Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



The Rosh Yeshivah’s Mandate

Yisroel Besser

As a youngster, Rav Henach Cohen thought he’d found his calling teaching Torah in Los Angeles. Then a phone call from Rav Aharon Kotler changed his life, and positioned him as one of the primary figures aiding the Lakewood Rosh Yeshivah in his passion of developing the Chinuch Atzmai system to a vibrant, burgeoning educational network. In honor of Rav Aharon’s yahrtzeit, he shares his memories of the challenges and triumphs along the way.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It’s hard to imagine a better introduction to the ideals I would discuss with Rabbi Henach Cohen — listening to, and appreciating gedolei Torah — than his reaction when I called to request an interview. He said no.

I suggested that perhaps the encounters and relationships he enjoyed with the great leaders of the Torah world, in his capacity of director of Chinuch Atzmai, could inspire others. He hesitated, then suggested, “I will call the rosh yeshivah and ask his opinion.”

“The rosh yeshivah” he refers to is Rav Malkiel Kotler shlita of Beth Medrash Govoha, grandson of Reb Aharon — whom a much-younger Henach Cohen was privileged to serve, acting as the Rosh Yeshivah ztz”l’s right arm in developing Chinuch Atzmai. Generations have come and gone, Rabbi Cohen has enjoyed a productive career — yet still, he asks.

Ultimately, he agreed to my request, but with a disclaimer.

“We are discussing the Rosh Yeshivah, not me: and before we begin to talk about Reb Aharon, you need to understand something. Chazal say, ‘im rishonim k’malachim — if the earlier generations were like angels …’ He was from a different world than us. Many gedolei Torah arrived here after the war and became roshei yeshivah, but he was a rosh yeshivah back there, while still in his twenties!

“Reb Aharon sat at a table with the Chofetz Chaim, absorbing his mesorah for dealing with Klal Yisrael, with communal issues. The Rosh Yeshivah arrived in America groomed and ready for leadership, already belonging to the nation, committed to its rebirth. He was on fire, burning with zeal, intent on serving, on giving, not on taking. He had no sense of self; nothing belonged to him.”

Reb Henach recalls the furniture in the Rosh Yeshivah’s apartment. “The chairs were mismatched. He had metal beds, like we had as little children. Materialism meant nothing to him.”

Rebbetzin Kotler once gave Reb Henach twenty-five dollars, and asked him to buy the Rosh Yeshivah a new hat, since he was going to Eretz Yisrael, where he would be meeting government leaders and activists.

In the car, Reb Aharon began to protest. “Please, Henach, twenty-five dollars can really help a family in Eretz Yisrael. I have a fine hat already, give me the money.”

But Reb Henach held firm. “The Rebbetzin gave me the money, and it’s a sh’eilah of kavod haTorah. I can’t get involved.”

 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
Evolution vs. Revolution
Shoshana Friedman I call it the “what happened to my magazine?” response
Up, Up, and Away
Rabbi Moshe Grylak What a fraught subject Eretz Yisrael is, to this day
Where Do You Come From?
Yonoson Rosenblum Could they be IDF officers with no Jewish knowledge?
Heaven Help Us
Eytan Kobre Writing about anti-Semitism should rouse, not soothe
Work/Life Solutions with Chedva Kleinhandler
Moe Mernick “Failures are our compass to success”
An Un-Scientific Survey
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Are Jerusalemites unfriendly? Not necessarily
Out of Anger
Jacob L. Freedman How Angry Lawyer was finally able to calm down
5 Things You Didn’t Know about…Yitzy Bald
Riki Goldstein He composed his first melody at eight years old
When the Floodgates of Song Open, You’re Never Too Old
Riki Goldstein Chazzan Pinchas Wolf was unknown until three years ago
Who Helped Advance These Popular Entertainers?
Riki Goldstein Unsung deeds that boosted performers into the limelight
Your Task? Ask
Faigy Peritzman A tangible legacy I want to pass on to my children
Are You There?
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Emotional withdrawal makes others feel lonely, abandoned
A Peace of a Whole
Rebbetzin Debbie Greenblatt Love shalom more than you love being right
Seminary Applications
Rabbi Zecharya Greenwald, as told to Ariella Schiller It’s just as hard for seminaries to reject you