Harav Chaim Yechiel Roitman, zt”l

A member of Badatz Machzikei Hadas Belz and Rav of the Belzer Bais Medrash in Bnei Brak

The chareidi community in general and Belzer Chassidus in particular, were stunned by the sudden passing of Harav Chaim Yechiel Roitman, zt”l, a member of the Badatz Machzikei Hadas of Belz, Rav of the Belzer beis medrash in Bnei Brak and one of the leading Dayanim and Morei Hora’ah in the Belzer community. He was 66. A very large crowd accompanied his levayah in Bnei Brak yesterday, which departed from the Belzer beis medrash there. It then proceeded to Yerushalayim, where, led by the Belzer Rebbe, shlita, it departed from the central Belzer beis medrash en route to Har Hamenuchos, where he was buried near the Belzer Rebbe, Harav Aharon, zy”a.

Reb Chaim Yechiel was born on 16 Nissan, the second day of Pesach 5707/1947 in the village of Badgastein in Austria. His father was Reb Avraham Alter Roitman, z”l, the son of the famed tzaddik Harav Chaim Menachem Mendel Roitman, zt”l, the Rav of Kreshov, Poland, who was a direct descendent of The Rebbe, Harav Elimelech of Lizhensk, zy”a. The resort village of Badgastein was, in those days, a large center of refugees and survivors of the Holocaust.

When he was two years old, Chaim Yechiel came to Eretz Yisrael with his parents; they settled in Bnei Brak. From there, his parents frequently traveled to Harav Aharon of Belz, and Reb Chaim Yechiel had the zechus to stand behind the Rebbe’s chair during his tischen.

From his youth, his exceptional talents and abilities were apparent, and he utilized them to make great strides in his Torah learning, yiras Shamayim, Chassidus and avodas Hashem. He studied in the Razi Li Talmud Torah in Bnei Brak, and later, when Belz established a cheder in Bnei Brak, he was in the first class there. Later, he attended the Belzer yeshivah ketanah in Bnei Brak, followed by the Belzer yeshivah gedolah in Yerushalayim.

His tremendous diligence amazed everyone around him and he was considered an exceptional bachur. Already then, he became very close to the Belzer Rebbe, shlita, who was not yet Rebbe at the time. They often learned together b’chavrusah through the night.

Upon becoming of age, Reb Chaim Yechiel married, tbl”c, the daughter of Reb Moshe Hakohen Gross, z”l, from Genf, Switzerland; the wedding was held in Bnei Brak.

When the Belzer Rebbe, became Rebbe, Reb Chaim Yechiel became a devoted Chassid until his final day. He would travel to spend Shabbosos and Yamim Tovim with the Rebbe and never missed any occasion in the court.

After his marriage, Reb Chaim Yechiel lived in Switzerland for a year and a half, after which he moved to Haifa, where he was appointed the Rosh Kollel of the Belzer Kollel and one of the Rabbanim on the Haifa Rabbinate. There, he began to get involved in matters of shechitah and kashrus. For a time, he lived in Kiryat Atta, where he served as a R”M in the yeshivah of the Makava Rav, zt”l.

He received semichah from Harav Shmuel Halevi Wosner, shlita, the Shevet Halevi, and lbcl”c, from Harav Yehoshua Moshe Aharonson, zt”l, of Petach Tikvah, and other Gedolim. They all marveled at his proficiency and the breadth of his knowledge.

In 5734/1974, he was appointed to serve as the Rav of the Belzer beis medrash on Ben Yaakov Street in Bnei Brak. That was when he moved to Bnei Brak and began serving as a dayan and Rav for everyone in the city. Many knocked at his door to verify matters of halachah. With his fervent yiras Shamayim, he would rule the way Rabbanim from previous generations did. He devoted himself to the members of the beis medrash, delivering riveting drashos. In addition to being an exceptional talmid chacham, he was always seeking to help the Klal and individuals alike. While he treated all of his mispallelim with warmth and devotion, he would also firmly warn them not to speak during davening and leining.

In 5740/1980, when he was just 33 years old, the Bais Din Khal Machzikei Hadas was established in Eretz Yisrael and he was appointed by the Belzer Rebbe to serve on the beis din. The other members were Harav Shmuel Zev Halevi Roth, ztl, a dayan of Ujhel; Harav Moshe Shuvaks, zt”l, the Rosh Yeshivah of Belz; and Harav Yeshaya Schneebalg, zt”l.

His piskei halachah were issued with wisdom and insight. He had an ayin tovah and helped many who sought to study hora’ah. As a Dayan, he fulfilled the dictum “Lo saguru mipnei ish” firmly on the one hand, but with warmth and goodheartedness on the other. He was also one of the founders of the Machzikei Hadas kashrus organization and shechitah.

Fifteen years ago, with the passing of the baal makreh for the tekios on Rosh Hashanah in the beis medrash  of the Belzer Rebbe, Reb Chaim Yechiel succeeded him as baal makreh.

He was one of the most respected Rabbanim of Belz in Eretz Yisrael and was the head bochen for younger Dayanim who were appointed in recent years to serve the Belzer kehillah. He was also involved in campaigns on behalf of the chareidi community in the name of the Belzer Rabbanim. He also one of the leaders of the campaign against cellular phones and internet on behalf of the Belzer Rebbe, and also took this campaign as a personal mission.

