By Tsemach Glenn
Rav Elazar Kahanow was born in the year 1917 to his father, the gaon and tzaddik, Rav Uri Meir HaKohen ben Eliyahu zt”l. Rav Uri Meir was an outstanding talmid in the Lithuanian yeshivos, but left to settle in Yerushalayim when the government wanted to induct Yeshiva students into the army. While living in Yerushalayim, he continued his studies at Yeshiva Toras Chaim. He did not remain there long, however, as a malariya outbreak caused him to travel to Romania. In the year 1910, Rav Uri Meir married Rivkah, the daughter of Rav Shlomo Zalman Feder, a talmid chochom and a respected member of the community of Bargafrond, Romania. Rav Uri Meir was soon appointed as Rav of the city. His eldest son, Aharon, two daughters, and his youngest child, Elazar, were born to him in Bargafrond. Pogroms in the region forced the family to travel to the United States, settling in Williamsburgh, New York.
Rav Uri Meir HaKohen was appointed as a Rosh Yeshiva in the Mesivta Torah Vodaas, while his son, Rav Elazar enrolled there as a Talmid. Torah Voddath would serve as the Yeshiva in which he studied and taught for of the next seventy years. Father and son learned together at every opportunity, eventually publishing a sefer together, Mishmeres HaKohanim, containing Rav Uri Meir’s and Rav Elazar’s Talmudic chidushim.
Rav Kahanow was privileged to study under the great gaon, Rav Shlomo Heiman zt”l. Rav Shlomo had already served as a Rosh Yeshiva in Ohel Torah in Baranowitz, under Rav Elchanan Wasserman, as well as in Yeshivas Remailes in Vilna, under the renowned gaon and Rav of Vilna, Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski. Rav Shlomo served as Rosh Yeshiva in Mesivta Torah Vodaas from 1935 until his petira on 17 Kislev, 1945. During these 10 years, Rav Kahanow was bound to his beloved Rebbe with bonds of love. After Rav Shlomo’s passing, Rav Kahanow would commemorate the Yahrtzeit with a Torah lecture in his memoryfor many years.
Rav Kahanow was privileged to find a worthy partner in marriage, the righteous Rebbetzin Chaya Rochel. She was the daughter of Reb Yehoshua Bash, a highly regarded Satmar chasid in New York, and a descendant of the great chasidic Rebbe, Rabbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev the “intercessor” of K’lall Yisroel. For close to sixty years the Rebbetzin stood by his side and enabled him to pursue his life’s mission; learning and teaching Torah day and night.
Rav Elazar diligently studied Torah and only Torah. Following in the ways of the two primary influences in his life, his father and Rav Heiman, he devoted his life to relentless Torah study. His Talmudic prowess was quickly noticed. When Rav Kahanow was yet a young man, Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz zt”l, selected Rav Kahanow to teach in the Mesivta. Rav Kahanow’s father rejoiced in seeing his beloved son and talmid continue the family legacy, and in seeing the crown of Torah being transmitted to his son.
In his later years, Rav Kahanow delivered advanced lectures in all four chalakim of Shulchan Aruch. He gave regular lectures in Orach Chaim and Yoreh De’ah. He taught Even HaEzer and Choshen Mishpat to a different set of students.
Holding an important post as a Rosh Yeshiva in Torah Vodaas did not suffice for Rav Kahanow. He expended a great deal of energy in the establishment of a new unique Kollel together with his son Rav Eliyahu shlit”a for avreichim who would excel in becoming the future marbizei Torah of Klal Yisroel. The kollel was named Imrei Kohain in memory of his father Rav Uri Meir Hakohen zt”l.
In addition to carrying out his responsibilities as a Rosh Yeshiva in Torah Vadaath, Rav Kahanow also served as Rav in a number of reputable batei medrashim in Brooklyn and Long Beach. In his Rabbanus, he championed the cause of the supremacy of Halacha without compromise. Rav Kahanow fought vigorously against both the Reform and Conservative Movements, which he regarded as a Milchemes Mitzvah for the preservation of Torah and Judaism.
In addition to his sefer Mishmeres HaKohanim, he published Toras Hashvyis in 1955, concerning the permissibility of using Eretz Yisroel esrogim from the Shemittah year. In 1959, Rav Kahanow published the sefer P’ri Ho’oretz, on laws of Shevi’is and hydroponics with outstanding erudition in all aspects of Halacha. He combined this sefer with a sefer by his father, Imrei Kohain, on Masechta Pesachim, and a sefer, Peiros Shevi’is, by the gaon and chasid, Rav Yisroel Zev Mintzberg. Both sefarim received an exceedingly favorable approbation from one of the foremost Poskim of the generation, Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank.
In 1991, he published Zichron Bezalel in two large volumes on hilchos shabbos and many sugyous throughout shas, in which he clarifies many Halachos, tracing their origins to the words of early Rishonim and great Acharonim arriving at clear Halachic decisions. In 1999, Rav Kahanow published the third volume of his sefer Zichron Bezalel on halachos in Yoreh Deah and hilchos Pesach. Pikudas Elazar, a collection of Chiddushim on Yoreh Deah, was published posthumously in 2003 by Rav Eliyahu Kahanow shlit”a, Rosh Kollel Govoha Imrei Kohain. All three volumes were received with great joy throughout the Torah world.
Rav Elazar HaKohen Kahanow was Niftar on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, 5762, after teaching Torah to myriad talmidim over sixty years.
Yehi zichro boruch.