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10 Cheshvan 5767 - November 1, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Rabbeinu Hakodosh: A Talmid Remembers Yomim Noraim in Yeshivas Tiferes Yaakov with R' Chaim Kaufman, ztvk"l

by One of his Talmidim

In would like to preface that I was not of R' Chaim's close talmidim. I was not one of the many who spoke with him about every kushya and sofek. I was not one of the many who walked him home daily to hear his many divrei Torah vechizuk.

However, like all of his talmidim, I felt that he loved us personally and had a special kesher with us. To all of us he was our moreh derech, our tzaddik. No words can describe how we felt being close to such a tzaddik, somebody who lived like the tzaddikim of the past, in his hasmodoh, his simchas haTorah, his kedushoh.

However, after the first yomim noraim since his petiroh, in which we so keenly felt our loss, I felt I should write about my memories of the holy days with R' Chaim.

Selichos Erev Rosh Hashonoh

Like all yeshivos, the whole Elul zman we prepared for the Yomim Noraim and we were mischazek in the areas where bochurim should be mischazek. But in Yeshivas Tiferes Yaakov, we were zocheh every year to prepare for Rosh Hashonoh with much more than that. We were zocheh to see and hear R' Chaim davening Selichos on Erev Rosh Hashonoh.

Although Selichos began at 6:30 a.m., the preparations began long before. Immediately following ma'ariv the night before, extra tables were brought into the beis hamedrash and shtenders were placed in the aisles. Those who know how packed the beis hamedrash is all year round, will appreciate even more how great a chesed this was for the outsiders. Posters were hung all the way up the stairs leading to the beis hamedrash saying that bochurim learning in the yeshiva have first rights for their seats.

By 6:30 the next morning, the beis hamedrash was already packed full, for besides bochurim from the yeshiva, many bochurim come from the Yeshiva Gedoloh and from Sunderland Yeshiva for this awesome ma'amad. This was our hachonoh for the Yom Hadin. R' Chaim's tefillos not only pierced the heavens, they pierced our hearts as well.

When he reached the piyut Shlosh Esrei Middos, which he said each piece first followed by the tzibbur, the air was charged with emotion. R' Chaim began the piyut and broke down into sobs, not able to continue further. He cried and cried. For many, it was the first time we felt what it means to be mishtateif with the tza'ar haShechinoh. His tears entered our hearts, and we would cry with him, crying of longing for kedushoh, for seeking the kovod Hashem, tears of pain for the tzoros of Klal Yisroel in the golus. Who can ever forget those heilige sobs, how he cried out Lomo yomro bagoyim. It was only after such a Selichos that we felt ready to approach the Yom Hadin.

Leil Yom Kippur

After Kol Nidrei, when the whole Yeshiva was in a state of kedushoh of Yom Kippur, R' Chaim would give a droshoh. He was wearing his tallis over his face and he stood in his place by his shtender, facing the olom. His face was a picture of kedushoh and he began to speak. He spoke of the heiligkeit of the day, how close we can come to HaKodosh Boruch Hu and again his voice would break, and tears of yiras Shomayim would roll down his face.

The bochurim would sit transfixed as he spoke and opened our hearts and gave us the feeling of the Yom HaKodosh. Again, he cried for the 2,000 years of golus and told us that with the koach of Yom Kippur, we can be zocheh to the ultimate selichoh. It was with his drosho that we would enter Yom Kippur and its tefillos.


In the whole world, Ne'iloh is probably the tefilloh in which we try our best to daven with the true kavonoh and pnimiyus. It was the last tefilloh of the Yom HaNoro and always the chazzan must be somebody choshuv, somebody for whom the Gates of Tefilloh are open.

In Yeshivas Tiferes Yaakov, we were zocheh that R' Chaim was our ba'al tefilloh. Again, he opened our hearts with his tefillos coming directly from his neshomoh. He davened like a true servant, crying to his Master. His words were full of emotion, of true hislahavus. We felt he was davening for all of us and for all of Klal Yisroel. He cried when he begged Yaale Veyovo. His heart overflowing with the pain he was nosei be'ol with all of Klal Yisroel.

Who can forget how he davened the piyut Ezkoro Elokim? How he sobbed in front of his Master: Save me from all cruel decrees. Again we cried with him, his pure tefillos from his pure heart permeated our whole being and together the whole beis hamedrash davened like never before, with true hisragshus and pnimiyus until the climax of Kabbolas Ol Malchus Shomayim. And then R' Chaim began the last Kaddish, with his famous niggun. He sang with such a deveikus, such a bren, and we all felt a big aliya, it was as if the whole world was singing with him. I remember watching his face on motzei Yom Kippur as he wished his talmidim a gut Yom Tov, he was red with such a simchah, such a deveikus baHashem, and I wished to follow his heilige footsteps.

Happy is the Eye that Witnessed This

Although I left Yeshivas Tiferes Yaakov some time ago, however when R' Chaim was alive, we felt we had a saneigor, somebody who was davening for us, somebody whose tefillos were niskabel. This year we felt the great loss. This year I cried on the first day of Selichos in the second piyut: "Ein mi yikro betzedek . . . gever tomim . . .

Yehi Rotzon that R' Chaim should be a meilitz yosheir in Shomayim and should continue to daven for us and for all of Klal Yisroel, and may we all be zocheh to serve Hashem with true deveikus.


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