On 5 Sivan, Erev Shavuos, Harav Shmuel Faivelson, zt”l, one of the leading Roshei Yeshivah of America and among the most prominent talmidim of Harav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, was niftar. He was marbitz Torah for decades in Monsey, where he served for years as the Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivas Bais Shraga and then at Bais Medrash l’Torah. He was 87 years old, and had been ill and out of the public eye for nearly 12 years.
Rav Faivelson’s mastery of all areas of Torah was legendary. While still a young man studying in Lakewood, Rav Aharon commented to another Gadol of the time that he was “a charif and a baki,” someone with a sharp, probing mind who is also possessed of an exceptionally broad base of knowledge.
As a rebbi to talmidim, the very image of Rav Faivelson’s continuous hasmadah and the depth with which he approached learning inspired generations who studied under him to emulate his complete immersion in limud haTorah. Likewise, he went to great lengths to build talmidim into true bnei Torah, as well as to help them through life’s challenges both during and after their tenure in yeshivah.
Despite using every free moment for Torah, he stood ready to give of his time, efforts, and wisdom both to individuals in need as well as to the needs of the Klal.
Rav Faivelson was born in 1929 in Chicago, where his father, Reb Rafael Eliezer, worked as a shochet. The family was descended from generations of talmidei chachamim, many of whom had occupied prominent rabbinic positions in Lithuania.
As a bachur, young Shmuel traveled to Baltimore, where he was among the early talmidim of Harav Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman, zt”l, at Yeshivas Ner Yisrael. There he quickly distinguished himself by his brilliance and the unending hours that he sat in the beis medrash, toiling over his Gemara with the utmost concentration.
In the early 1950s, Rav Faivelson joined the small but elite group that then constituted the student body of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey, under the leadership of Harav Aharon Kotler. From that time on, he would consider himself a loyal talmid of his Rosh Yeshivah, often quoting his teachings and weighing what his hashkafah would be on questions that arose over time.
On one occasion, Rav Aharon asked Rav Faivelson why he had not been present at the most recent shiur he had delivered in the yeshivah. The latter explained why he was not able to attend, but said that he remembered it from the last cycle when the yeshivah had studied Yevamos. Rav Aharon, whose memory was impeccable, replied, “You weren’t there last time either.” In response, Rav Faivelson said that he was referring to the time before that when the shiur had been given, some eight years prior. When Rav Aharon requested to hear the shiur back, Rav Faivelson commenced to recite the entire discourse in all its intricacy and brilliance. His recall was so perfect that the only comment Rav Aharon gave was to let him know of the new “kneitch,” or additional thought, that he had added this time around.
While studying in Lakewood, Rav Faivelson married Hinda Schiff, daughter of Mr. Harry Schiff, z”l, a prominent businessman and supporter of Torah in America. The couple went on to build a home of Torah and unending dedication to the needs of the Klal as well, which also produced a family of respected marbitzei Torah.
Even among this group of peers, many of whom went on to join the ranks of the Gedolei Yisrael, Rav Faivelson was held in particularly high regard by his rebbi and chaveirim alike. Rav Aharon himself typically spent most of the week at his home in New York, and many of the talmidim requested that someone be appointed to whom they could “talk in learning” in his absence. Recognizing his unique abilities and wealth of knowledge, the Rosh Yeshivah appointed the young kollel member, Rav Shmuel Faivelson, to the job.
The task provided a small window into the tremendous extent of his mastery of all areas of Torah as he became a popular resource not only for talmidim studying the official masechta that was being learned, but by chaburas that were involved in a wide range of topics, ranging from Kodshim to Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah.
Rav Faivelson would eventually leave Lakewood, serving first as one of the founders of a yeshivah in St. Louis, where he remained for several years.
In 1965, he joined Yeshivah Bais Shraga in Monsey, which had been founded several years earlier by Harav Yehoshua Schiff, zt”l, and his brother-in-law, Harav Shmuel Mendolowitz, zt”l. There, his probing shiurim and the deep bond to Torah that Rav Faivelson’s existence bespoke gave talmidim an elevated concept of the chashivus of limud haTorah.
Perhaps more than anything else, the image of Rav Faivelson’s constant presence in the beis medrash for all three sedarim and his tremendous hasmadah made a lasting impression on decades of bachurim who had the opportunity to attend the institution.
In the mid-1980s Rav Faivelson founded Bais Medrash l’Torah, where he continued to mold talmidim in the model that he had been taught by his own rebbi. He once commented on the words of Kaddish d’Rabbanan, “talmedehon, v’talmidei talmideihon,” that one sees that even one who is himself a rebbi to talmidim, must himself remain a talmid of his own rebbi.
Amidst his unending dedication to learning, Rav Faivelson made himself available for chassadim and Klal needs, showing great loyalty and dedication to individuals and public causes.
When Chinuch Atzmai called on Rav Faivelson for his assistance, he took a prominent role in guiding the organization, despite the hefty amount of time and effort it required.
For those in need of his advice or encouragement, Rav Faivselson made himself available at all hours and often traveled far distances to aid talmidim and others who had come to him for help on a wide array of personal challenges.
The levayah was held at Bais Medrash l’Torah in Monsey this past Friday and continued in Yerushalayim at Yeshivas Derech Hachaim on Sunday, followed by kevurah on Har Hazeisim.
Rav Faivelson is survived by, tbl”c, his wife, Rebbetzin Hinda Faivelson; sons, Harav Avrohom Moshe and Harav Boruch Levi; daughters, Mrs. Chaya Fischer, Mrs. Leah Rosensweig, Mrs. Yehudis Levine, Mrs. Tova Blumenthal, and Mrs. Sarah Gittel Kammer; as well as by many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Yechi zichro baruch.
Updated Sunday, June 4, 2017 at 8:03 pm