Kagan, Rabbi Israel Meir (The Chofetz Chaim)

June 14, 2006

For almost one hundred years he lit up our world. His was a soul from on high whose only desire in life was to fulfill the wish of his Creator through lifting the worth of individual lives as well as the life of the Jewish people as a whole. This was the substance of the marvelous life of this giant of justice and kindness.

He could find no peace when contemplating the state of the nation regarding the grave sin of slander, until he composed his first work which carried the name with which he has been identified ever since: Chofetz Chaim… He also was inspired to produce a work, Ahavas Chesed (Love of Kindness) detailing the laws between man and man.

The emigration to America made him fearful for the well-being of Judaism in places where Jewish settlements were not well organized. He recognized the trials of the new immigrants and to fill their needs he wrote Nidchei Yisrael, (Dispersed of Israel), replete with detailed laws specifically related to the new life of the émigrés and heartfelt words of inspiration and encouragement to strengthen them in overcoming obstacles and preserving their Judaism. And his caring eye observed the young conscripts forced to live far from any semblance of Jewish life and desperately in need of special guidance. For them he composed Machne Yisrael, (The Camp of Israel).

In spite of all the writings of his predecessors he found that he must clarify many laws of the first portion of the Shulchan Aruch, and composed his famous Mishna Brura, which is firmly established as an authoritative source.

And within his heart there burned a holy fire: the hope for the full salvation. The final redemption of Israel was his constant concern. For the arrival of that event the laws of Kodshim must be clear. But he saw that such learning was much neglected and so composed a monumental work on the order Kodshim, Likkutei Halachos.

In spite of all these undertakings he was totally involved in all matters of Torah support with youthful enthusiasm even when he was well into his nineties, traveling to anywhere he might help to strengthen activities on behalf of Torah.

This is but a too-brief overview of the life of an extraordinary man whose saintly presence we were fortunate to encounter and from whose saintly life and pure character we were privileged to feel the impact.