Thursday, May 10, 2018

Rabbi Chaim Flom ztz"l

It was recently the 10th yahrtzeit of Rabbi Chaim Flom who was my Rebbi and Rosh Yeshiva back when I learned in Ohr Dovid [thirty years ago!!! - I CAN'T believe it...]. He was a reaaaallll Tzadik but didn't have a clue. He just thought that he was a regular [albeit] nice guy. He was so down to earth and made everyone feel like he was their best friend. Of all of the Rabbeim I ever had in yeshiva, I believe that he was hands down the greatest tzadik - and probably the funniest as well. He had a never ending storehouse of stories that I tell until this day.

Here is an appreciation written shortly after his very unfortunate passing. 

By M. Winner

Rabbi Chaim Moshe Flom’s brief illness left us unprepared for the void that emerged after his passing. What this one great man accomplished in his short years was only partially known during his lifetime; what was revealed during shivah surprised even his family.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Rabbi Flom learned as a bachur in Ner Israel in Baltimore for high school until the Yeshivah Gedolah of Pittsburgh was established, and he enrolled as the yeshivah’s first student. When he left Pittsburgh to learn in Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim, he did so only after receiving the assurances of Pittsburgh’s Rosh Yeshivah that a special shiur would be started for those boys who would not be remaining in yeshivos. This shiur continued for many years, the first of many shiurim to Rabbi Flom’s legacy.

After his time at Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Flom taught high school for one year and elementary for two. During shivah, numerous former students contacted Rabbi Flom’s wife, saying he had kept in touch with them for over thirty years! This unique kesher of a rebbe with his talmidim was a recurring theme throughout his life, for which he was deeply loved by all who had the privilege to call him “Rebbe.”

After marrying in 1978, Rabbi Flom came to Eretz Yisrael to learn in kollel, where he planned to stay for two years. But, during those years, he became aware of a great need for a yeshivah for those who could not learn all day but still wanted to grow in Yiddishkeit. He dreamt of making these boys into true bnei Torah. At only twenty-nine, he and his chavrusah, Rabbi Yosef Granofsky, started Yeshivat Ohr David, which, true to Rabbi Flom’s word, has been influential in building hundreds of Torah-true homes ever since.

Although one talmid commented that Rabbi Flom wasn’t known for just one thing – he was known for everything – he was certainly famous for his car and the chessed he did with it, especially around the Sanhedria Hamurchevet neighborhood, where he lived for nearly thirty years. He would say that the only reason he had a car was so that he could offer people rides and help others out. But the car was only a physical symbol of his chessed; the real vehicle was Rabbi Flom himself, who had literally hundreds of hidden chassadim to his name.

Shortly before Rabbi Flom was niftar, the gabbai of Sanhedria Hamurchevet’s money gemach shared that Rabbi Flom had approached him, seeking names of needy families in the neighborhood so that he could pay off their makolet debts, which he did regularly. His wife also never knew that he single handedly raised thousands of dollars yearly for the neighborhood’s kimcha dePischa campaign; this was only brought to light after his passing.

His daughter also shared a story about the chessed that flowed from his fingertips: She had badly cut her finger and needed to be rushed to an urgent-care center for stitches. When they arrived, Rabbi Flom saw a policeman ticketing cars parked in spaces whose meters had expired. Hopping out of his car, Rabbi Flom ran down the street depositing change in all the meters so that the cars wouldn’t be ticketed …

He regularly overbought produce at the shuk “by accident” so that he would be able to distribute the “extras” to less fortunate neighbors. He helped carry people’s groceries, greeted everyone he saw, remembered what was going on in people’s lives, and simply made others feel good. No chessed was too large – or too small – for Rabbi Flom. Indeed, one of the things for which he was most loved was smiling at everyone he passed. “Who will smile at us now?” the neighborhood children asked after the levayah. A neighbor commented that she was afraid people might stop davening for him during his illness. “He was always smiling, so I don’t think people realized how sick he was,” she said.

Seeing the tzelem elokim in others was one of Rabbi Flom’s many unique qualities. It didn’t matter if a man, woman, child or elderly person was standing before him, Rabbi Flom only saw the Yiddishe neshamah, and it was to that neshamah he spoke, offering words of encouragement, divrei Torah or a ride …

Rabbi Flom’s legacy of chessed is only part of who he was. Torah was the rest.

The Darchei Miriam organization, which drives cancer patients to hospitals, and which drove Rabbi Flom, contacted Rabbi Flom’s wife and asked if they would like to have a group of bachurim come to sing and dance to cheer him up. Thinking her husband would decline, Rebbetzin Flom nevertheless asked him if he would like it. “Only if they’ll let me give them a shiur first,” was his answer. So not once, but every Thursday night, thirty boys from Brisk came to sing and dance — and hear a shiur from Rabbi Flom

He loved giving shiurim so much he would give them even for free. His payment will surely come in Olam Haba; that Olam Haba only came too soon.

Shortly before he was niftar, when he was already mekabel tremendous yissurim be’ahava, Rabbi Flom told his 17-year-old son, “I want to live longer because I want to see my children grow more in Torah.”

Rabbi Flom was best-known for his years as Rosh Yeshivah and rebbe in Ohr David, but he also gave shiurim in numerous institutions throughout Jerusalem, including Yeshivas Orchos Chaim, Me’or, Bnos Rochel, Sharfman’s, Bnos Chayil and others. He also sent a weekly dvar Torah e-mail to over 2,000 talmidim.

During the end of the sefirah period, when Rabi Akiva’s 24,000 talmidim died because they weren’t treating each other with the proper respect, it is only fitting that we internalize the lessons Rabbi Flom embodied. He lived loving-kindness and treated every Yiddishe neshamah with kavod. He would have wanted his inheritance to Klal Yisrael to be one of ahavas Yisrael: to do the mitzvah of giving Shalom with a smile. As we approach Shavuos, let us give aliyah to his neshamah and nachas to the Borei Olam by smiling at one another and treating our fellow Yidden with the respect and honor that unified us at Har Sinai and which will continue to enable us, be’ezras Hashem, to be makabel Torah this Shavuos and always.

Rabbi Chaim Flom was 56. He is survived by his wife, father, two sisters, and eight children, four of whom are married, and one who is a kallah, to be married in three weeks.