The Bostoner Rebbe of Beit Shemesh, zt”l
Yidden all over the world were deeply saddened at the news that the Bostoner Rebbe of Beit Shemesh, Harav Chaim Avraham Halevi Horowitz, Zy”a, passed away on Friday, June 24. The Rebbe was on a visit to America at the time of his petirah. He was 84 years old.
The beloved Rebbe was born in Ziditchov in Galicia (now Ukraine), on the day after Lag BaOmer 5693 (1933). He was given the name Chaim Avraham in memory of his maternal grandfather, the Ziditchover Rebbe, Zy”a. His father, Harav Moshe, Zy”a, the previous Rebbe, established the Bostoner beis medrash in Boro Park. The Rebbe’s grandfather was Harav Pinchas Dovid, the first Bostoner Rebbe, Zy”a.
The first Bostoner Rebbe was named Pinchas for the author of the Haflaah, the younger brother of the Rebbe, Reb Shmelke of Nikolsburg, Zy”a. He was also named Dovid in honor of Dovid Hamelech.
Rav Pinchas Dovid studied under Hagaon Harav Moshe Kliers, Zt”l, Rav of Teveria. He would learn 18 hours consecutively. Harav Yisrael Yitzchak Reisman, Zt”l, once related, “l wanted to learn with him b’chavrusa, but due to his busy schedule, he agreed to learn with me for just a half hour before his 18-hour day — and only if I would agree to wake him up. But whenever I came to wake him, he was already up.”
The Horowitz family of Levi’im lived in Eretz Yisrael until one of their uncles, Harav Dovid of Lelov, of Yerushalayim, son of the Rebbe Harav Elazar Mendel, asked Rav Pinchas Dovid to go to America so as to strengthen Shabbos observance there. But Rav Pinchas Dovid could not bring himself to leave Eretz Yisrael. However, it later turned out that it was Divinely ordained:
Rav Pinchas was sent to Galicia to mediate a din Torah. While he was there, World War I broke out, and he was left carrying an Austrian passport in what became enemy territory. The only escape route was to America, where he was asked to come to Boston. He stayed in Boston for a year and a half, accomplishing much. He was even able to enact the practice that Shabbos be accepted a half hour early — a custom that required great self-sacrifice.
He later moved to Williamsburg, where his son Rav Moshe, the son-in-law of the Ziditchover Rebbe, Zy”a, became Rebbe after his petirah. Later, Rav Moshe moved to Crown Heights and, eventually, to Boro Park.
In 1949, Reb Chaim Avraham’s father sent him to Lakewood, where he learned under Harav Aharon Kotler, Zt”l. Reb Chaim Avraham kept in close contact with Rav Aharon and remembered him warmly all his life.
Rav Chaim Avraham’s father was a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel of America. Thus, Rav Chaim was raised in the constant company of Gedolim and Rabbanim.
After the petirah of his father, on 14 Sivan 5745 (1985), Rav Chaim Avraham was appointed by the Bluzhever Rebbe, Zy”a, to fill his father’s place. The Bluzhever left his own hospital bed to do so; he said that the Rebbe, Harav Moshe, had told him that his son Rav Chaim Avraham would not want to accept the leadership and that therefore he asked Rav Yisrael to crown him as Rebbe.
Rav Chaim Avraham was known for his seemingly “simple” service of Hashem and his love for fellow Jews, a mesorah from Lelov. While he was a noted chazzan, his prayer was fervent and uplifting, without showy gestures or pomp. Shabbos and Yom Tov would find him full of joy, and he composed melodies of longing for Yerushalayim and the Beis Hamikdash.
The Rebbe once visited Manhattan for Shabbos, and wondered what he should speak about that the mispallelim in shul would understand. He finally decided to compose a short and catchy melody and sing it with them: “Who is the King? Hashem is the King. And where his kingdom? He reigns over everything.”
Known as a man of truth, he shied away from honor, only emphasized G-d’s honor. It was said about him that he did not deal with life itself, but only with the function of life.
When speaking words of Torah, he would sometimes burst into tears while talking about Shabbos. He would emphasize the importance of “feeling” Yiddishkeit, and often said, “Baruch Hashem, Torah has increased, but we also need to ‘feel the heart.’” Even people who were not particularly close to religious observance said they miss his teachings, because he brought Yahadus to them in a concrete manner.
He once spent Shavuos in the Old City of Yerushalayim, and could not hold back his tears during the prayers whenever the Beis Hamikdash was mentioned. The following year he was invited to come back again, but he demurred, saying, “It hurts me too much to be there, right across from the site of the Beis Hamikdash.”
He knew many melodies of the Chozeh of Lublin, of Harav Naftali of Ropshitz and of the Shelah Hakadosh, zecher tzaddikim livrachah.
He had ties with many Torah giants, including the Satmar Rebbe, Harav Yoel, Zy”a, who was a neighbor of his family in Williamsburg. He also had ties with the leading halachic authority of the generation, Harav Moshe Feinstein, Zt”l.
Rav Chaim Avraham established a kollel in America, in which he taught a unique method of studying Yoreh Deah. The kollel published a number of works based on this method. He appointed Harav Shmuel Wohlberg, shlita, as Rosh Kollel.
In 1985, he established a community in Beit Shemesh, and later came to live there.
He had suffered of late from heart ailments and, a few years ago, underwent a heart bypass. Nearly two weeks ago he flew from Israel to the U.S. for the chasunah of a grandchild, daughter of his son Harav Yisrael Yona. The chassan is the son of Harav Avraham Heschel Twersky of Skver. On the Shabbos before the chasunah, the Rebbe davened in a special minyan in the yeshivah in Lakewood, because he wanted to hear the Torah reading of Behaalos’cha as was read in Eretz Yisrael, and not that of Naso as was being read outside Eretz Yisrael. He led the tefillos, in honor of the upcoming yahzrteit of his father. When he reached “Ata horeisa ladaas,” he suffered a sudden heart attack, and he slumped over on the amud. When he awoke in the hospital and was told that he had passed out while saying “Ata horeisa,” he responded, “If so, we can now say ‘vayehi binso’a haaron.’” Sadly, the Rebbe passed away the following Friday.
The levayah began in Lakewood, NJ, Friday afternoon, departing from Bais Medrash Govoha and continuing to Boro Park, passing Beis Medrash Nachlas Yaakov-Altstader, and then on to the beis medrash of the Rebbe’s son, ybl”c, Harav Yaakov Horowitz, in Lawrence, N.Y. In Lakewood, Harav Malkiel Kotler, shlita, delivered a hesped, noting the special relationship between the Rebbe and Harav Aharon Kotler, Zt”l.
After Shabbos the niftar was brought to Eretz Yisrael, where a levayah was held in his beis medrash in Ramat Beit Shemesh, and then in Yerushalayim, at Kopycznitz in Ezras Torah. Kevurah was on Har Hazeisim, next to his father and grandfather.
The Rebbe left behind a glorious generation of Torah leaders, ybl”c, including his sons Harav Yaakov Yitzchak, Rav of the Bostoner beis medrash in Lawrence, N.Y., and Harav Yisrael Yona, Rav of the Bostoner beis medrash in Boro Park; and daughters, Rivka Halberstam, Esther Flintenstein, Malkah Spira, Sarah Sasha Taub, Shayna Friedman and Mati Horowitz.
He is also survived by many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Zechuso yagein aleinu.
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