By COLlive reporter
Rabbi Yoel Kahn, a figure of historic proportions who was the preeminent scholar and mashpia of Chassidus and the teachings of the Rebbe, passed away on Thursday, 6 Menachem Av, 5781.
He was 91 and suffered a heart attack.
He was born on 16 Shevat, 5690 (1930) in the Soviet Union, to his parents Rivkah and R’ Refoel Nachman Kahan (Foleh), a student of the original Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim in the town of Lubavitch, White Russia and authored Shemu’os VeSippurim an authoritative and multi-volume compilation of historical accounts and anecdotes.
At a young age, Reb Yoel emigrated to the Land of Israel together with his family and studied in Yeshiva Achai Temimim in Tel Aviv under the tutelage of the famous Mashpia Rabbi Chaim Shaul Brook. During his teen years, he also studied privately with the famed Mashpia and teacher of Chassidic thought Rabbi Moshe Gourarie. He also knew and was influenced by Rabbi Nochum Goldshmidt and to a lesser degree, by Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Kesselman.
In 1950, Reb Yoel traveled to New York in order to continue his studies at the Central Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, New York, hoping to meet the Frierdiker Rebbe whose teachings he had studied all his life.
When he finally arrived in New York by sea, it was too late as the 6th Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch had already passed away. Reb Yoel remained in New York and soon became very attracted to the Ramash, son-in-law of the Frierdiker Rebbe, who would eventually become the seventh Rebbe of Chabad.
Reb Yoel, as he was commonly known despite his senior stature, was a once-in-a-century Chassidic scholar who was the preeminent master of the Rebbe‘s teachings. He was present at the very first public talk of the Rebbe on Yud Shvat 5711 until the very last one on Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel 5752.
For decades, at each of the Rebbe’s farbrengens at 770, frequently held on Shabbos when recording or writing are not permitted, Reb Yoel would memorize every word of the Rebbe’s discourses which often lasted many hours long. He and a team of bochurim would transcribe the talks after Shabbos. Some 200 volumes of the Rebbe’s teachings – among them Likkutei Sichos and Toras Menachem – thanks to him.
Among his works on Chassidus are Biurim U’Pninim on Tanya (HaMa’or She’baTorah), Sefer Ha’Erchim, Nos’im BaChassidut, Mahutam Shel Yisroel, Shiurim BeTorat Chabad, HaModaim B’Chassidut, Sugyot B’Chassidut, Shiurim Al Sha’ar Yichud V’Ha’Emuna, Nos’im BaYahadut, and Machshevet haChassidut. This is in addition to hundreds of essays on Chassidus published in the Kfar Chabad magazine and other periodicals.
Despite his brilliance, rare intellect and unmatched knowledge, Reb Yoel regularly interacted with and taught young bochurim as the Head Mashpia of the Central Chabad Yeshiva at 770. While not having children of his own, he raised generations of Chassidim who follow the ways of Torah and Chassidus, among them leading rabbonim, mashpiim and Shluchim.
A lesser publicized side of him was his love for niggunim (Chassidic melodies) which he would sing with precision, as well as his appreciation for stories of the Rebbes and chassidim. He should share both with bochurim during farbrengens and the Shabbos meals he would host at his home on Montgomery Street and later on Eastern Parkway.
He is survived by his wife, Rebbetzin Leah Kahn.
The levaya will be held on Friday, outside Shomrei Hadas at 9:45 AM, passing by 770 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights at 10:45 AM to the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens.
Baruch Dayan Ha’emes.