Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Adar 5766 - March 8, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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HaRav Yosef Farbstein zt"l

By Betzalel Kahn

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 mussar.

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- time chavrusa.

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 ovos.

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.


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