By Yechiel Sever
Led by gedolei Torah, roshei yeshivos and rabbonim, a large gathering was on hand to lay to rest HaRav Nissan Aharon Tikotchinsky zt"l, head of Eitz Chaim Institutions in Eretz Yisroel, whose distinctive character has accompanied Jerusalem children throughout the 70 years he led Eitz Chaim.
The deceased was born in the Old City of Jerusalem on 25 Tammuz 5682 (1922) to HaRav Yechiel Michel Tikotchinsky, author of the five volume set Ir Hakodesh veHamikdash about Yerushalayim and Eretz Yisroel, and also of the renowned Luach Eretz Yisroel, and was the grandson of the rov of Jerusalem, HaRav Shmuel Salant zt"l, who founded Eitz Chaim, the first Torah institution in Eretz Yisroel, 170 years ago.
As a boy he studied at Eitz Chaim until he reached the age of bar mitzvah, when his father told him that if he wanted to be considered someone who "exiles himself to a place of Torah," he should leave the city. The young man decided to follow his father's suggestion, and became one of the leading students at Yeshivas Lomzha in Petach Tikva, where he formed bonds with his rabbonim there, including gedolei Yisroel such as HaRav Shmuel Rozovsky, HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapira and HaRav Yechiel Vilensky zt"l.
At a tender age he found himself among some of his generation's leading Torah scholars. On one occasion, when he was absent from a shiur, HaRav Eliyohu Dushnitzer remarked, "When Tikotchinsky doesn't come, I can't give over the shiur."
He had a tight bond with the mashgiach of the yeshiva, HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein zt"l, and when he was asked to serve as mashgiach ruchani at Ponovezh Yeshiva, he asked the young Tikotchinsky to transfer there as well. The young man's father, who did not want to see his only son far away, sought the advice of the rosh yeshiva, HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer, who said, "If the rov is in favor and the talmid is in favor, there's nothing you can do about it. Only if he gets engaged would he be required to stay."
And so at the age of just 15 he got engaged to the daughter of HaRav Yaakov Zeivald, a prominent maggid in Jerusalem, and the two married when he was 17. A short time later the newlywed couple moved to an apartment in Jerusalem's Geula neighborhood, which was to remain his home for the rest of his life.
He started helping his father run Eitz Chaim Yeshiva, a post he held for seven decades. He traveled far and wide to raise money for the yeshiva, and HaRav Shach once said he was the yeshiva's biggest contributor, since he contributed so much time and energy to fundraising. Thanks in part to his efforts, today Eitz Chaim has over a thousand talmidim at two talmud Torah branches in Jerusalem and Beitar Illit, and hundreds of kollel students in Jerusalem, Modi'in Illit and Beitar Illit, as well as students at Eitz Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
With the passing of his father, who published Luach Eretz Yisroel for 50 years, from 5665 to 5715 (1905-55), HaRav Nissan Aharon Tikotchinsky continued published the booklet, which lists all of the customs gedolei Yisroel followed, consulting him on a wide range of time-related questions. The booklet marked its 100th anniversary and his son, HaRav Yosef Tikotchinsky related that during the past year he passed on the legacy, giving precise instructions on how to continue publishing the booklet in the future.
Until today, when a new shul starts up in Yerushalayim, gedolei Yisroel recommend relying on the Luach Eretz Yisroel for its times, and not the many calendars published since then which may be astronomically more accurate.