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22 Adar II 5763 - March 26, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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HaRav Yaakov Chaim Jofen zt'l
by Betzalel Kahn

HaRav Yaakov Chaim Jofen, rosh yeshivas Beis Yosef and the son of HaRav Avrohom Jofen, the son-in-law of the Alter of Novhardok, zecher tzadikim livrochoh, passed away in New York on Sunday at the age of 86.

HaRav Yaakov Chaim Jofen was born in 5677 (1917). His father was among the founders of the Novardok movement in Lithuania following the First World War. Thousands of talmidim-- some of whom eventually became gedolei olom--studied at Yeshivas Novardok, which had dozens of branches during this period. Many of these talmidim Hy'd, later perished in the Holocaust.

His sandek was the author of the Leshem Shevo Ve'achlomoh, who was one of his grandfather's rebbeim. From a young age R' Yaakov Chaim showed himself to be an ilui and a masmid whose broad knowledge astounded many greats in the Torah world.

Following his bar mitzvah he studied at Baranovich for one year under HaRav Dovid Rapaport zt'l, and then for a year under HaRav Elchonon Wasserman, Hy'd. During these two years he lived with his uncle, the mashgiach, HaRav Yisroel Yaakov Lubchansky, Hy'd. Later he returned to Bialystok to study under his father at Yeshivas Beis Yosef.

Rav Boruch Ber was very fond of him and even sent a letter to Rav Avrohom asking that he send his son to learn under him at Kamenitz. Rav Boruch Ber also introduced Yaakov Chaim to Rav Chaim Ozer zt'l, who also showed great fondness for him.

In 5699 (1939) he stayed in Vilna, where he was granted permission to participate in shiurim on maseches Nozir given by the Griz zt'l, and was by far the youngest participant there.

In 5701 (1941) he arrived in the U.S. with his father and other gedolei Torah who managed to secure exit visas from Russia. They went on to found the Torah world for this period in the U.S. In 5701 he was already giving shiurim at Yeshivas Beis Yosef, and continued to do so for the next sixty years without interruption.

In 5704 he married the daughter of Rav Moshe Blech, a rov in Vienna and a great talmid chochom who received semichoh from Rav Meir Arik. The shadchan was HaRav Chaim Heller, who told Rav Blech that R' Yaakov Chaim had mastered all six orders of Shas.

At that time it was no small matter to marry a talmid chochom like Rav Yaakov Chaim, who was not bound by worldly distractions. The Rebbetsin followed him faithfully, with deep admiration for his genius in Torah and his big- heartedness. She assumed the entire burden of parnossoh in order to allow her husband and sons to grow in Torah completely unfettered by distractions.

Rav Yaakov Chaim Jofen remained wholly detached from all matters outside of his Torah learning. He was totally consumed with the fire of the holy Torah, laboring at his studies with tremendous hasmodoh, unaware of events transpiring around him.

Making full use of his talents and diligence he became a godol beTorah, mastering the Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi, Mechilta, Safro and Sifri, Zohar, Tikuni Zohar and other midrashim. He toiled over all of the works of the Rishonim, and in his shiurim and talks his talmidim were amazed by his precise quotations from numerous seforim, in addition to all of the writings of the Rishonim on the Shas and Chumash.

In all of his teachings he cited reliable sources in order to reach the root of the matter at hand and build it from the foundations. He adhered to this approach both in his gemoro shiurim and in mussar, in which he displayed Torah fundamentals, avodas hamiddos and yiras Shomayim explicitly drawn from the words of Chazal and the Rishonim.

In his Torah learning, as well as all of his ways, he sought only truth. Although he displayed exceptional genius and originality, he submitted to the opinions of rabboseinu, seeing himself as a talmid of gedolei hadoros obligated to abide by their Torah teachings, and their image was fixed in his mind.

He also served as the head of the kollel his father started at the Beis Medrash Gavo'oh LeTorah Umussar in Jerusalem, and would come to Eretz Yisroel periodically to give shiurim and talks. When he came, he stayed with his mother, the daughter of the Alter of Novardok, showing exemplary kibbud em.

HaRav Jofen maintained ties with HaRav Aharon Kotler zt'l, who told one of his talmidim who was engaged to Rav Jofen's niece that the shidduch was worthwhile for the uncle alone since he knew the entire Torah. He was also close to Rav Y. Hutner zt'l, even sending his sons to study in Rav Hutner's yeshiva. Later he married off one of his daughters to the grandson of HaRav Moshe Feinstein, zt'l.

A portion of HaRav Jofen's chiddushim were published in Ner Mishpot on maseches Sanhedrin and in a kuntres on Jewish festivals. His son, HaRav Aharon Jofen zt'l, was a ram at Yeshivas Chevron and Rosh Kollel Merkaz Beis Yosef. Referring to his father in the introduction to a sefer he wrote on Maseches Nedarim he wrote, "He opened before me the porthole to his great treasure, lighting the path before me, the path of truth in learning the writings of the Rishonim, reading the letters one by one as if counting gold and sapphires, weighing their words on the scales of intellect, thereby being privileged to uncover their eternal light."

HaRav Yaakov Chaim Jofen was sick for the past few years. With his petiroh the Torah world lost one of the gedolei Torah of our generation, one of the leading roshei yeshivos in the U.S. and a faithful trustee of the Torah legacy of Novardok.

He is survived by his son, HaRav Mordechai Jofen, a ram at Yeshivas Beis Yosef in Brooklyn, two daughters and grandchildren. His son the late HaRav Aharon, the son-in- law of HaRav Moshe Chevroni zt'l, was known for his fabulous shiurim and his chiddushim on Ritvo Nedorim and Yevomos.

The levaya was held in New York on Sunday, and HaRav Yaakov Chaim Jofen zt'l, was buried at Har Hamenuchos on Monday.


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