Monsey Memories: Rav Yitzchok Karpf

Monsey Memories: Rav Yitzchok Karpf

Yitzy Fried

This week, we dedicate our Monsey Memories column to a pillar of the old Monsey community, an American-born godol who went on to inspire generations of Monsey residents in the ways of Torah and avodah, Rav Yitzchok Karpf, zt”l.

Rav Karpf was born in America in the 1910’s, to his parents, Reb Yaakov and Genendel Karpf, and went to learn in the legendary Mesivta Torah Vodaath as a young bachur.

There, he became a loyal talmid to the Rosh Yeshiva Rav Shloime Heiman, zt”l, learning from him and being meshameish him, and learning from him a derech that he would give over to his talmidim for decades.

He also caught the attention of the legendary Menahel, Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zt”l, the great builder of Torah in America. In addition to being his talmid, he was chosen by him as a husband for his daughter Rivka.

“I am a big chossid of my shver,” he would relate in later years.

As a young man, he was chosen to be a maggid shiur in Yeshiva Torah Vodaath. Lest one think that he was chosen for this job due to protektzia from his father-in-law, Rav Shraga Feivel had a strict policy not to advocate for his family members to get jobs in the yeshiva. Rav Yitzchok got the position on his own merit on account of his exceptional character and Torah knowledge.

In later years, he became the tenth-grade maggid shiur in Mesivta Beis Shraga, named for his illustrious father in law, Rav Shraga Feivel. He would leave an indelible impact on the bachurim, and on everyone with whom he came in contact.

Rav Yitzchok and his rebbetzin had one child, Yisroel Meir, named for the Chofetz Chaim. He was born with Downs’ Syndrome and would be niftar in the lifetime of his father. Rav Yitzchok dedicated himself totally and completely to the wellbeing of his son, referring to him as “Mein Yisroel Chaim…”

People in Monsey loved to be around Rav Yitzchok, and he would generously share from his lifetime of encounters and experiences. He would relate about his father-in-law: “I observed how he would sit in complete deveikus before welcoming the holy Shabbos, and I was by the Brisker rov, where I observed a very similar deveikus before the onset of Shabbos.  

“I once watched him eat an ice cream pop that the bachurim brought him,” recalls Rav Dov Housman, who was very close with Rav Yitzchok. With his extreme eidelkeit, he took a fork and knife and cut it into pieces, and then ate it. “I wouldn’t eat it at all—but out of kavod to the bachurim, I could not refuse.

Bachurim who learned by him would say, “no one taught a tosafos like Rav Yitzchok.”   Before starting shiur every day, he would say the special tefillah that is meant to be said before starting to learn—thereby imbuing the seriousness of learning into his charges.

Rav Karpf was niftar on 3 Sivan, 2009, leaving behind an incredible Torah legacy. 

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