The Torah world was orphaned on Shabbos Night Parshas
Tzav, 15 Adar II, with the sudden histalkus of
HaRav Chaim HaKohen Kamil zt"l, rosh yeshiva of
Yeshivas Ofakim, at the age of 72. Late at night on Motzei
Shabbos the mittoh was brought into the beis
medrash and the paroches taken down as hundreds of
his talmidim came to read Tehillim and mourn
through the night.
Chaim HaKohen Kamil was born on 2 Nisan 5693 (1933) to HaRav
Yaakov; his mother passed away while he was young. His great
ability in learning became apparent at Yeshivas Tiferes Tzvi
in Jerusalem and at a young age he transferred to Yeshivas
Slobodka in Bnei Brak.
His thirst for learning was insatiable. During this period he
studied bechavrusa with HaRav Nachum Rogoznitsky,
today rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Me'oros HaTorah in Telzstone.
Together they went in to speak with the Chazon Ish on several
occasions. Once a godol remarked that one could see in
R' Chaim the difference between someone who had seen the
Chazon Ish and someone who has not.
He married Esther, the daughter of HaRav Mordechai Porush,
one of the founders of the central gemach in
Jerusalem's Shaarei Chessed neighborhood. Together they built
a marvelous Torah home and raised their only daughter.
Moving to Jerusalem after the wedding, he began learning in
the Mir Kollel, where he cleaved to HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz
and HaRav Nachum Partzovitz. The rosh yeshiva, HaRav Eliezer
Yehuda Finkel, once said it was worth building Yeshivas Mir
for the sake of a talmid like HaRav Chaim Kamil.
Studying day and night, he became conversant in every part of
the Torah. To him concepts such as "bein hasedorim"
and "bein hazmanim" were foreign, even at the busiest
times of the year, such as Erev Pesach. During this period he
acquired the nickname "R' Chaim Shtender" because all day
long he would sit and rock his shtender back and
forth, ticking like a clock.
Every morning he would give a shiur during breakfast
at what came to be known as "R' Chaim's table." As a young
avreich at Yeshivas Mir he taught many
talmidim, including some of the leading roshei
yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel and the US.
Along with his tremendous amol and yegi'oh in
Torah he also grew in middos and yiras
Shomayim, displaying exceptional modesty and humility.
After a few years at Kollel Mir he began to serve as rosh
yeshiva at Yeshivas Me'or Einayim for Chernobyl Chassidim,
but even then he continued studying at Yeshivas Mir.
When a delegation comprised of heads of the Ofakim
kehilloh came to HaRav Kamil asking him to head the
yeshiva that had been founded a few years earlier by HaRav
Yosef Goldental he sent them to ask his rebbe, HaRav
Nachum Partzovitz, who disapproved of the idea. But when they
asked to appoint him rosh yeshiva for one year HaRav
Partzovitz agreed, and upon hearing that HaRav Kamil had
filled the post to their satisfaction he gave his blessings
for a permanent appointment. HaRav Kamil held the post of
rosh yeshiva from 5739 (1979) until his last day in This
World, serving alongside HaRav Yaakov Horowitz
The Torah community of Ofakim began to take shape during this
period and today numbers some 800 families. For years HaRav
Kamil took an active role in community affairs alongside the
rov of the kehilloh HaRav Shimshon Pincus zt"l,
and later his son HaRav Yisroel Yaakov Pincus
His talmidim say that one week before HaRav Pincus'
tragic death he asked the bochurim to maintain a
constant study watch night and day during bein
hazmanim because he had a feeling there was a need to
bolster Torah study.
In addition to serving as rosh yeshiva in Ofakim he gave a
weekly shiur kloli at Yeshivas Tifrach.
Once he told his talmidim that one of the reasons he
had come to Ofakim was that he knew that if he had remained
in Jerusalem he would have been drawn into communal affairs
and he was afraid that it would have interfered with his
learning. For this reason he also chose to leave Ofakim as
little as possible. A few months ago he went to Jerusalem for
the first time in several years to take part in a Sheva
Brochos for his oldest grandson. After the
tefilloh he delivered a droshoh and then dozens
of people stood in line to receive his brochoh.
At the yeshiva's annual Purim party he would sit and learn in
his head while the bochurim danced around him. This
year's Purim party was combined with a seudas hodoyoh
for one of the yeshiva's rabbonim who had recovered from an
illness. HaRav Kamil stood up and gave a shiur on a
sugyo in "Merubeh." This was common at every
holiday, for to him everything revolved around Torah study.
When he participated in Sheva Brochos for his
talmidim instead of saying a vort he would
generally present divrei Torah from the
maseches being studied at the yeshiva at the time.
