Almost one year after the horrific massacre carried out by Palestinian terrorists at the Bnei Torah Shul in Har Nof, Rabbi Chaim Yechiel Rothman, Hy”d, died of his wounds on Motzoei Shabbos.
Rabbi Rothman had been in a coma caused by blows to the head from an axe when he tried to fight off the terrorists, his family said.
Thousands attended the emotional levayah, at which Bnei Torah’s Rabbi Mordechai Hacohen Rubin delivered a hesped:
“It’s been almost a year and our hearts are boiling again,” Rubin said. “It’s been a year since the attack and we cannot forget what our eyes have seen or return to a normal routine. Again death is at our window, as if the heavens are reminding us to ‘remember, and not to forget,’” he said.
“Remember what Yishmael did to you,” he enjoined. “The two villains slaughtered and shot people, leaving five widows and 35 orphans.”
The attackers stormed the synagogue shortly after 7 a.m. during Shacharis on November 18, 2014, brutally murdering Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Hy”d, Aryeh Kupinsky, Hy”d, Rabbi Kalman Levine, Hy”d, and Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, Hy”d, along with policeman Zidan Saif, who bravely tried to fight off the attackers.
Although in a coma for almost a year, Rabbi Rothman was not alone. Mrs. Rothman went to Herzog almost every morning, after getting her young children off to school. She started with Modeh Ani, then said four chapters of Tehillim (20, 121, 130 and 142). They learned Shemiras Halashon, followed by the aliyah of the day of the weekly parashah, a halachah and a section from Rav Pincus’ book on Elul.
“It’s food for his neshamah,” Mrs. Risa Rothman said in a recent interview,
“When I’m saying Tehillim or learning with him, I’m feeding his neshamah.”
Several people from the Bnei Torah kehillah arranged to learn b’chavrusah in Chaim’s presence in the afternoons and evenings, when Mrs. Rothman wasn’t there. His Daf Yomi chavrusah of more than 23 years came regularly.
At the State Comptroller’s Office, he was the in-house expert in an auditing program called IDEA. He would travel to branches all around the country teaching people how to use the program and trouble-shooting.
“He stood out as one of the very few chareidim there,” Mrs. Rothman recalled in the interview. “He’s so patient. He was there for everybody. They’re still crying. They still miss him and come to visit every week.”
“He had tremendous ahavas Yisrael, precision in halachah, precision in his avodas Hashem, emes and yashrus. There were no half measures.
“Everyone who knew Chaim, even by sight, was struck by his chen, his goodness. “If he was driving, he wouldn’t just stop when he saw someone looking for a ride. He looked for people who might need rides. It bothered him if he drove out of the neighborhood without picking someone up.
“He always had to be the first to say hello. My neighbors tell me, ‘We miss your husband. We miss his boker tov.’
“He knew all the street kids in Har Nof by name. He’d definitely take notice of kids who didn’t fit in, and there were a lot of them. He’d send them mishloach manos and would offer to learn with them, or just play chess. Anything.”
How did he find the time? “He went to sleep at 2 a.m. And he had a big heart.
“He was motivated by a desire to do retzon Hashem, and by a deep feeling of ahavas Yisrael.”
Rabbi Rothman was laid to rest in the Givat Shaul cemetery in Yerushalayim.