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
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
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