About HaRav Henach Leibowitz
Rav Henoch Leibowitz, an only child, was born in 1918 in Salcininkai, Lithuania. The world lost a Torah giant with the passing of Rabbi Alter Hanoch Henach Leibowitz, Zecher Tzaddick Levracha, the Rosh HaYeshiva of the Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva in Queens, New York.
I still remember the first time I asked the Rosh HaYeshiva a question and prefaced it with the magical word “Rebbi.” Feelings of awe, love, and warmth flowed through my body, triggered by that word; and for 38 years, every time I spoke or wrote a letter to the Rosh HaYeshiva and used this hallowed term, I felt elevated and truly blessed.
How did Rebbi command the respect, reverence, loyalty, and love of thousands of Talmidim, including me, across the globe? I believe the answer is multifaceted.
Rebbi was a world-class scholar and pedagogue. His in-depth analysis of a Talmudic passage or a commentary on the Torah would illuminate otherwise hidden nuggets of beauty that the Talmid would otherwise skim over and miss. He would challenge us by giving us the texts to study before class or before his lecture, and then create an atmosphere of give-and-take between us to tackle a difficult Torah topic. He listened keenly to our questions and approaches and gently guided us to a sound Torah answer. He would take off his jacket and roll up his sleeves, and would learn with us with gusto. He gave us the keys to sharpen our abilities of in-depth analysis and an appreciation for the exactitude with which the commentaries wrote their interpretations. When Rebbi saw that the study was becoming too difficult and intense, he would laugh or sing and launch into stories of the Gedolim or the Torah approach to modern-day issues. We then would return to the Torah topic at hand mentally and emotionally refreshed.
The Rosh Yeshiva came to America in 1926 when his father Rav Dovid was hired by Mesivta Torah Vodath as a teacher. In 1933, Rav Dovid left Torah Vodath and founded Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yisrael Meir HaKohen. His father’s death in 1941 left him in charge of the fledgling yeshiva while still in his early 20s. Rav Henoch would spend the rest of his life leading the yeshiva as an International Orthodox Jewish icon. Sadly, the Rosh Yeshiva left no children.