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In the Driver’s Seat

Esther Teichtal

Ten years after the passing of Ohr David Rosh Yeshivah Rabbi Chaim Moshe Flom ztz”l, talmidim and family members share who their father, rebbi, and mentor really was

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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Rabbi Flom really saw people. He noticed them. He made it his business to pay attention to their needs. Strangers. Secular Jews. Even gentiles. With his one eye, he enjoyed the widest field of vision (Photos: Family archives)

I t was a hot Pesach Sheini in Jerusalem, 2008, and Sholom Waldman desperately needed a cold drink to stave off dehydration. The air felt oppressive and bleak as he returned from the levayah of his beloved rebbi, Ohr David founder and rosh yeshivah Rabbi Chaim Moshe Flom. As he made his way through the bus, clutching a bag with a cold bottle of soda and a few plastic cups he had managed to buy before getting on, he found a place to sit. With the hespedim still echoing through his mind, the thought struck him: “What would my rebbi have done with this bottle?” In a letter that he penned to the family after the shivah, he wrote, “I turned to the passenger next to me and offered him a drink. I was zocheh to provide cold, refreshing drinks to six passengers. Then I ran out of cups….”

Pesach Sheini is a timeless reminder of the desire to do more, the drive to take advantage of second chances and not get bogged down by missed opportunities. Rabbi Flom’s daughter, Malky Aharon, stresses the apt correlation. “Pesach Sheini was instated for Yidden who had missed the official calendar date for the Korban Pesach, and who, nevertheless, didn’t want to lose out on the mitzvah.” Indeed, Rabbi Flom’s entire life was one long pursuit of flash-by opportunities, a constant desire to grab more Torah, more chesed.

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Dr. David and Mildred Flom, Chaim Moshe studied in his early years in Hillel Academy, and encouraged by his teacher Rav Yehoshua Cohen, went on to continue his studies in Baltimore’s Ner Israel. Then, when the Yeshivah Gedolah of Pittsburgh opened its doors, he enrolled as its very first student.

When the time came for him to move on to Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim — where he became a close talmid of Rav Henoch Leibowitz ztz”l — he did so only after receiving the Pittsburgh Rosh Yeshivah’s assurance that a special shiur would be started for bochurim who were not planning on staying in yeshivah long-term. This was the first of many shiurim that would ultimately live on as part of his legacy.

People knew him as the “chesed man,” but the Ohr David rosh yeshivah was a huge talmid chacham who never missed an opportunity to give others inspiring words of Torah. Sharing a geshmake vort at a grandson’s bris

As a boy of seven, young Chaim Moshe was severely injured by a blow from a golf club, leaving him with only one eye for the rest of his life. And yet, according to those who were close to him, the consensus was that the missing eye was a non-issue in his life. He functioned fine without it, and never complained. More remarkable, however, is how for a man with such restricted eyesight, looking outward became one of his defining qualities.

 Following his marriage to Hindy Kurtz, and after a two-year stint in the Chofetz Chaim kollel in Israel, Rabbi Flom, then just 29 years old, decided to open a yeshivah — because for someone as giving as him, learning Torah for his own benefit was never enough. It had to be Toras chesed; it had to benefit others. His wasn’t to be another prestigious academy, but a yeshivah for American boys who weren’t exactly part of the yeshivah mainstream, who needed a place that would help them grow. 

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 707)

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