Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Ellul 5766 - September 6, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Rav Menachem Kohn

"Ein menachem loh mikol ohaveho — We have no Menachem; all of those who so loved him can find no comfort." These were the words of the Telzer Rosh Yeshiva HaRav Chaim Stein in his tearful hesped on HaRav Menachem Kohn zt"l of Cleveland, who was killed tragically in a car accident on Monday August 21-27 Av.

Rav Menachem was the embodiment of a talmid chochom whose life was one long song of devotion to the ideals of Torah, avodoh and gemilus chassodim.

Rav Menachem's simple love of learning and his ability to squeeze out every available minute in the day for limud haTorah and mitzvos, were well-known in Cleveland and to all who knew him elsewhere. The full extent of his avodoh, yiras Shomayim, and gemilus chassodim, will never be known.

Despite his greatness, Reb Menachem was completely unpretentious. He saw nothing remarkable about himself and felt as if he were just another yungerman trying to fulfill the dictates of the Torah. Never did he realize that he had become the very person whom he sought to emulate.

Early Years

Reb Menachem Kohn was born 42 years ago in Los Angeles to Mr. and Mrs. Yosef Yitzchok Eizik Kohn. His parents were both Holocaust survivors who had moved to Los Angeles after the war, and had rebuilt their lives and achieved success. Menachem was the ben zekunim, born after three older brothers.

His father, who had been close to the Satmar Rov before the War, continued his relationship with the Satmar Rov on American shores. Menachem inherited the middoh of hisdabkus to tzaddikim and talmidei chachomim from his father, and throughout his life he attached himself to great tzaddikim and talmidei chachomim. He always maintained a close relationship with the Admorim of Satmar. In addition, he was supremely devoted to his father's minhagim. His living and learning in the Telshe Yeshiva for so many years in no way dulled his enthusiasm for the rich mesorah to which he was heir.

He entered Telshe Yeshiva at the age of 14, following in the footsteps of his brothers. For the next 28 years, his neshomoh became bound to the yeshiva, its roshei yeshiva and talmidei chachomim. He had an extremely close relationship with HaRav Chaim Stein, never making a major move without consulting him first.

In his high school years he became very close to the mashgiach of the mechina, HaRav Anshel Hellman.

Menachem always felt that he could and should learn from everyone. He attached himself to anyone who could possibly imbue him with a modicum of ruchniyus and, in his humility, he always felt himself to be lacking.

Eighteen years ago, Rav Menachem married Chaya Gittel, the daughter of Reb Dovid Aryeh Friedman, rosh hakahal of HaRav Menashe Klein's shul and a prominent mokir Torah.

Together they built an exemplary Torah home in Cleveland. His wife was his greatest supporter. Not only did she assume the task of running the household so that he could devote his time to learning, but she always encouraged him to do more.

One chavrusa who learned with him each morning at 6:00 a.m. recalls that when he was out of town he wanted to continue his learning by telephone. However he was hesitant to call so early in the morning for fear of awakening Mrs. Kohn. When she heard about his hesitation, she said that she was happy to receive a call at that hour for the furthering of her husband's learning.

Torah and Avodoh

Any description of the life of Reb Menachem Kohn has to begin with Torah. Not only was Reb Menachem a true talmid chochom, but he was a person who was constantly striving to grow in his learning. Learning for so many years only added to his desire to conquer new vistas in learning.

Reb Menachem learned in the Telshe Yeshiva, living in the nearby community of Wickliffe for many years. A number of years ago he moved to Cleveland Heights.

A great rosh yeshiva once said that a masmid is not only measured by how many hours he sits over a sefer, but even more by how he utilizes every minute of the day to the fullest. Reb Menachem Kohn was such a masmid. Besides learning the major sedorim in the yeshiva, he kept himself busy from 6:00 a.m. until the very late hours of the night with numerous small learning sedorim. His morning began at about 6:00 a.m. when he would daven and then learn. During his short breakfast break he had a learning seder on the telephone with a baal habayis. He also learned Daf Yomi daily with a chavrusa for many years and he merited finishing Shas twice.

HaRav Yehuda Blum, rov of the Kehal Yereim of Cleveland where he davened every morning, related at the levaya that Reb Menachem was the very last person to leave the shul and lock up each night. Nevertheless, he had still another seder at home afterwards!

Throughout the years, Reb Menachem penned his own chiddushei Torah. A number of years ago he published two seforim, one on masechta Beitza and the second on masechta Moed Koton. He called the seforim Ateres Ovi, in memory of his father. At the time of his petiroh he was in the middle of writing his third sefer.

Just a day before the accident which took his life, Reb Menachem went to Monroe to daven at the tziyun of the Satmar Rebbe zt"l on his yahrtzeit. He also went to visit the current Satmar Rebbe. The Rebbe gave him a brochoh for ashirus. In response Reb Menachem exclaimed, "This brochoh for ashirus please bestow on my mother so that she may continue to support me in my learning. As for me, please give me a brochoh for yiras Shomayim and hatzlochoh in Torah!"

Reb Menachem displayed extraordinary mesiras nefesh for Torah. He could have accepted at any time a lucrative position in the family business. However, "nafsho choshkoh beTorah." Torah is what gave him happiness and fulfillment.

