By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
This morning, Klal Yisroel lost one of its most eminent Poskim, Dayan Yechezkel Roth zt”l. Dayan Roth was an extraordinary talmid chochom, a tzaddik, and had a strong relationship with Gedolei Torah across the spectrum. He was close with Rav Bick zt”l, Rav Vosner zt”l and numerous other Poskim.
When this author was a Rav in Long Island in the early 1990’s, Dayan Roth would spend time with me answering questions all sorts of questions. I recall one interesting ruling regarding a divorced couple, where one parent wished to force the other parent to force the child to donate bone marrow to a sibling. Rav Chatzkel ruled that since there was a danger and or pain involved – no parent had the right to do such a thing – even with the child’s acquiescence. Other questions involved dealing with a community and people who were baalei teshuvah and or not yet fully committed to a Torah lifestyle. Dayan Roth’s sensitivity and dedication was extraordinary.
Rav Chatzkel Roth was born in 1936, in Transylvania to a Satmar family. He studied at the Arad Yeshiva in Romania. He fled communist Romania at the age of seventeen in 1953 with his parents, and travelled to Eretz Yisroel. Romania was unique in that only some 14,000 Jews who lived there were murdered during the holocaust. In Eretz Yisroel, he studied at the Satmar Yeshiva headed by Rabbi Moshe Aryeh Freund zt”l in Jerusalem. The Yeshiva was established by the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum zt”l.
Rav Chatzkel was recognized as a brilliant luminary at a young age, and became a Moreh Horah in Yerushalayim. The Satmar Rebbe used to say, “If it were only for Reb Chatzkel it would have been worth it to open my entire Yeshivos.”
Rav Chatzkel’s hasmada knew no bounds, and he did not waste a single moment. In the Satmar Yeshiva in Yerushalayim, there was a line to wash after the first Seder– while he was waiting in line he used to hold a Gemorah and continue his learning. In his bungalow on Route 52 in the Catskills, he was always learning – from the wee hours of the morning until late at night.
He became a Moreh Horaah and Rav in the Satmar shul in Katamon, and was known as the Satmar Dayan – developing a close relationship with the Satmar Rebbe. Soon he moved to New York and was the Rav of the Satmar community in Boro Park.
Aside from developing a relationship with virtually every gadol b’yisroel, the majority of the chassidisha Rebbeim would rely on him for Psak – from the Vishnitzer Rebbe the Skulener Rebbe.
Dayan Roth would travel to Meron each year – whenever he could. He had a Beis Midrash there. Often he travelled there with all of his family members and they described it as a profound ruchniusdika esperience.
Dayan Roth had extraordinary midos and showed a sensitivity to everyone. Once, two talmidei chachomim after having studied Yore De’ah together went o Dayan Roth to be farhered. After both had shown mastery of the material, he gave them both a letter indicating so. The next day, Dayan Roth called one of them privately on the telephone to come over. He had prepared a second letter for him and said. The first letter that I had given you said the same thing that the other talmid chochom’s letter said – because I knew that you would both compare them. I did not want him to feel bad. I prepared a second letter for you because you had a much greater grasp of the material.
Dayan Roth zt”l was very prolific. He wrote nine volumes of responsum entitkled, Emek haTeshuvah. He also wrote Chazon yechezkel on chumash and on the Moadim. He authored another volume on the Mitzvos of the land of Eretz Yisroel called “Mishpat haAretz”, a sefer on Hilchos Ribis called keren haTorah, and a volume on Hilchos Niddah called Chezkas Tahara. He also wrote chiddushim on Shas, and published seforim on meseches Sukkah and Krisus.
Fifteen years ago, he appointed his eldest son, Rav Moshe, as the Rav in Karlsburg of Borough Park. The rest of his sons also serve as rabbis: Cherna, Rabbi Shalom Rabbi Austrik, Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac, rabbi of Kahal Hassidim. His son-in-law, Rav Moshe Friedman, is a dayan in the Satmar community in Boro Park. (Parenthetically, many years ago, this author obtained a copy of the first printing of Rav Yisroel Salanter’s Igeres haMussar in Eretz Yisroel and compared it – word for word with the version printed by Rav Yitzchok Blaser in his printing of Ohr Yisroel. This all happened in a hotel room I shared with Rav Friedman on the way back from Meron. I tried to get a haskama from Dayan Roth on the finished product, but was unable to do so in time.)
While in Eretz Yisroel at Dayan Vosner’s Beis Din, I noticed that there were faxes going back and forth from one Beis Din to another – Dayan Roth’s karlsburg Beis Din located in Borough park and Dayan Vosner’s in Bnei Brak. We have lost an extraordinary Gadol haDor. Please stay tuned for a more comprehensive analysis of the loss.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.