Harav Yisroel Kolman Krohn, Zt”l
Although Harav Kolman Krohn, zt”l, did not hold any official position in Lakewood, thousands of people turned out Sunday morning to give kvod acharon to this beloved talmid chacham, baal mussar, oved Hashem and gabbai tzedakah who affected the lives of so many Yidden, both here and abroad.
Rav Kolman was known for his weekly vaadim which he delivered for bachurim and yungeleit, his dedication to the dissemination of the teachings of the Chofetz Chaim concerning hilchos shemiras halashon, his collecting millions of dollars, which he dispensed to the poor both here and in Eretz Yisrael, and the tremendous ahavas Yisrael he displayed as he offered encouragement and advice to those who needed help.
Rav Kolman delivered weekly vaadim in which he taught pure hashkafah and lessons for life, drawing on his immersion in the sifrei mussar and his personal connections with Gedolei Torah. There was never any fanfare for these vaadim, as there were never any posters or announcements for them. Nevertheless, hundreds of talmidei chachamim attended them over the decades.
During the levayah, which was held in the Yoshon Beis Medrash of Beth Medrash Govoha, the Roshei Yeshivah, shlita, Harav Malkiel Kotler, Harav Yeruchim Olshin, Harav Dovid Schustal, Harav Yisrael Neuman, the Mashgiach Harav Yehudah Jacobs, shlita, and Harav Don Segal, shlita, spoke of the gadlus of the niftar, and how he was an integral part of the Lakewood yeshivah community for so many years.
Besides the vaadim he said and the tzedakah he dispensed, he spoke annually on both nights of Shavuos for hundreds of young yeshivah boys as he kept them enthralled throughout the night with Midrashim, divrei Torah and stories. Indeed, many adults would listen in, as they felt that his message of aliyah in avodas Hashem was applicable to them as well.
On Tishah B’Av, he would speak for hours about the Churban and what it means to live without the Beis Hamikdash.
His brother Rabbi Paysach Krohn, the renowned author and maggid, spoke divrei hesped in which he transmitted some of the exceptional character traits of his brother Rav Kolman. Rabbi Krohn said that he was certain that Rav Kolman would be greeted by his illustrious parents, many Gedolei Torah with whom he was associated, and the Chofetz Chaim, as Rav Kolman was one of the first to write sefarim to help disseminate his teachings.
Rabbi Krohn told of some of the unknown projects which his brother undertook, including one in which he gathered lists of every single Israeli soldier who was killed since 1948. Since many of them were not frum and would not have anyone to say Kaddish or to learn mishnayos for them, he paid for yungeleit to do this for them each year on their yahrtzeit.
Rabbi Krohn suggested that this tremendous ahavas Yisrael was a result of his involvement in the sefarim of the Chofetz Chaim. Rav Kolman wrote a sefer on shemiras halashon, which has been used in Eretz Yisrael in a project in which over 10,000 school children participate. [Indeed, Rav Kolman’s full name was Rav Yisroel Kolman, with the name Yisroel being for the Chofetz Chaim.]
Rabbi Krohn told of a time when his daughter mentioned that there were eight girls in her class ho were already in their 30s and had not yet found their zivug. He asked for their names and their parents’ names, and got on a plane to Eretz Yisrael the next day. During the few hours he was there, he visited many Gedolim, and spoke to them about these girls and their plight, writing down what every Gadol said. When he returned the next day, he gathered them together with his daughter, and relayed to them the words that the Gedolim had said. This was just one example of his tremendous ahavas Yisrael.
Rav Kolman requested that a certain pink card be placed in his aron, which listed the amount of money he raised for tzedakah over his lifetime. He kept a cheshbon of all the tzedakah that he raised each year, with the total equaling an astounding amount, more than $15 million!
He was a conduit of tzedakah, and many philanthropists gave him large sums of money to distribute, relying on him to deliver it to those who desperately needed it.
