Klal Yisrael lost one of its last remaining connections to pre-War European rabbanus with the petirah of Harav Chaim Yeshayah Koenig, zt”l, who passed away on Erev Pesach at 92 years of age. The Rav served as a posek and marbitz Torah for over a half century and carried on the mesorah of the Chasam Sofer, in which he had been raised.
Rav Koenig was born in 1924 in the city of Pupa to Harav Shlomo and Rebbetzin Esther Koenig, Hy”d. As a bachur, young Chaim Yeshayah quickly distinguished himself by his tremendous hasmadah, studying first in Yokke, where his father had become Rav, and later in Pressburg. While yet unmarried, he received semichah from several Gedolei Yisrael and served as Rav hatza’ir under his father’s supervision in Yokke.
During the dark days of World War II, the Rav was transferred to several concentration camps, eventually being sent to Auschwitz. Amid the horrors that surrounded him, he did all he could to maintain as great a semblance of Yiddishkeit as possible. The Rav was able to conceal a pair of tefillin throughout the ordeal and, one year, even to construct a sukkah.
Despite having lost his entire family in the Holocaust, after liberation he put all his efforts into rebuilding Yiddishkeit among the broken survivors, organizing groups of bachurim to learn, assisting individuals to re-establish families, and delivering halachah shiurim to girls.
In 1945 he married Sarah Leah Goldberger, a”h, the daughter of Harav Yehudah Leibish and Rochel Goldberger, Hy”d. In 1947, the couple moved to the United States, where the Rav led his own yeshivah for many years before assuming the position of Rosh Yeshivah in Yeshivas Nitra in Mount Kisco, where he taught numerous talmidim.
In 1955 the family moved to Boro Park, where the Yokke beis medrash was established (originally in the family’s dining room). Yokke remains one of the community’s oldest shuls. The Rav placed a strong emphasis on making the beis medrash a serious mekom Torah. He delivered a shiur that completed Shas seven times and he eventually founded a kollel.
He was widely respected by gedolim as a dependable bearer of the tradition of psak of the Chasam Sofer and was encouraged by Harav Refael Blum, zt”l, the Kashauer Rav, to become involved in the growing kashrus industry. His hashgachah was one of the earliest in America that conformed to the standards to which European Jewry was accustomed.
He is survived by his sons, Harav Shlomo Tzvi Koenig and Harav Yehudah Leibish Koenig, as well as by two daughters and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Yehi zichro baruch.