The Torah world and the world of Chassidus mourn the loss of one of their towering figures with the petirah of Harav Yisrael Chaim Menashe Friedman, zt”l, Rosh Av Beis Din of Khal Yetev Lev of Satmar, under the leadership of Satmar Rebbe Harav Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, shlita. Rav Friedman served as a prominent Posek for over half a century. He was niftar on Monday at the age of 94.
Rav Yisrael Chaim Menashe was born in Rachov, Czechoslovakia, where his paternal zeide, Harav Yisrael Chaim, zt”l, served as the Rav. He was the mechaber of the well-known sefer Likutei Mahariach (the acronym for Moreini Harav Yisrael Chaim), in which he brings sources for many practiced minhagim. His maternal zeide, Harav Menashe Goldberger, zt”l, was a Stropkov chassid who was a descendant of tzaddikim known for their piety. Rav Friedman was given the combination of the names of his two grandfathers.
As a young child, he was known for his studiousness, and would often be seen walking with a Gemara larger than himself as he strode to learn. It is told that when he was once stopped by someone who asked what he was learning, he casually answered he was learning Masechta Mikvaos, and preceded to answer all the questions posed to him. Indeed, the Ahavas Yisrael, zy”a, would seek out the young prodigy, whom he called “der Rachover kindt” when he visited Rachov for his respite.
Despite his youth, Rav Yisrael Chaim Menashe was very vigilant in keeping many stringencies. When WWII broke out and he was deported to Auschwitz on Shabbos, he made sure not to step out of the cattle cars between stops since he was concerned it may involve transgressing the halachah of techum Shabbos.
After surviving the concentration camps and transferring to a DP camp, his sister, who looked out for him, had to constantly remind him to come to eat, since he was completely engrossed in his learning.
Upon his arrival in the United States, he entered Beis Medrash Elyon in Spring Valley, NY, where he learned in the yeshivah and kollel under Harav Reuvein Grodzovsky, zt”l. The other talmidim, both those of Litvish and Chassidish descent, had tremendous respect for him, and acknowledged his greatness in Torah and his ehrlichkeit.
His dedication to learning was extraordinary, and when he came across a sefer that he had not yet learned, he would borrow it and learn it with enthusiasm. “He was like a child in a candy shop,” a family member recalls. “My husband has a large library, and when he visited and found some new sefer, he was overcome with delight!”
As he delved into his learning, he became oblivious to his surroundings, often needing to be reminded the need to eat his meals.
His tefillos were legendary, as he poured out his heart to the Ribbono Shel Olam. At the levayah, when one of the maspidim mentioned the way he davened the words of Mimkomcha, the crowd of thousands burst out wailing as they recalled so vividly the emotion he instilled in that tefillah. Watching him daven was an experience in and of itself, with his face glowing like a malach as he shed copious tears.
His Rebbetzin used to joke that in his hometown of Rachov, they did not learn proper ivra (pronunciation and fluency in reading), since his davening would often take until late in the day, and he first sat down for breakfast at 2:00 p.m.
After learning in the kollel of Beis Medrash Elyon, he was appointed as Rosh Yeshivah of the Sigheter Yeshivah by the Beirach Moshe, zy”a. He was then appointed Dayan of the Satmar kehillah by the Divrei Yoel, Harav Yoel Teitelbaum, zy”a, a position he held for over half a century.
He was known for his caution in psak, often telling people to return later when he would be able to uncover all the details of the case and halachah. This trait was part of his extreme ehrlichkeit, where he went to great lengths to ensure that everything would be done correctly.
“My uncle was the epitome of ehrlichkeit,” a family member said. “Whether in his learning, davening, or the way he dealt with people, his guiding light was his ehrlichkeit. He was everything wrapped up in one: a talmid chacham, a yerei Shamayim, a ben Torah, and a mentch with an enormous amount of ne’imos. Everyone remembers the eidelkeit of his smile, and the palpable warmth that he exuded constantly. He showered everyone with it, old and young alike.
“His hachanah for mitzvos was something to behold. As he prepared his Chanukah lecht, we saw how nothing was just done without preparation.”
The kevurah for Harav Yisrael Chaim Menashe was in Kiryas Yoel. He is survived by his chashuve family, who served him with utter dedication during the last years.
Yehi zichro baruch.