Monday, May 27, 2024

Rav Chaim Grozovsky

 

A beloved ainikel of Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz who had merited to spend years in his holy glow, Rav Chaim Grozovsky came to Boro Park following the war that claimed so much of that glorious Torah world. Generations of Boro Park residents who grew up in his small shul came to know a gadol baTorah, a baal mussar who related to every person, and a vestige of a bygone era who served as a bridge to the Torah world of yore.

Kamenitz

Rav Yosef Rosenblum, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Shaarei Yosher in Boro Park, related emotionally following the petirah of Rav Chaim Grozovsky: “He was such a rare breed, having had a father like Rav Reuven, a mother who was the daughter of Rav Boruch Ber, and the zechus to spend his formative years in the glow of his saintly grandfather. He carried the mesorah of Kamenitz.”

Rav Chaim was born in 1926 in the city of Vilna, where Yeshiva Knesses Bais Yitzchok, led by Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz,  had moved following the upheaval of World War I. The following year, the family moved—along with the yeshiva and its revered leader—to Kamenitz, Poland, where the yeshiva would exist until the outbreak of World War II.

Life in Kamenitz was idyllic, despite the tremendous poverty with which the Grozovskys lived. Rav Reuven was a pillar of the yeshiva, and his family lived in the apartment above the zaide, Rav Boruch Ber. Young Chaim learned in the local cheder until his bar mitzvah, the year that the Nazis entered the town. After a short period, they handed the town to the Russians, and the Grozovskys were once again on the move, returning to the big city of Vilna.

There, Chaim joined the Baranovitch Yeshiva, which had relocated to Vilna, hearing shiurim from Rav Elchonon Wasserman. While Chaim was toiling and growing in Torah in Vilna, his father, Rav Reuven had moved the Kamenitz Yeshiva to the town of Rasein in 1940, following the petirah of Rav Boruch Ber shortly before that. We find letters that he sent to rabbonim in America, imploring them to send support for the yeshiva, which was struggling financially.

In the Yeshivos of America

In 1941, Rav Reuven, along with his family and a group of Kamenitzer talmidim, escaped to the United States, landing on the West Coast. Soon they made their way to New York, settling in Williamsburg, where Rav Reuven became rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva Torah Vodaas. In Williamsburg, the Grozovskys lived in the same apartment building as Rav Shlomo Heiman, and Rav Chaim entered the yeshiva, where he heard shiurim from Rav Shlomo.

With the establishment of Bais Medrash Elyon in Monsey, Rav Chaim was among the elite bochurim who comprised the chaburah there. His father would divide his time between Torah Vodaas and Bais Medrash Elyon, arriving in Monsey for the weekends, where he delivered fiery shiurim on Fridays and Sundays.

After a few years, he went to join the nascent Bais Medrash Govoah in Lakewood, where he would become a prize talmid of Rav Aharon Kotler. Aside from his great hasmodah in Lakewood and hearing Rav Aharon’s legendary shiurim, he became close to the rosh yeshiva and would accompany him on missions out of town. He would often serve as a messenger between his father and Rav Aharon as the two worked together on a variety of initiatives, including the Vaad Hatzolah and post-war relief. In Lakewood, Rav Chaim was known to have an exceptional mastery of Rishonim and Acharonim.

He married Rebbetzin Faiga, daughter of Rav Chaim Shraga Lichtenstein of Williamsburg, and he continued learning in Lakewood with great diligence.

Decades of Harbotzas Torah

After nine years in Lakewood, he was asked by his father to join the Kamenitzer Kollel on the Lower East Side. This was an institution where a select group of yungeleit toiled in learning, and Rav Reuven carried the responsibility of leading the kollel and supporting the yungeleit. Soon it was sold, and it partnered with Mesivta of Boro Park, the high school of Yeshiva Toras Emes. Rav Chaim served as a maggid shiur there for a number of years, until he opened his own yeshiva.

Talmidim relate that his shiurim were given with a great fire, following in the derech of his illustrious rabbeim and of his venerated father and grandfather. Rav Shmuel Berenbaum, the Mirrer rosh yeshiva, would later say that “Rav Chaim dedicated his entire life to the Torah of his father and grandfather.”

At a later time, he founded Yeshiva and Bais Medrash Bais Reuven Kamenitz in Boro Park, drawing a choshuve crowd of mispallelim and lomdim. Twice a year, he would hold an asifas zikaron, on the yahrtzeit of his father and of his grandfather, commemorating the legacies that lived on in his mind. These gatherings would bring together many Kamenitzer alumni, as well as talmidim of Rav Reuven.

In his later years, he was instrumental in the founding of Bais Reuven Kamenitz in Lakewood, which was established by his son Rav Boruch Ber, and was deeply involved in its development.

Anyone who frequented Rabbi Grozovsky’s shul will recall the tremendous seiver ponim yafos with which Rav Chaim would greet each person. He always had a good word for everyone. He was also a fiery orator and, utilizing his incredible memory and recalling details of 50 years earlier with crystal clarity, he would relate stories of his holy forbears. Well into his seventies, he maintained three daily sedorim with great hasmodah until his petirah in 1999.

Rav Chaim was zocheh to leave behind a family of talmidei chachomim and marbitzei Torah, a credit to the holy legacy that he perpetuated.

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