At the levaya, his brother recalled that Reb Menachem dealt with his learning as if it were a job. The family had a yearly gathering in New York to daven at their father's kever on the morning of his yahrtzeit. Reb Menachem would invariably go back to Cleveland for the afternoon learning seder. When his brothers asked him why the rush, he would say, "I have to go back to my job."

Similarly, when he would travel to New York for a family simchah, even if the simchah was on Wednesday night he would return to Cleveland and not stay for the weekend. If he was asked why, he would reply, "I would love to stay, but I have a job."

Torah learning was his job and it had to be performed with the utmost sense of responsibility.

His chavrusas related that whenever he would travel in the summer, they would maintain their sedorim on the telephone. His Daf Yomi chavrusa had learned the Daf Yomi with him late Sunday night, just hours before the fatal accident. His early morning chavrusa related that after his last baby was born several weeks ago, Reb Menachem felt that he could not daven vosikin because he wanted to help take care of the baby and other children during the early morning hours. Instead the chavrusa came to his house after having himself davened vosikin, whereby he and Reb Menachem, while holding the newborn baby, would immerse themselves in their daily Torah learning. As they were learning, the various children in the household would awaken and wander downstairs. Reb Menachem would rise, wash them, get them something to eat and immediately return to learning exactly from where he had left off.

His devotion to Torah was extraordinary. However, it was never at the expense of his family. The amazing thing about him was that he was such a zoriz that he simply found time for everything. Despite learning with ten chavrusas, he still managed to accomplish the duties of husband and father. He would do the daily car pool; every Friday morning when his wife would awaken, the potatoes were already peeled for the kugel; on motzei Shabbos, after Havdalah, he would take off his jacket and wash the Shabbos dishes!

One family member related that if Menachem finished packing the car before a trip and still had ten minutes left, he would grab a sefer and learn, or write down one of his chiddushim or a dvar Torah that he had heard from someone else.

Reb Menachem was so me'urav im habriyos, so geshmak . . . He loved people and was beloved by all. His high- pressure schedule never made him act as if he was under pressure.

One of his brothers-in-law said, "When he came to our home in Boro Park, I felt as if it was a yom tov. He was so alive, so lebedig. He was much older than I, but he had the energy and enthusiasm of someone years younger!"

When he was a young boy in Los Angeles, the Ribnitzer Rebbe is reported to have given him a brochoh that he should not require too much sleep. That brochoh was fulfilled. Even when he had to go to sleep later than usual, he would invariably wake up at his regular time.

His humility was simply amazing. He truly believed that he was completely unremarkable. He would often be heard commenting, "I am a pashute Yid" or "I am an am ho'oretz" . . . He had a tremendous middoh of seeking out and striving for the truth. He would go anywhere to "grab" a bit more yiras Shomayim.

When he would be in the New York area, he would thrive on the tishen of Chassidishe Rebbes. Despite that he was himself an accomplished baal halochoh, he would constantly call prominent rabbonim to discuss many sugyos in Halochoh.

Ahavas Chesed

Reb Menachem engaged in a tremendous amount of chesed, much of it far removed from the spotlight. Reb Menachem would invariably be the first to write a check and get things rolling for a new cause. His zerizus in chesed was similar to his zerizus in all aspects of avodas Hashem.

He loaned large sums of money. Often he would lend the money through third parties so that the recipients of the loan would not even know from whom the money had come. When he saw a person having difficulty repaying a loan, he would simply never say a word about it again.

One yungerman related how he had approached Reb Menachem about a person who had come from Eretz Yisroel to America to seek medical treatment for his son. "When I told Menachem the story, he became so emotional, thinking about the person's plight, that tears sprang to his eyes. He then wrote out a very large check that may have been beyond his means."

Every year Reb Menachem would spend Pesach in Boro Park with his in-laws. This past Pesach was the very first Pesach that he stayed home and conducted the Seder himself, with his own minhagim.

Reb Menachem was a supremely devoted father who invested much time and effort into each and every one of his boys and girls. When his children were young, he would have tutors learn with them. A couple of years ago, however, he decided that he wanted to teach them himself. He rearranged his entire schedule to learn with his children daily.

Monday 27 Av, as he was driving in the Catskills, his car was involved in the accident that took his life. The heart- rending levaya was held that very night in the Shomer Hadas Chapel in Boro Park.

Hespedim were delivered by Rav Boruch Hirschfeld, Rosh Kollel of the Kollel in Cleveland Heights where he learned the past few years; Rav Illowitz, the Shamshaner Rov, who is a relative; Rav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, Rosh Yeshiva of the Lakewood Mesivta and his former Rebbe in Telshe; Rav Yehuda Blum, Rov of Kehal Yereim in Cleveland; Rav Chaim Stein, Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe Cleveland; Reb Dovid Aryeh Friedman, his father-in-law; Reb Shaul Aryeh Kohn, his brother and his 13- year-old son, Aharon Avrohom (Ari). He was buried in the cemetery in Deans, New Jersey next to his father.

Reb Menachem Kohn leaves behind his mother, three brothers, his wife and nine children, the oldest of whom is 17 and the youngest who is just a few weeks old.

It is proper to end with the following story.

Once, after coming home from a levaya he asked a friend a favor, "Please, when my time comes, I don't want to be considered a tzaddik because I died."

Indeed, no one would say that Reb Menachem is considered a tzaddik because he died; rather, he was a tzaddik because of the very way he lived. Yehi zichro boruch.


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.