merkin Says:

How nice it would be if we had a Chofetz Chaim today, a leader for Klal Yisroel.

7

 Feb 18, 2009 at 10:31 AM Zalman Baumgarten Says:

Was the Rav Gustman Mentioned, formally the Rosh Yeshiva in Lubavitch?

8

 Feb 18, 2009 at 11:06 AM Askipeh Hanidreses Says:

Reply to #6  
merkin Says:

How nice it would be if we had a Chofetz Chaim today, a leader for Klal Yisroel.

When the Chofetz Chaim lived they said: “How nice it would be if we had a Vilner Gaon”. When the Vilner Gaon was alive they said: “How nice if we had the Shach with us”. When the Shach was alive they said: “How nice if we had the Remoh with us”. When the Remoh was alive they said: “How nice if we had Rabeinu Yonah with us”. When Rabeinu Yonah was alive they said: “How nice if we had Rashi with us”…… When Yehoshua was alive they said: “How nice if we had Moshe Rabeinu with us”. The moral of the story is that think whom your grandchildren will look back and say “Wish we had that Godol with us”, and Asei lecho Rav, make that Godol your Rav. The Gemorah says that “Ein lecho Cohen eleh asher yihe beyomim hohaim” You can’t have a Rov, only from your own time/era. Looking far der nechtiger toog is only a copout.

9

 Feb 18, 2009 at 01:19 PM me Says:

Reply to #7  
Zalman Baumgarten Says:

Was the Rav Gustman Mentioned, formally the Rosh Yeshiva in Lubavitch?

YES

10

 Feb 18, 2009 at 01:05 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #8  
Askipeh Hanidreses Says:

When the Chofetz Chaim lived they said: “How nice it would be if we had a Vilner Gaon”. When the Vilner Gaon was alive they said: “How nice if we had the Shach with us”. When the Shach was alive they said: “How nice if we had the Remoh with us”. When the Remoh was alive they said: “How nice if we had Rabeinu Yonah with us”. When Rabeinu Yonah was alive they said: “How nice if we had Rashi with us”…… When Yehoshua was alive they said: “How nice if we had Moshe Rabeinu with us”. The moral of the story is that think whom your grandchildren will look back and say “Wish we had that Godol with us”, and Asei lecho Rav, make that Godol your Rav. The Gemorah says that “Ein lecho Cohen eleh asher yihe beyomim hohaim” You can’t have a Rov, only from your own time/era. Looking far der nechtiger toog is only a copout.

problem is that in the days of the Chofets Chaim there were 100's of Admurim/R.Y.'s who'd be the light of todays generation...we are yesomim by all accounts....

11

 Feb 18, 2009 at 01:50 PM HarborBoys Says:

Reply to #5  
iib001 Says:

Do you have a reliable source that Peres got a Brocha not arguing but would love to know the source

It is probably baloney. If the Chofetz Chaim died more than 75 years ago, and the last few years of his live he rarely went out of his room in his house, once a day he would go out of his room to give a bracha to all that came, but it was to the general public. So Peres must have got his bracha over 80 years ago! And he claims he remebers it. Interesting that his frei parents would shlep a small tinok to Radin, which was a small derfel that had no train or bus service and was hard to get to.

12

 Feb 18, 2009 at 02:33 PM snag Says:

Reply to #8  
Askipeh Hanidreses Says:

When the Chofetz Chaim lived they said: “How nice it would be if we had a Vilner Gaon”. When the Vilner Gaon was alive they said: “How nice if we had the Shach with us”. When the Shach was alive they said: “How nice if we had the Remoh with us”. When the Remoh was alive they said: “How nice if we had Rabeinu Yonah with us”. When Rabeinu Yonah was alive they said: “How nice if we had Rashi with us”…… When Yehoshua was alive they said: “How nice if we had Moshe Rabeinu with us”. The moral of the story is that think whom your grandchildren will look back and say “Wish we had that Godol with us”, and Asei lecho Rav, make that Godol your Rav. The Gemorah says that “Ein lecho Cohen eleh asher yihe beyomim hohaim” You can’t have a Rov, only from your own time/era. Looking far der nechtiger toog is only a copout.

Askupeh - very good post, a hartzigen yasher keyach!

