Monsey Memories: Rav Yisroel Chaim Kaplan

Monsey Memories: Rav Yisroel Chaim Kaplan

by Yitzy Fried

A ga’on and tzaddik who resided in old Monsey was Rav Yisroel Chaim Kaplan, the son-in-law of Rav Yeruchom Levovitz, who was the Rosh Yeshiva and mashgiach of Beis Medrash Elyon.

Rav Yisroel Chaim was born to Rav Binyamin and Ruchel Kaplan in Reznick, a small town in Belarus. He learned in the Yeshiva in Radin by the Chofetz Chaim. When the mashgiach Rav Yeruchom Levovitz left Radin for the Mir, his talmid Yisroel Chaim went along with him. There, he became the talmid of Rav Eliyahu Baruch Kammai.

Around 1924, he married Rebbetzin Chasia, the daughter of Rav Yeruchom Levovitz.

In 1931, he became the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Toras Chessed in the city of Brisk, and when WWII broke out, he brought the yeshiva to Vilna. Together with many yeshiva students, mainly from the Mir, he made the long and arduous journey to Japan, and from there he was able to come to America through the efforts of family members that he had there.

Upon arriving in New York in 1941, he became marbitz Torah in Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, and when Yeshiva Beis Medrash Elyon was established, Rav Kaplan went along with them to guide the talmidim in the ways of Torah and mussar. He would remain in Monsey for the rest of his life—immersed in Torah and avodah.

Hapardes wrote upon his passing: “Rav Kaplan was one of the elite chaburah for whom nothing existed in the world aside from Torah and mussar—and he transmitted these ways to his thousands of talmidim.

“He was also the last vestige of an illustrious family of gedolei Torah—many of whom were killed in the Holocaust, Hashem Yikom Damam.

“In America, Rav Yisroel Chaim conducted himself with extraordinary piety and kedushah. He never uttered an angry word to his talmidim or to his children; the light on his face illuminated their way, both in Torah and in the day-to-day conduct. With all his might, he was careful not to utter a word of loshon harah, and he was already known for this quality—which he learned from his rebbi, the Chofetz Chaim—back in his youth.

“Throughout his time in Monsey, he would only return home on Shabbosim, remaining immersed in Torah and leading the yeshiva throughout the week.

“With his passing, we have lost an incredible example to the bnei hayeshiva of today in his humility and modesty, in his tremendous hasmadah, and in his ways perishus from which he did not budge even during the most difficult days of his life.”

Upon his passing in the winter of 1970, Rav Yisroel Chaim left behind a family of illustrious talmidei chachomim who continue to carry on his legacy. 

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