Thousands took part in the levaya on Sunday 5 Adar for
HaRav Yosef Farbstein zt"l, a ram at Yeshivas
Ohr Elchonon and rosh kollel of Kollel Be'er Shmuel in
Jerusalem, who passed away motzei Shabbos after two years of
illness and suffering.
Yosef Farbstein was born in Teves 5707 (1947) to HaRav
Avrohom Yehuda Farbstein zt"l and his mother
tlc"a, the daughter of HaRav Yechezkel Sarna, rosh
yeshiva of Yeshivas Chevron. In this great home he was
instilled with Torah, yiras Shomayim and good
middos, and was influenced by his grandfather, who
imparted to him the foundations of Torah and
At a young age he began studying under his father and
grandfather at Yeshivas Chevron, where his exceptional
abilities and industriousness soon stood out. In 5723 (1963)
he transferred to Yeshivas Lakewood. Though just 16, he soon
became one of the top students there. During this three-year
period he was totally immersed in his Torah study, not
letting homesickness interfere with his learning. He was
highly regarded by HaRav Schneur Kotler zt"l, who
treated him like one of his own sons and regularly had the
young man eat at his table. Throughout his lifetime HaRav
Farbstein recalled his close ties with the Rosh Yeshiva.
Shortly after returning to Eretz Yisroel, feeling a
desire to increase his knowledge of Kodshim he joined
a select group attending a shiur given by HaRav Yosef
Dov Soloveitchik, who was his father's close friend and long-
In 5730 (1970) he married Gittel Farbstein tlc"a of
the US, the daughter of HaRav Akiva Ehrenfeld shlita,
founder of Jerusalem's Mattersdorf neighborhood and
nosi of its institutions, and the granddaughter of
HaRav Shmuel Ehrenfeld, the Gavad of Mattersdorf,
Austria. Their home was filled with the legacies of the
Chasam Sofer and R' Akiva Eiger and throughout his lifetime
he taught his children to take pride in their zchus
He joined Kollel Lakewood and his friends from this period
recall his extraordinary hasmodoh. Every morning he
would sit down with one of his friends — today a
prominent rov in the US — for an intense study session
lasting from 8:00 am to 2:00 p.m. His father-in-law lived
near HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt"l, who grew very fond of
the young HaRav Farbstein and often passed on halachic
rulings in his name. On Shabbos he would also visit his
father-in-law's neighbor, HaRav Eliyohu Henkin, learning
mishnayos aloud with him since he was blind.
While studying under HaRav Chaim Zelig Cantor at Kollel
Romema, a kollel for outstanding Yeshivas Chevron
alumni, he formed a close bond with HaRav Shach zt"l.
This developed as a result of a specific incident when HaRav
Shach came to deliver a shiur at the kollel and
HaRav Farbstein was sent to escort him from Bnei Brak to
Jerusalem. HaRav Shach told people that he was very impressed
with R' Farbstein's character, and his opinion was reinforced
by a question that the young avreich asked on the
shiur that he said.
Years later, in a rare remark, HaRav Shach said, "R' Yosef is
a genuine talmid chochom and yirei Shomayim."
For a certain period of time they even had a set time to
learn together every Friday.
All his life HaRav Farbstein invested tremendous effort into
his Torah study. Mattersdorf residents still recall seeing
him sit in the beis medrash, learning with HaRav
Nosson Kopshitz from morning to night.
When the time came for him to start influencing other
lomdei Torah he was appointed rosh kollel of
Kollel Beis Shmuel under the nosi, HaRav Moshe
Horowitz, av beis din of Unsdorf.
In 5748 he was asked to serve as a ram at Yeshivas Ohr
Elchonon under HaRav Moshe Mordechai Chodosh. As a ram
he always kept in mind his grandfather's explanation of the
words "veshinantom levonecho" as interpreted by
Chazal, "eilu hatalmidim." Why does the Torah not
simply read, "veshinantom lesalmidecho?" HaRav Sarna
would ask. He explained that anyone who did not feel his
talmid was like his very own son was unworthy and
incapable of teaching him.
He became totally dedicated to harbotzas Torah and
even after his awful illness was diagnosed he would schedule
his treatments around his shiurim. This dedication
gave him the strength to confront his illness. Perhaps
symbolizing his dedication the first sign of his illness was
manifested when he collapsed in the beis medrash while
speaking with one of his talmidim.
HaRav Farbstein attached special importance to his weekly
shiur on the Ramban's commentary on the Torah, and
would weave fundamentals of Torah and hashkofoh into
the shiur. Even on his deathbed when he could barely
speak he still refused to abandon this shiur,
delivering it to a few of his close talmidim.
When news of his petiroh at Shaarei Tzedek hospital
traveled around Jerusalem, his talmidim began to
gather at the Shamgar Beis Levayos, where they stood around
the mittoh through the night. At the levaya
HaRav Shmuel Auerbach, who learned with him for years, spoke
in a choked voice, recalling the deceased's vast knowledge of
Torah, gadlus, deveikus, striving for truth and
his clear hashkofoh.
Hespeidim were also given by HaRav Ehrenfeld; HaRav
Chodosh; his brother-in-law, HaRav Refoel Shmuelevitz, one of
the roshei yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir; his brother, HaRav Moshe
Mordechai Farbstein, one of the roshei yeshiva of Yeshivas
Chevron; his close friend, HaRav Shmuel Betzalel, one of the
roshei yeshiva of Yeshivat Porat Yosef; HaRav Michel Zilber,
rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Zevihl; his brother-in-law, HaRav
Yitzchok Ehrenfeld, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Beis Shmuel, and
his sons Rav Yechezkel and Rav Simchah Bunim.