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
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'
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
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
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