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.

What’s in a Name?
Shoshana Friedman “What does Writer X have to say this week?”
Atonement — Fake and Real
Yonoson Rosenblum White confessionals and faux rituals
Four Walls Coming Full Circle
Eytan Kobre All the while, there’s been a relationship in the offing...
And Yet We Smile
Yisroel Besser We are the nation that toils to be happy at all costs
Out of This World
Rabbi Henoch Plotnick Dirshu Hashem b’himatzo — we are in Hashem’s company now...
Steven and Jonathan Litton
Rachel Bachrach The co-owners of Litton Sukkah, based in Lawrence, NY
Tali Messing
Moe Mernick Tali Messing, engineering manager at Facebook Tel Aviv
Sick Note
Jacob L. Freedman “Of course, Dr. Freedman. Machul, machul, machul”
Avoiding Health Columns Can Be Good for You
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Only one reliable guide for good health: our Torah
Endnote: Side Notes
Riki Goldstein Most Jewish music industry entertainers have side profes...
Me, Myself, and Why
Faigy Peritzman Where there’s no heart and no love, there’s no point
Can’t Do It Without You
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When you step up to the plate, you build your home team
Eternal Joy
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz The joy of Succos is the fruit of spiritual victory
The Appraiser: Part III
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer Make sure your child knows his strengths
Hidden Special Needs
Rena Shechter You won’t see his special needs, but don’t deny them
Dear Wealthy Friend
Anonymous There’s no need for guilt. I am truly happy for you