On the eve of the Second World War, Reb Yaakov Moshe was home on a rare visit from yeshivah. With the winds of war furiously blowing, most parents did all they could to keep their children close to home.
Reb Elchonon Dovid, z”l, the niftar’s father, felt differently. He told his son, “Your place is in the yeshivah; whatever will befall them will befall you as well.” Reb Yaakov Moshe returned to the Mir and ultimately survived the war, while his family perished together with most of the town.
To Reb Yaakov Moshe, however, his father’s words were more than life-saving advice. They became his mission statement. He repeated the story at nearly every family simchah, reminding himself and others of the mesirus nefesh required for building a generation loyal to Torah.
Reb Yaakov Moshe was born in 1921, in Breinsk, Poland, to Reb Elchonon Dovid, z”l, a talmid chacham of repute, and Rochel Magid, a”h. As rich as their home was in Torah and yiras Shamayim, so was it financially impoverished. Fearing that young Yaakov Moshe would fall prey to the secular movements that had captured most of the town’s youth, they sent him to study in Grodno at the tender age of 12.
He remained in yeshivah for five years, in abject poverty, returning home only three times due to lack of funds for travel. After several years in Grodno, he went to the famed Mirrer Yeshiva, ultimately fleeing with them across Russia to Kobe, Japan, and later Shanghai, China.
After the war, in 1949, Reb Yaakov Moshe married Itta Feiga Colton, a”h, daughter of Harav Yaakov Aryeh Leib, z”l, who served as Rav of Montreal, and Devorah Miriam Colton, a”h. The couple settled in Montreal where Reb Yaakov Moshe worked as a shochet.
Montreal, in those days, lacked Torah mosdos and, in keeping with the example of his father, Reb Yaakov Moshe and his Rebbetzin sent their children away to yeshivos at very young ages. He studied with local baalei batim, and had a profound influence on them. Many of these chavrusos became loyal talmidim of Reb Yaakov Moshe, increasing their own dedication to Yiddishkeit, and raising their children to be bnei Torah.
He is survived by his sons, Rabbi Elchonon Dovid Aryeh Leib, Rabbi Yisroel Tzvi, Rabbi Yeruchem, and Rabbi Nochem Ahron, and his daughter, Rebbetzin Devorah Miriam Steinfeld, wife of Rabbi Avrohom Mayer Steinfeld.
Yehi zichro baruch.