When he was a young child, his father, Harav Avrohom Zelig, zt”l, would daven with the children at the first minyan on Shabbos, and then learn Ein Yaakov with them. Rav Kolman developed a tremendous bekius in Midrashim, and he used this broad knowledge in the shiurim he gave.
When his newborn son Sholom was diagnosed with Downs Syndrome, he accepted the difficulty involved by mentioning that since many of the recipients of his assistance express their appreciation for his help, perhaps it “went to my head, so Hashem gave me the opportunity of doing chessed for someone who won’t be able to thank me.”
Rav Kolman always sought out opportunities to learn from Gedolim up close. There was a time he was at the Agudah Convention, and he wanted to enter the room of Harav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l. He was well aware that they would not allow that, since the meeting taking place was private. Not to be deterred, he draped a napkin over his arm and grabbed a glass of tea, and pretending to be a waiter, he was able to enter and serve the tea to Rav Moshe.
In the first year of their marriage, his wife sent him to spend Elul with Harav Shalom Schwadron, zt”l. Years later, he spent time with Harav Yehudah Zev Segal, zt”l, the Manchester Rosh Yeshivah. During his stay, he constantly asked questions of Rav Segal, to the point where the Rosh Yeshivah asked him to cut back. Rav Kolman responded, “I’m just doing what the Rosh Yeshivah did with his Rebbeim.” Rav Segal recognized his authenticity and agreed to allow him to ask whatever he wanted.
Rav Kolman observed that before Rav Segal went to sleep, he put some money into a pushke for tzedakah and said a tefillah, and of course he asked why. “Sleep is one 60th of death, the Gemara (Brachos 57b) tells us,” answered Rav Segal. “And likewise, the Gemara (ibid, 156b) says that tzedakah saves from death. Therefore, I give tzedakah before retiring for the night so that in its merit I should wake up in the morning.”
Not fully satisfied, he asked Rav Segal what he davened for. The Rav replied, “I am davening that my sleep should leave me rested so that I should have a clear mind to learn and answer correctly to the queries that I am asked by others.”
Rav Kolman then took the Rosh Yeshivah’s siddur and wrote in his name, Yisroel Kolman ben Hinda, by the brachah of Ata Chonen, so that Rav Segal should have him in mind for daas to learn Torah. After Yom Kippur, when he was returning to America, he thought it over and realized that he should not have done that without permission, so he went over and asked him for mechilah. Rav Segal surprised him by saying that he never noticed it, since he never looked out of the line that he was saying during davening.
“It’s amazing,” said Rabbi Krohn, “that out of all the things that a person might need, Rav Kolman did not put his name by Bareich Aleinu so the Rosh Yeshivah should daven for his parnassah, or by any of the other brachos. He only wanted that he should have daas to learn Torah!”
Rabbi Krohn mentioned that his brother would tell him that the difference between them is that, “You were born in America, while I was born in Volozhin.” Rabbi Krohn explained this with the words of Harav Itzel Volozhiner, zt”l, the son of Harav Chaim Volozhiner, zt”l, who wrote in the introduction to Nefesh Hachaim that his father, Rav Chaim, would often chastise him because he saw that he did not get involved in the pain of another person, since “This is the essence of man; you were not created for yourself, rather to help others as much as you can.” Rav Kolman’s mindset was that of Volozhin.
Rav Kolman is survived by his wife, Rebbetzin Naomi Krohn; his sons Rabbi Avrohom Zelig, Rabbi Eliezer Shneur, Rabbi Moshe, Rabbi Chanoch and Reb Shalom Mordechai; his daughters Mrs. Chaike Oppenheimer, Mrs. Dina Bamberger, Mrs. Sara Baila Newman, Mrs. Yocheved Rodkin, Mrs. Penina Pam, Mrs. Basya Fensterheim, Mrs. Shifra Simon, and Mrs. Yehudis Freeman; his brothers Rabbi Paysach Krohn and Rabbi Arye Krohn; his sisters Mrs. Leah Dolinger, Mrs. Yitty Gutman, Mrs. Tamar Abraham and Mrs. Esty Sofer.
Yehi zichro baruch.
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