Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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13 Tammuz 5761 - July 4, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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HaRav Gershon Cahen zt"l
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

On Shabbos Kodesh parshas Chukas, HaRav Gershon Cahen, zt"l, director of the Chachmei Tsorfat institutions in Aix-les-Bains and a mainstay of the Torah world in France was niftar after a difficult illness. He was 68 at the time of his petirah.

HaRav Gershon Cahen, son of Reb Avrohom, was born in France in 5683 (1923). As a youth, he studied in the Chachmei Tsorfat yeshiva, where he was one of the yeshiva's outstanding students. He was close to HaRav Nosson Weil, zt"l, and HaRav Mordechai Pogremansky zt"l. His yearning to rise in Torah and avodas Hashem through toil as well as his striving to attain pure yiras Shomayim were evident even at this early stage.

During the Holocaust, he was drafted into the liberation army. He sanctified Shem Shomayim in all of his activities throughout the Holocaust and afterwards. In 5710 (1950), after his marriage, he assumed the burden of directing the Chachmei Tsorfat institutions in Aix-les- Bains.

In addition to attending to the yeshiva's finances and the students' material needs, he delivered mussar discussions to the students. He merited to produce many students who regarded him as a unique personality who had profound influence on everyone he met, strengthening so many people with his natural warmth and unassuming manner.

He later moved to Strasbourg, where he delivered Torah shiurim to a large groups of laymen whom he guided in their daily lives and spiritual progress.

His life was one long saga of efforts to increase kovod Shomayim. He was one of the first to become involved in kiruv activity in France, and he succeeded to draw many closer to Torah with his pleasant manner of speaking.

He was a respected personage in France and in many issues crucial to the development of French Jewry his opinion was decisive. Many French Jews owe him their spiritual existence. He personally accompanied his students throughout their lives, offering them both guidance in Torah and material assistance.

He was beloved by all who knew him, and his associates regarded him as the epitome of good middos, greatness and pleasant ways. He constantly sought the golden mean in every issue, while staunch in his adherence to derech Yisroel Saba, particularly where Torah chinuch was involved. Due to his humility, warmth and unassuming manner, he had many admirers who approached him with their problems. He in turn shared their simchas and was grieved by their distress.

Two-and-a-half years ago, he fell ill with a serious disease. On Shabbos parshas Chukas he returned his pure soul, refined by much suffering, to its Maker.

Levaya in Eretz Yisroel

His levaya was held on 10 Tammuz in Bnei Brak. It left from the Lederman shul on Rechov Rashbam to the cemetery in Bnei Brak.

Thousands from all over the country arrived at the Lederman shul on Rashbam Street in Bnei Brak, from where the levayaniftar, from whom they received spiritual guidance. A large number of those in attendance were baalei teshuva, who owe him a deep debt of gratitude for having been instrumental in their return to Yiddishkeit.

Before the levaya left for the cemetery, mournful hespedim were delivered by roshei yeshiva and rabbonim. First to speak was HaRav Yitzchok Weil, the rosh yeshiva of Chachmei Tsorfat, who bemoaned the loss of the niftar who had directed the yeshiva for fifty years. He said: "We were privileged to know him as a tzaddik with numerous merits. He was complete in Torah, avoda and gemilas chassodim, a wise man who was moser nefesh to Torah and to upholding the Torah world. Despite these burdens, he maintained steady sedorim in Torah learning and delivered many shiurim. His prayers were well known, and emerged from the depths of his heart. He did chesed with all, especially with the yeshiva students. His wife, tibodel lechayim tovim ve'arukim stood by his side his entire life, encouraging him in his many efforts on behalf of Torah, chesed and kiruv. There is no doubt that he will enter the Heichal Hatzaddikim, where he will meet with his close friend, the rosh hayeshiva, HaRav Chaikin, with whom he worked for fifty years."

HaRav Yitzchok Wassermann cried out: "No matter how much we eulogize him, we will not succeed in doing so properly, because it is impossible to grasp his greatness. He was unique in his avodas Hashem, which he learned from his mentor, HaRav Chaikin. He was a role model of mesiras nefesh, alacrity, self-nullification, taharoh and kedusha. Shayif ayal veshayif nofik. He accomplished in one day, what others accomplish in a week. His entire life was dedicated to the klal, and when he appears before the Throne of Glory, may he be a good interceder on behalf of klal Yisroel."

HaRav Yitzchok Ezrachi lamented: "He sanctified Shem Shomayim, and there is no one more dear to HaKodosh Boruch Hu than a shliach mitzvah, who does his earthly mission. All of his deeds were one loyal shlichus of Hakodosh Boruch Hu, and his sole purpose was to make His Name beloved on earth. He was the pillar of truth, who produced many students, and his share in the rescue of French Jewry and worldwide Jewry is great."

Other hespedim were delivered by HaRav Gavriel Toledano; HaRav Bamberger, the niftar's son-in-law; HaRav Tzvi Chaikin one of the roshei yeshiva of Chachmei Tsorfat; HaRav Yosef Nidam, the director of the yeshiva and by HaRav Yisroel Cahen, the niftar's son. All of them described the niftar's great share in strengthening Torah in France and insuring its continuation.

Before the closing of the grave, the niftar's son, HaRav Todros Cahen, spoke about his father's great mesiras nefesh, saying that with HaRav Gershon's petirah, France Jewry has lost a person of great spiritual stature and with great mesiras nefesh to Torah dissemination.

He is survived by his wife, his sons: HaRav Todros and HaRav Yisroel, and his sons-in-law, HaRav Moshe Aryeh Bamberger, HaRav Yosef Mayer, HaRav Yehuda Shmuel, HaRav Naftali Goldberg, HaRav Yehuda Rosenblum, HaRav Eliyahu Benishu, HaRav Meir Simcha Karnovski, HaRav Mayer Visman, all of whom are outstanding talmidei chachomim, roshei yeshiva and roshei kollel.


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