13

 Feb 19, 2009 at 04:26 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #8  
Askipeh Hanidreses Says:

When the Chofetz Chaim lived they said: “How nice it would be if we had a Vilner Gaon”. When the Vilner Gaon was alive they said: “How nice if we had the Shach with us”. When the Shach was alive they said: “How nice if we had the Remoh with us”. When the Remoh was alive they said: “How nice if we had Rabeinu Yonah with us”. When Rabeinu Yonah was alive they said: “How nice if we had Rashi with us”…… When Yehoshua was alive they said: “How nice if we had Moshe Rabeinu with us”. The moral of the story is that think whom your grandchildren will look back and say “Wish we had that Godol with us”, and Asei lecho Rav, make that Godol your Rav. The Gemorah says that “Ein lecho Cohen eleh asher yihe beyomim hohaim” You can’t have a Rov, only from your own time/era. Looking far der nechtiger toog is only a copout.

How do you know they said that? You are making things up. In the days of the Chofetz Chayim, he was universally recognized as the leader of the klal. Dont make up false stories just to preach to your fellow yidden. If there is real leadership today, I would like to know who it is. The concert banners? The rock throwers? dont make up stories. we are not children!

14

 Feb 19, 2009 at 01:58 PM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #13  
Anonymous Says:

How do you know they said that? You are making things up. In the days of the Chofetz Chayim, he was universally recognized as the leader of the klal. Dont make up false stories just to preach to your fellow yidden. If there is real leadership today, I would like to know who it is. The concert banners? The rock throwers? dont make up stories. we are not children!

" In the days of the Chofetz Chayim, he was universally recognized as the leader of the klal."

No, he wasn't. This is historical revisionism. He was one communal leader, who got a certain amount of respect, but AT NO TIME was he universally recognised as "the" leader; for that matter, he wasn't even universally recognised as "a" leader. The Agudah built him up because he was involved with it.

15

 Feb 19, 2009 at 05:22 PM Loshon Hora Says:

Reb Ahron Chodosh Shlita mashgiach Mir Yerushalyim, probably not 80 yet, went on visit to Russia & Lita at 4 years old & got a brocho from the chofetz chaim.

16

 Feb 20, 2009 at 03:04 AM refoel shimon Says:

Reply to #14  
Milhouse Says:

" In the days of the Chofetz Chayim, he was universally recognized as the leader of the klal."

No, he wasn't. This is historical revisionism. He was one communal leader, who got a certain amount of respect, but AT NO TIME was he universally recognised as "the" leader; for that matter, he wasn't even universally recognised as "a" leader. The Agudah built him up because he was involved with it.

Millhouse,
You my friend are the revisionist here.The Chofetz Chaim was so universally recognized that his name was simply "The Chofetz Chaim".If you really want to nit pick The Chofetz Chaim had no "official" position.Not even rov of the tiny Radin!.But he was universally seen amongst ALL Jewish groups as Hahohen Hagodol.
(" He was one communal leader, who got a certain amount of respect, but AT NO TIME was he universally recognised as "the" leader; for that matter, he wasn't even universally recognised as "a" leader. The Agudah built him up because he was involved with it. ”.What you say here is especially chutzpadik! He was one communal leader, who go a "certain "ammount of respect??What are you smoking?I have a hunch that since you belong to a "certain" group(you know which group), you have a bias and an agenda!)

17

 Feb 20, 2009 at 12:36 PM Askupeh Hanidreses Says:

Let’s set things straight. At the Knessia Hagdoleh, I think in 1933, the Chofetz Chaim was THE Godol. But in Hungary and by Chasidim in Poland and Galicia he was another great Godol on par with the Gedolai Ungaren and the Gedolei HaChasidim.

Already in the days of the Amoroim the Gemorah tells us that they said about the Tannaim: Im horeshonim kemalochim, onu bnei odom; im horeshoinim bnei odom, onu kachamorim; veloi kachamoiro shel Reb Pinchos Ben Yo’ir – If the early ones were angels, we are people; if the early ones were people, then we are donkeys; and not even as the donkey of Reb Pinchos Ben Yo’ir (who fasted three days in order not to eat “tevel”). Yes I have heard from people who lived at the time of the Chofetz Chaim that they were bemoaning the fact that the great Gedolim from a hundred years earlier weren’t with them.

Lastly there are real leaders today; Loi almon Yisroel; but first someone has to be mevatel himself to daas Torah and only then will they find a real Godol whom they can respect. Don’t forget Moshiach will hopefully be one of this generation!!!

18

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