'

 

Ha-Rav Yechezkel Roth ztz"l, Av Beit Din of Karlsburg, in Boro Park, New York has ascended on high.  Although his name is not well-known throughout all of the Nation of Israel, he was among the great Poskim in America.

He was born in Romania, moved to Israel and learned in the Satmar Yeshiva in Yerushalayim under the leadership of Ha-Rav Moshe Aryeh Freund, head of the Edah Ha-Charedit.  He was the son of a tailor without Yichus, and he was an incredible Matmid in the Yeshiva.  In his youth, he was a Posek in Yerushalayim and learned to do so from Ha-Rav Mi-Tiplik, Ha-Rav Shimshon Aharon Polonsky.  Ha-Rav Mi-Tiplik was an amazing Gaon and Posek, and the great Rabbis of Yerushalayim learned from him how to become a Posek.  Ha-Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank did not answer serious questions without receiveing Rav Polonsky's opinion on the matter.  Maran Ha-Rav Kook said about him: "He is the number one Lamdan in Yerushalayim", and Ha-Rav Mi-Tiplik said about the Divrei Torah of Maran Ha-Rav Kook that they are "Torat Knesset Yisrael".  Ha-Rav Mi-Tplik succeeded in raising an entire generation of great Poskim, including Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef, Ha-Rav Shmuel Ha-Levi Wozner, Ha-Rav Yechezkel Roth and others.  Ha-Rav Roth served as the Rav of the Satmar Shul in the Neighborhood of Katamon in Yerushalayim.

In the year 5722, the Satmar Rebbe looked for a major Posek and one which shared his philosophy to serve on the Satmar Beit Din in Boro Park.  The Satmar Rebbe immediately agreed upon Rav Roth and sent messengers to ask him to move there, and he also agreed.  He was extremely close to the Satmar Rebbe, and he even begins his Reponsa, Shut Emek Ha-Teshuvah, with a Dvar Torah which he said at the dinner on 21 Kislev – the day celebrated each year to commemorate the Satmar Rebbe being saved during the Holocaust.

Rav Roth related what he once said to the Satmar Rebbe.  We say each year at the end of Neilah on Yom Kippur: "Next Year in Yerushalayim"!  It seems that we can explain its meaning based on what our Sages say that in the Gemara in Megillah (29a) relates that in the future all of the Shuls and Yeshivot that are in the Exile will be established in Eretz Yisrael.  Similarly the Satmar Rebbe said (and it is published in his commentary on the Haggadah) that when it says in the Haggadah "This year we are here, next year may we be in the Land of Israel", it means that we are now in this place outside of Israel, but because of our Divine service here, in the future in will be established in Eretz Yisrael.  Based on this idea, when Rav Roth visited the Satmar Rebbe in Kiryat Yoel (a Satmar town in New York) in the summer of 5740, he said that since Eretz Yisrael has different levels of holiness, and Yerushalayim is at the highest level, as noted at the beginning of Mishnah Kelim, the places where people as most punctilious in fulfilling the Mitzvot, such as Kiryat Yoel, where they properly fulfill the laws of modesty and providing a proper Jewish eduction without any changes, will be established in the future in Yerushalayim.  The Satmar Rebbe shook his head in agreement (Shut Emek Ha-Teshuvah Volume 8 pp. 48-49).

Rav Roth however was not Satmar in every way and he was an extremely moderate individual.  He also established a Beit Din and taught many Dayanim, and there are already three generations of Dayanim which have sprouted from his Beit Din.       

The Karlsburger Dayan, as he was known, received the most complicated question in all four sections of the Shulchan Aruch from all around the world, as evidenced in his 9 volumes of Teshuvot and many other halachic works.  He was famous for his ability to find leniences, particular relating to family matters and establishing an Eruv in Boro Park.  He did not fear using the Heter Meah Rabbanim when necessary.  He even visited the site of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center with other Rabbis to determine if Cohanim are permitted to visit the memorial and museum, and he ruled that it is indeed permissible.  When people would add all sorts of Chumrot, he would say: What do you want to write a new Shulchan Aruch?!  But when he needed to be strict, he did not fear.  For example, when the Satmar Rebbe, the Berach Moshe, permited a school for children with special needs, under the auspices of the US government, to forego a Mezuzah, since it was under non-Jewish ownership, he prohibited learning there.  He did everything with quickness and without delay including ruling on monetary matters.  He was upright and level-headed.  People say about him – just as they say about Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach: May the name of the normal be a blessing.    

But although Ha-Rav Roth was in the west, his heart was in the east.  He was located in Boro Park but his heart resided in Meron.

Three times a year – during the month of Elul, during the time of Shovavim in month of Shevet and on Lag Ba-Omer, he would leave his Dayanim and students and come to Israel.  He would spend his time at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.  He would leave this place in only rare instances.  He spent most of the day Davening and learning Torah.  Many of his Chiddushim and Teshvuot were written there, as he notes at the beginning of his Sefarim.  He was a true Mekubal, since it is only possible to reach this level after a person has had his fill of Gemara and Poskim (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 246:4), which he did with incredible success.  He would sit there in his Shabbat clothing and with his Shtreimel on his head, since to be with the Rashbi is in the category of celebrating Shabbat.  He also welcomed many guests to the grave, especially on Lag Ba-Omer. 

Most of his day, however, was spent learning the Torah of the Rashbi.  He once explained that the Rashbi was the Rabbi of every single Jew.  He accepted every Jew regardless of his spiritual level, even the simplest of the simple Jew.  His grave is a place of salvation, since the Rashbi is an agent for Am Yisrael and relates its merits before the Divine throne.  The Zohar tells that the Rashbi died while saying Divrei Torah, and his soul departed while saying the verse: "For Hashem commanded the blessing there" (Tehillim 133:3), i.e. he is the messenger to bring our blessings before Hashem.

And the same is true with Rav Roth.  Although his heart was always in our Holy Land in Meron at the grave of the Torah and in the hidden Torah, he displayed incredible self-sacrifice to serve the Nation of Israel in the Exile with the revealed Torah.  Instead of hiding himself in the secrets of Torah, he involved himself with the most complex halachic questions.

Although his head reached the Heavens in Meron, his feet were implanted on the earth in Boro Park.

 

May his soul be bound up with the bonds of the living with all of the Tzadikim and Geonim.