Reb Yosef Shlomo Refoel (Buzzy) Klein z”l

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The Chicago community lost one of its veteran members recently. Reb Yosef Shlomo Refoel Klein z”l passed away after decades of illness. Although his proper name was known to all who davened for him for many years, he was affectionately known to all his friends as Buzzy Klein.

When illness prevented him from keeping a full work schedule, Reb Buzzy joined Chicago’s Choshen Mishpat Kollel, where he learned daily for years. The following are divrei hesped delivered by Rav Zev Cohen, rosh kollel of Chicago’s Choshen Mishpat Kollel.

I was zocheh to know Buzzy for the last 37 years. I am not ra’ui to say who he was, for who can understand the complexity of a human being? I will say some maalos of his that I know I can define.

I have given many hespeidim over the past 34 years in Chicago. I don’t think I have ever been as scared to say a hesped as I am now. It is brought down in Shulchan Aruch that the neshamah is here and he is listening, so I am talking to him.

The first maaleh I will say about Buzzy is that he was a learner. Rav Dovid Zucker mentioned that Buzzy was from the first, if not the first, of Chicago’s baalei batim to have a chavrusah b’kvius at the Chicago Community Kollel.

Buzzy was a masmid. Twenty years ago, when the Choshen Mishpat Kollel started, Buzzy started with us on the first day. This coming Elul, the kollel will begin its twentieth year and we looked forward to celebrating with Buzzy.

I am not here to talk about the Choshen Mishpat Kollel. I’m here to talk about Buzzy. The kollel has many talmidei chachomim, and Buzzy (I would be afraid to say this, but I checked it out with other members of the kollel) could hold his own with anyone in the kollel. Sometimes he would be quiet while the chevra were fighting about something, and suddenly he would say, “None of you know what you are talking about!” Then there would be silence and we would listen to Buzzy.

Sometimes Buzzy’s chavrusah did not come. On those days, Buzzy could sit with a Shulchan Aruch for three hours straight and not get up. His eyes remained focused on the sefer. That is a masmid.

He was also a thinker. A thinker is a rare commodity these days. I don’t mean that he only thought about his favorite seforim from the Nesivos Shalom and Rav Shimshon Pincus. Sometimes, when Buzzy would call me over to ask me something, I would get scared. He wanted to know and he was thinking deep thoughts about his life.

He would ask, “Am I a good husband and a good father?” He constantly thought about the proper way to raise a family and wanted to be checked to ensure that he was doing it right.

Buzzy was a tzaddik. The posuk in Mishlei says, “Ki sheva yipol tzaddik vekam.” Many times, Buzzy would get up from his seat in the bais medrash and he would just fall to the floor. Did he fall seven times? Absolutely. He would then just get up and go veiter. Many people would have said that they don’t want to walk down the stairs anymore, that it is too dangerous to go out. But Buzzy continued to get up and return to the bais medrash every day.

Buzzy was a kadoshRashi says on the mitzvah to sanctify kohanim, “Al korcham yakdishu bais din bekoach – Bais din forces a kohein to be a kadosh.” In the times of the Bais Hamikdosh, it meant that when the kids came home from playing, you had to know if they touched a sheretz or anything else not tahor. Walking into the Bais Hamikdosh is an incredible achrayus. A kohein may say that he does not want that level of responsibility. But the Torah says that one must accept the responsibility to live with whatever situation into which he is thrust. And that acceptance is the definition of vekidashto.

When a person is dealt a hand that he may not like and he accepts it, that man is then a kadosh. Buzzy was a fresh lively young man when he first took ill. His condition became that of one with far less mobility and independence than before. But he accepted everything that came his way.

Buzzy would always say, “This is what Hashem gave you. This is how you must live.”         That is a kadosh.

Walking into the kollel this morning and seeing that table empty, knowing Buzzy is not going to come back, was difficult beyond words. But Buzzy would say that it’s the ratzon Hashem and we have to go veiter. He would say that his ratzon is that everybody should be a kadosh.

Buzzy, we are going to try to do your ratzon, even though it’s painful and even though we will miss you. Bila hamovess lanetzach umacha Hashem dimah mei’al kol ponim.



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