Fourteen years ago his vision grew very weak, but he refused
to allow this to affect his learning. One of the
talmidim would read the gemora and
meforshim to him and he continued to give a daily
shiur as well as a shiur kloli once a week in
Ofakim in addition to his weekly shiur kloli at
Yeshivas Tifrach. Thus he continued to study be'iyun
two masechtos without being able to read the print.
Once he told his talmidim that he could not understand
the Mishnoh Berurah's kushyoh about the Tanoim and
Amoro'im who would prepare their homes for Shabbos—one
salting fish, another sweeping the floor, rather than letting
others do it for them—because he always prepared for
Shabbos and learned simultaneously.
During the Shabbos Night Parshas Tzav seudah at his
daughter and son-in-law's home, he suddenly fell and lost
consciousness. Magen David Adom was summoned but after trying
to resuscitate him for a whole hour he was pronounced
The levaya, held at 9:00 Sunday morning in Ofakim,
drew thousands. The first hespeidim were delivered by
HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir, HaRav
Yaakov Friedman, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Tifrach, HaRav
Daniel Atlan, one of the deceased's talmidim, and
HaRav Yissochor Meir, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas HaNegev.
Delivering a eulogy by phone from abroad, the director of the
yeshiva, HaRav Yosef Goldental, said the yeshiva would be
renamed Yeshivas Ofakim Toras Chaim.
HaRav Yisroel Yaakov Pincus, the moro d'asro of
Ofakim, opened with the verse, Yesomim hoyinu ve'ein
ov. "Whenever I stood next to the Rosh Yeshiva
zt"l, I felt like a small boy standing opposite an
angel . . . `Woe is the ship that has lost its captain.' A
captain is much more than a leader, for the captain navigates
the ship during stormy weather. And it is well known what
Rabbenu Yeruchom said in his hesped when the Chofetz
Chaim passed away. The Chofetz Chaim has left us but
HaKodosh Boruch Hu of the Chofetz Chaim is with us. If
R' Chaim Kamil zt"l were standing here he would call
on all of us to unite, for the Father feels sorrow when his
children are divided."
HaRav Amram Ochayoun, the rov of Ofakim, said, "During the 30
years we have known him we never saw him grow angry. While I
was abroad for medical treatments he called to offer me
encouragement and this gave me a great deal of strength.
Today we can say now that R' Chaim is gone, persistence in
Torah is gone and humility is gone. We should all [follow]
his ways and increase peace and unity."
The deceased's son-in-law, HaRav Dov Salomon, said, "There is
always a yeshiva eulogy, a kehilloh eulogy, a home
eulogy, but here everyone cries out, `Abbo!' When asked about
his patience he would say a father always has patience . . .
HaRav Yaakov Horowitz, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ofakim, said,
"When I was sick R' Chaim shook the world for my sake, but he
left us abruptly without even allowing us to pray for him. R'
Chaim taught us what hasmodoh is and what ahavas
haTorah is. During the period when his vision was taken
away from him he sat and studied as usual and his goal in
life, as he said, was to stir more and more Torah study.
"R' Chaim zt"l recounted that when he arrived in
Ofakim he saw a great thirst for Torah. All his life he was
pained by the slackening in Torah study on Shabbos and
chagim. He himself spent the whole Shabbos learning.
And we could see how his face shone on Shabbos. Once he told
me he loved Shabbos so much he wanted to leave the world on
Shabbos Kodesh and his request was granted. We must carry out
his wish and request to strengthen ourselves in maintaining
the sedorim, especially on Shabbos Kodesh. We have
sacrificed a precious sacrifice and we must follow in his
ways and take advantage of this difficult time for spiritual
elevation, learning from his yegi'oh and
After the hespeidim the levaya proceeded down
the main streets of Ofakim as the rabbonim of the yeshiva and
the local area carried the mittoh from the yeshiva to
the edge of town, where the City of Ofakim provided buses to
transport the participants to Jerusalem.
After the body was prepared for burial at the Shamgar Funeral
Facility the levaya resumed at Yeshivas Mir. No
hespeidim were given in Jerusalem because there it was
the last day of Shushan Purim Meshulosh. After HaRav Aviezer
Piltz, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Tifrach, asked
forgiveness in the name of the kehilloh members and
HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel recited Kaddish, the levaya
made its way to the Mount of Olives, where he was buried
shortly before sunset.
HaRav Chaim HaKohen Kamil zt"l, is survived by his
daughter, who is married to HaRav Dov Salomon, a rov and
prominent kehilloh member in Ofakim, and their