He was infused with fervent yiras Shamayim. He davened like a repentant son before his Father, with copious tears. He performed mitzvos with alacrity and a freshness, never like habit.

On the last night of his life, before going to sleep, he wrote his final letter, which he had prepared for the Vayisyaldu genealogy column in Hamodia’s Hebrew weekly edition. He would closely follow the column and wrote his comments in regularly. Harav Roitman had extensive knowledge of his own lineage and was always seeking more information. According to his family’s tradition, he was a direct descendent of the Rebbe, Harav Elimelech of Lizhensk.

The column’s Sukkos issue discussed the lineage of Harav Tzvi Hirsch of Tomashov, zy”a, a devoted confidant of the Kotzker Rebbe, zy”a. The Rav was descended from the Rav of Klimentov, who was the grandson of the brother-in-law of Harav Tzvi Hirsh of Tomashov. It was this column that the Rav had written his letter about.
Family members related yesterday, on the day of his passing, that they had found the letter incomplete, and it had not yet been sent, but for them, it was a living will that he had left for them, to look back at their lineage and follow in the paths of their forebears.

On Tuesday morning, he went into cardiac arrest, and despite efforts to resuscitate him, he returned his pure soul to its Maker.

The levayah began at the Belzer beis medrash in Bnei Brak, and was led by Rebbes, Rabbanim, Roshei Yeshivos and thousands of Belzer Chassidim and Bnei Brak residents. Hespeidim were delivered by the Ozherover Rebbe, shlita; the Rav of Chalisa, shlita, Harav Chaim Berlin, Rosh Yeshivah, Chaim Ozer; a member of the Badatz Harav Avraham Direnfeld; his sons-in-law Harav Yehoshua Yisrael Lampin and Harav Yehoshua Fink; his brother Harav Shlomo Simchah Roitman, a dayan of Khal Machzikei Hadas in Bnei Brak; and the gabbai of the shul, Rabbi Shimon Shreiber, on behalf of the mispallelim.

From there, the levayah proceeded to Yerushalayim, where thousands of Belzer Chassidim, led by the Belzer Rebbe, shlita, waited to escort Harav Roitman on his final journey. Hespeidim were delivered by a member of the Badatz, Harav Chaim Tzvi Shapiro, Rav of the Khal Chassidim shul in Ramat Aharon, Bnei Brak; and his son-in-law, Harav Yehoshua Fink.

Then the Belzer Rebbe delivered a tearful hesped:

“The Navi (Yeshayah 22) says that ‘Don’t cry for the dead…cry for those who go because he will not return and see the land of his birth.’”

The Rebbe explained: “My uncle (Harav Aharon of Belz) would quote my grandfather (Harav Yissachar Dov of Belz, zy”a) who would point out that the Gemara says (Moed Katan) that people should cry for three days; how then does it say ‘Don’t cry for the dead?’”

The Rebbe said that his grandfather replied that when a person leaves this world, and his family and friends cry, they shouldn’t cry because he left this world; they should cry because he lost the status of a holech, one who can go. As long as a person is alive in this world, he can advance higher and higher, achieving more Torah and mitzvos. But when he departs this world, one loses the status of a holech. The passuk therefore says, ‘Don’t cry for his passing, rather cry for his loss of the status of holech.’

“This is all the case with a regular person. But when one leaves behind sons, sons-in-law, grandchildren, all Yereim and shleimim, following the path of Torah and mitzvos, he can still ascend higher even in the Next World through the Torah they learn in this world. The niftar before us left behind generations of offspring and talmidim who will not let him rest in the Upper World and he will continue to rise ever higher.”

The Rebbe repeated what it says from the Rebbe, Harav Elimelech of Lizhensk on the Rashi at the beginning of the parashah about Sarah’s years that they hint to Torah and mitzvos, and the higher level of lifnim mishuras hadin.

“The niftar about whom we are speaking, we do not have to say that he kept Torah and mitzvos; of that there is no doubt,” the Rebbe said. “His yiras Shamayim and Chassidus were lifnim meshuras hadin and above and beyond. For as long as I remember him, he was always higher than everyone in every area, far above his friends; he was superior in Torah and mitzvos, in yiras Shamayim and in Chassidus, and there is no doubt that in this merit he left such offspring and such talmidim. As he strove ever higher in this world, so, too, will he be able to ascend constantly in the Next World.

“We ask him to reach the Kisei Hakavod, daven and shake up the Higher Spheres so that we in this world will merit to follow the ways of Hashem in Torah and mitzvos, in yiras Shamayim and Chassidus, without any disturbances.

“Hashem should help that it should be ubala hamaves lanetzach umachah Hashem dimah me’al kol panim and may we merit the arrival of Mashiach speedily in our day.”

The levayah then departed to Har Hamenuchos, with the Rebbe accompanying it until the burial.

Reb Chaim Yechiel is survived by his Rebbetzin; his sons: Harav Ephraim Fishel and Harav Moshe of Yerushalayim; and sons-in-law: Harav Yehoshua Yisrael Lampin, a R”M in Yeshivah Letzeirim in Belz in Telz Stone; Harav Yehoshua Fink, the menahel ruchani in the Bais Malka Belz school network in Eretz Yisrael; Harav Avraham Weber; Harav Kalman Langsam, R”M  in Yeshivah Gedolah Belz in Haifa; Harav Mattisyahu Grossman,  R”M in Yeshivah Letzeirim Bais Mordechai in Ashdod, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.