HaRav Zeev Cohen, rosh yeshiva and menahel ruchani of Gateshead Yeshiva, was buried in Jerusalem during Chol Hamoed Sukkos after passing away at the age of 83. He had spent the last 54 years teaching Torah and Mussar.
Prominent roshei yeshivos, rabbonim, dayonim and former talmidim were among the thousands who took part in the levaya, which set out from Beis Medrash Ahavas Torah.
Zeev Cohen was born in Lodz, Poland to HaRav Yechiel Fishel, the Illui of Lodz, who was conversant with all of Shas. He was a talmid muvhok of the HaRav Meir Yechiel, the Admor of Ostrovtza, and received most of his Torah training from his father.
At the age of nine he moved to Eretz Yisroel, settling in Tel Aviv where his father served as the rov of the Neve Shaanan neighborhood. Unlike most of the secular youths who abandoned Torah and mitzvas, all five of HaRav Yechiel Fishel's sons gained renown as talmidei chachomim and gedolei Torah, because he was quick to take them out of Tel Aviv and place them in a more elevating milieu — hevei goleh lemokom Torah.
After studying at the Porat Yosef yeshiva ketanoh in Rechovot under HaRav Eliyohu Meir Kovner, he studied at Yeshivas Tiferes Tzvi, the mechinoh program for Yeshivas Chevron. When he reached the age of 15 he entered Yeshivas Chevron, where he was immersed in his studies for over ten years.
HaRav Aharon Cohen, who grew very attached to the young man, learned with him in preparation for the shiur he gave, and often relied on his help with the Keren Ruchani he set up for students at the yeshiva. When HaRav Yaakov Moshe Leibowitz, the son of HaRav Boruch Ber Leibowitz, asked HaRav Aharon to pair his son Chaim Shlomo with an older bochur to learn, he suggested Zeev Cohen, saying, "I'm sending you the biggest mechadesh at the yeshiva!"
For many years he was on very close terms with HaRav Yechezkel Sarna and with the Mashgiach, HaRav Meir Chodosh, with whom he continued exchanging letters on a regular basis. He was also held in high regard by other gedolei Yerushalayim of his day.
He gained renown as an exceptional yeshiva bochur, not just because of his constant study, broad knowledge and learning abilities, but also — and perhaps even more so — for his refinement, warm-heartedness and amiability.
When HaRav Eliezer Kahn, one of the founders and roshei yeshiva of Yeshivas Gateshead and later his father-in-law, asked his rabbonim about the young man, HaRav Sarna referred to him as a "gaon bemiddos."
After his wedding in 5713 (1953) he started giving two shiurim a day at Gateshead Yeshiva. For decades he taught students the yeshiva approach to gemora study, making use of his vast knowledge, clear thinking and articulateness. He would cite the Rambam, based on his mastery of the Mishneh Torah as well as the commentaries on it.
He would also delivery Mussar talks every Shabbos that drew most of the students and many married men from the Gateshead kehilloh. His rhetorical skills also made a strong imprint on listeners at public events and his students' simchas around the world.
Two years ago he resigned from his post and moved to Jerusalem, where he quickly became an integral part of the Ahavas Torah kehilloh. His former talmidim frequently paid visits to learn with him or to seek his advice and blessings.
In recent months he fell sick and never recovered, but Boruch Hashem his faculties remained fully intact until the end. Even when he became bedridden and feeble he continued to engage in divrei Torah with his visitors and was able to recall the pertinent sugyos. On Rosh Hashanah he managed to make his way to the beis medrash for all of the tefillos, making a special effort to fulfill the mitzvah of Bircas Kohanim. But the next day he had to stay home and remained housebound until his petiroh.
Through evident Hashgochoh he managed to gather all of his sons and daughters at his bedside, including some who arrived from the US just hours before his passing. Gathering his strength he offered them a few whispered remarks before his condition deteriorated. He recited Vidui and washed his hands before returning his soul to his Maker during Chol Hamoed on 19 Tishrei after midnight, as his family members parted from him while reciting Shema Yisroel.
At the levaya parting words were offered by HaRav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi, his close friend ever since their days at Yeshivas Chevron and now rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ateres Yisroel, who recalled HaRav Zeev's voice in the beis medrash in the wee hours of the night. He spoke of his gadlus in Torah, integrity, amicability and sensitivity toward and concern for others.
The Admor of Biale-Lugano also delivered words of parting from his dear friend of 50 years, saying that as a man of halochoh the niftar would not have wanted to be eulogized during Chol Hamoed.
HaRav Zeev Cohen zt"l is survived by thousands of talmidim scattered across the globe, his wife, sons and sons-in-law, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His sons include HaRav Mordechai, HaRav Yaakov of Lakewood, HaRav Aharon of Ramat Beit Shemesh, and HaRav Eliezer of Bnei Brak. His sons-in-law include HaRav Menachem Mendel Teitelbaum of Gateshead, HaRav Dov Eliach and HaRav Shimon Farber of Jerusalem.