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19 Adar II 5765 - March 30, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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HaRav Chaim HaKohen Kamil zt"l

By Betzalel Kahn and S. Bruchi

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 ylct"a.

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 ylct"a.

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 dead.

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 hasmodoh."

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 family.


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