Har Nof Rabbi Dies of Wounds.
Remembering Rabbi Chaim (Howie) Yechiel Rothman who succumbed to the wounds he sustained during the Har Nof Massacre.
Next week, on Cheshvan 25, 5776, it will be a year since the Har Nof Massacre took place. The memories of those righteous men who were brutally murdered are still fresh on our minds; we still ache from the pain.
Hearing the repeated recitation of kaddish from the orphans was a constant reminder about the massacre. Just two weeks ago they finished saying kaddish for their parents who died on Kiddush Hashem. This was a partial comfort for us.
But tonight, on the 12th of Cheshvan, almost a year later, a new cycle of kaddish will begin. Our wounds have been ripped open by the death of my beloved neighbor and dear friend, Rabbi Chaim Yechiel Rothman Hy’d.
Rabbi Chaim Yechiel Rothman sustained blows to the head with an axe during the massacre. Since then he had been in a coma-like state. Every day we pleaded to the Almighty to bring him back to us. On Friday night at dusk, just as Shabbos was entering, Chaim’s soul left this world and returned back to the Almighty.
A Kind Soul
Chaim’s mother, Mollie, shared with us that when he was six years old he was driving with his parents in a car and out of the window he noticed a young girl, about five years old, crying next to an overturned doll carriage. He asked his parents to stop the car. He got out and turned over the doll carriage to comfort this little girl.
Chaim grew up with two brothers and two sisters in Toronto, Canada. During his teenage years once a week he would visit a Jewish nursing home. Chaim would dance with the patients while they were in a wheelchair, and he succeeded to lift up the spirits of everyone he came in contact with.
Ten years ago Chaim’s son was tragically killed at the age of 17 after falling off a cliff while riding his bicycle through the Jerusalem Forest. Yet this great loss did not change the way he dealt with others. He maintained his cheerful countenance even in the midst of such a tragedy.
Chaim spoke to others in the happiest and gentlest tones. His voice emulated peace and loving kindness. Just being around him made one happy and feel love for other Jews.
Chaim’s funeral was on a Motzei Shabbos, Saturday night, a time which does not generally clash with people’s schedules. Furthermore, it was on the same night that we turned the clocks back, giving people an extra hour of sleep to make up for the late ending of the funeral. I could not help but think that even in his death Chaim was try to do everything he could to cause as little disturbance as possible to others.
Lover of Torah
It is not difficult to do big acts which put one in the limelight of the public spectrum. The true sign of a great person is how he performs small acts. I have been privileged to be Chaim’s close friend and neighbor for the past ten years and have personally witnessed many small acts of greatness.
Chaim loved and cherished Torah. Whenever we would meet he would ask me to tell him novel Torah teachings. He would listen with full intention, as if he was hearing the greatest insights.
For the past 23 years Chaim has been studying with a prominent Rosh Kollel in Jerusalem, Rabbi Baruch Tanzer who said that he never had a chevrusah, study partner like Chaim Rothman. Rav Tanzer continued to travel from Har Nof to Ranana to study with him, even after the massacre took place.
Our Sages teach that we should run to do mitzvot, “as if we are being pursued by a lion” (Berachot 6b). I do not believe that I have ever seen anyone fulfill this law with the exception of one person; Chaim Rothman who I have personally witnessed running to shul early with his tallis and tefillin.
His wife, Risa, has gone through unbelievable challenges during this past year not knowing if her husband was dead or alive. She has the support of the other four widows, her family and the entire community who stood and will continue to stand by her side.
Rabbi Yitzchak Mordechai Hakohen Rubin, the Rabbi of Kehilas Bnei Torah where the massacre took place, said, “If we had a thought that we would forget about our holy victims after 12 months, death once again peeks through the window. We cannot possibly forget what happened. The number of widows has gone up to five and the number of orphans is now 35."
Let us hope that mashiach will be here soon and bring a fulfillment to the promise, “Death will be destroyed forever, and tears will be wiped off of the faces of all.”
DONATIONS TO HAR NOF FAMILIES
Kupat Ha'Ir – Pob 49 – Bnei Brak
USA: American Friends Of Kupat Hair
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NOTE: Har Nof Families – General Fund #2159
This week (Nov. 18) (and Shabbos 25 Cheshvan) is the 5 year anniversary of the Har Nof Massacre. Click here to donate to Kehilat Bnei Torah