Harav Zev Tikotzky, zt”l, a noted talmid chacham who was marbitz Torah to hundreds of talmidim for decades and a talmid of the Mirrer Yeshivah during its sojourn in Shanghai, and later of Harav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, was niftar on Wednesday, 4 Kislev. He was the father-in-law of, ybl”c, Harav Malkiel Kotler, shlita, Rosh Yeshivah, Bais Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, and was in his late eighties.
In his hesped, Rav Kotler described his father-in-law as the epitome of one who is “yoshev b’ohel shel Torah.”
“He didn’t have [worldly possessions], and he didn’t want them, for him everything was in Torah,” he said at the levayah held Wednesday afternoon in Bais Medrash Govoha.
“His only desire was to learn Torah … from the time he attached himself to the Mir Yeshivah, he decided dos iz dos [this is what life is about].”
Rav Tikotsky was born in Germany to Reb Avrohom Yehudah, z”l, and Mrs. Rochel Tikotsky, a”h, circa 1930. Reb Avrohom Yehudah was among the many Jews arrested by the Nazis on Kristallnacht. Upon his release, the family swiftly fled the country. They found refuge in the remote Jewish Ghetto of Shanghai, which over the course of the war would become a temporary home to thousands of refugees fleeing Europe, including the talmidim and Rebbeim of the Mir Yeshivah.
Despite his youth, young Zev took full advantage of his proximity to the elite collection of bnei Torah and attached himself to the yeshivah in exile, spending most of his days in their adopted beis medrash, the Beth Aharon shul. He was taken under the wing by some of the group’s prominent members who saw to it that the young German bachur was paired with chavrusos who would help him to develop what was an obvious desire for growth in Torah. His years spent there left a lifelong impression on Rav Tikotsky, who would make what was then a rare choice: to commit his life to toil in Toras Hashem.
In later years he would relate the experience of sitting with a small lantern and learning the Sefer Kuzari late at night and making up his mind to dedicate himself to being mevakesh emes. While placing most of his efforts in learning Shas b’iyun, he would retain a lifelong affinity for and develop a command of sifrei machshavah.
After the conclusion of the war, Rav Tikotsky immigrated to the United States. In America, he joined the newly re-established Mirrer Yeshivah for a few years, before going to Lakewood in 1949 to study under Hagaon Harav Aharon Kotler, zt”l.
In Lakewood, Rav Tikotsky thrived among what was then a small but elite group of talmidim as he absorbed the brilliant and probing shiurim of Rav Aharon, with whom he formed a strong bond.
In the mid-1950s, Rav Tikotsky married Rivka Finkel, the daughter of Mr. Max Finkel, z”l, who was also originally from Germany. The choice was a brave one, both for the young kallah and her parents, as the decision to marry a ben Torah was far from fashionable at the time. Yet, his father-in-law-to-be declared to those who questioned the shidduch that a good businessman knows to buy “when it’s cheap,” expressing his confidence that his “investment” would steadily rise in value over time.
Mrs. Tikotsky would steadfastly support her husband’s choice to dedicate himself to Torah, accepting a modest material existence with joy and a sense of pride.
The couple remained in Lakewood for a few years after their marriage before relocating to Brooklyn, where Rav Tikotsky joined Yeshivah Chaim Berlin’s Kollel Gur Aryeh. Eventually, he would return to the Mir, now as a Maggid Shiur, a position he held for many years. There he began what was a long and fruitful career of harbotzas haTorah, imparting his chochmah and palpable ahavas haTorah to generations of talmidim.
In the mid-1970s, Rav Tikotsky and his family moved to Eretz Yisrael for a period of time, as he delivered shiurim in Yeshivas Itri in Yerushalayim. After his return to the United States a few years later, he served as a member of the hanhalah of Yeshivas Adelphia and later Mikdash Melech.
In the years since he had retired from teaching Torah formally, Rav Tikotsky continued to pour all of his efforts into plumbing the depths of sugyos haShas with the enthusiasm and dedication of a kollel avreich.
Rav Tikotsky’s tefillos were marked by the seriousness and care that he had seen practiced by the great baalei mussar of the Mir. Blessed with an ability and appreciation for neginah, his “Ma Yedidus” and other zemiros were sung with tremendous passion, occupying a unique place in his avodas Hashem.
Notwithstanding his tremendous hasmadah, when hearing of a fellow Jew in financial distress, he often threw himself into the task of raising the funds needed to improve his situation.
Those who were privileged to know Rav Tikotsky recalled his sincere smile and “chein.” Rav Kotler affectionately mentioned in his hesped that despite his pleasant manner, his father-in-law was never one for small talk. “He would ask how is everything, but soon after, asked me what I was learning and brought up a kushya to discuss.”
In recent years, Rav Tikotsky and his Rebbetzin had re-settled in Lakewood. Over the past few months, Rav Tikotsky’s health had begun to decline.
Following the levayah in Lakewood, the mittah was scheduled to be brought to Eretz Yisrael for kevurah.
Rav Tikotzky is survived by yblch”t his wife, Mrs. Rivka Tikotsky; brother, Harav Ahron; sons, Harav Avrohom Yehudah, Harav Yosef, Harav Moshe, Harav Ahron, Harav Gavriel, and Harav Eliyahu Yitzchok; daughters, Mrs. Rochel Finkelstein, Mrs. Chana Leah Kotler, Mrs. Liba Weiss, Mrs. Shifra Krancer, and Mrs. Michal Handler; as well as by many grand-children and great-grand-children.
Yehi Zichro Baruch.