Rav Yaakov Nayman zt”l

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rav-yaakov-nayman1By Dovid Bernstein, Matzav.com

[Levaya info below.] It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Rav Yaakov Nayman zt”l, of Lawrence, NY, one of the last living talmidim of the Brisker Rov and longtime rov in Chicago. Rav Nayman was 100 years old.

Rav Nayman was born in Brisk in May of 5669/1909 and was a talmid of the Brisker Rov who showed great affection toward his beloved talmid.

After years of study among a chosen few in the home of the Brisker Rov and his marriage to his illustrious rebbetzin, Chaya a”h, the young couple moved to Baranovitch, where Rav Nayman studied in Yeshiva Ohel Moshe, led by Rav Elchonon Wasserman zt”l.

Rav Nayman lived through the most tumultuous and dramatic times of modern Jewish history, and was there when the Mirrer Yeshiva defined its place in that history, a period of time defined by faith, perseverance, and survival.

Rav Nayman spent most of his youth in the shadows of the Brisker Rov, Rav Elchonon Wasserman and the Mirrer rosh yeshiva, Rav Leizer Yudel Finkel.

Rav Nayman used to recount the tremendous devotion and sense of responsibility that Rav Leizer Yudel Finkel felt toward his talmidim. Regarding their spiritual needs, Rav Leizer Yudel was like a loving father, as he sent his advanced talmidim – including Rav Nayman – to learn under the Brisker Rov in Brisk. His sense of responsibility toward their physical needs did not wane as they left the halls of the Mir. Rav Nayman used to recall how Rav Leizer Yudel constantly emptied his pockets as he distributed money to his talmidim. The dedication of Rav Leizer Yudel in the Mir and Rav Chaim Shmulevitz in Shanghai inspired Rav Nayman his entire life.

Rav Nayman was not only a witness to the historic journey of the Mirrer Yeshiva, but played a vital role in infusing the Mir with the spirit and ability to go forward, expand, and indeed set the trend of Torah institutions in the postwar era.


On the first day of Pesach of 5674/1914, Rav Nayman stood after davening in the courtyard of the central shul in the city of Brisk. Thousands of people davened in the magnificent shul with thousands of seats. That morning, a line of people waited to receive a “Gut Yom Tov” from the city’s chief rov, Rav Chaim Soloveitchik. Rav Nayman’s father held him in his arms so he should not be trampled by the crowd. Rav Nayman received Rav Chaim’s bracha, and from that moment on, his image was engraved in Rav Nayman’s mind.

When World War I broke out, the residents of Brisk, received a two-day warning that they had to evacuate the city immediately, and were warned of the other alternative, which was much worse. The residents of Brisk began fleeing the city. Rav Chaim Soloveitchik and his family fled to Minsk, a walk of several days at the time, where they stayed with acquaintances.

Rav Nayman’s family was en route for many days between the towns of Kobrin, Antipoli, and others. They starved. In the end, they found a place in an abandoned town called Polsha, whose gentile residents had also fled the horrors of war. Together, some twenty Brisker families settled in Polsha.

The gentiles fled in haste and left behind huge pits of potatoes. For several years, Rav Nayman and the others survived from selling and eating the potatoes.


After the war, Rav Nayman – who was almost 13 years of age – returned to Brisk with the others.

Rav Nayman was present at the Brisker Rov’s first Shabbos as rov in Brisk. Rav Nayman heard the first shiur the Brisker Rov delivered there, and although he was a young boy and did not yet understand a word, he was captivated by the young rov who had just arrived.

The seeds of a new stage in Rav Nayman’s life had been planted.

Rav Nayman, at a very young age, began to become close to the Brisker Rov. Every summer, he would travel with his close friend, Rav Aryeh Leib Pomeranchik, author of Emek Brachah and Toras Zeraim, to the summer village of Damatchova for a rest. For eleven years that he went

to the village, he always met the Brisker Rov, who also ‘vacationed’ there, learning Torah the entire day. During the summer, Rav Nayman and Rav Pomeranchik would learn about seven hours a day. They would go every evening after their own seder to speak in learning with the Brisker Rov about the material that they had learned that day.

For a long time in 5685/1925, Chaim Zev Finkel, son of Rav Leizer Yudel Finkel, learned all day in the Toras Chesed bais medrash in Brisk and would speak to the Brisker Rov in learning. After the passing of the Brisker rosh yeshiva, Rav Moshe Sokolevsky, Rav Leizer Yudel and the Mirrer mashgiach, Rav Yeruchem Levovitz, offered the Brisker Rov to start saying shiurim in the Mir to a select group of bochurim. The Brisker Rov refused, stating that he serves as the rov of a city and has no time to travel.

 “If so,” they said, “we’ll send bochurim from Mir to Brisk.” The Brisker Rov, however, was concerned that it would adversely affect the Mir, but the Brisker Rov was assured that they would send bochurim from other yeshivos too, so there won’t be only talmidim of the Mir.

Thus, the shiur began, but the Brisker Rov asked that only thirteen bochurim would attend.

Why? Because the the Brisker Rov counted how many chairs could be placed around the large table in his room and saw that thirteen fit.  Three boys came from the Mir – Rav Michel Feinstein, Rav Mayer Finkel (son of Rav Leizer Yudel) and Rav Shlomo Pinchuk-Chomsker. Later on, Rav Leib Malin, Rav Yona Karpilov and Rav Ephraim Mordechai Ginsburg joined. From Brisk, there were five talmidim, Rav Leib Pomeranchik, Rav Moshe “Der Mashgiach,” Rav Leibel Eisen, Rav Leibel Mashbaum and Rav Nayman. Reb Yaakov Moshe Leibowitz, son of Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz, also joined. Two bochurim came from the yeshiva in Radin and two from Kletzk.

Rav Nayman was the last living remaining of the thirteen original members in the Rov’s shiur.

Interestingly, Rav Nayman was the person who was chosen by the Brisker Rov to perform hatovas chalomos, a procedure to negate bad dreams or nightmares. For easy, simple dreams, he would ask just anyone who was around at the time to do hatovas chalom. For the more difficult dreams, Rav Nayman merited that the Brisker Rov would summon him.

Rav Nayman used to accompany the Brisker Rov on trips to towns that served as annual meeting places for gedolei Torah of the times. He accompanied the Brisker Rov to Damatchova eleven times for six weeks each, and twice – in 5696 and 5697 (1936/7) – they traveled to Krinitza. The Brisker Rov was only in his forties at the time.

At the outbreak of World War II in Elul 5699/1939, during days of panic and uncertainty, many Jews fled to Vilna, which was considered a temporary safe refuge. In Vilna, Rav Yaakov was reunited with the Brisker Rov, who had also fled there along with thousands of Jews and yeshivas.

When the war broke out, Rav Nayman was in Baranovitch, and he had to travel to Vilna with his family of young children. His reunification with the Brisker Rav took place a few weeks after the escape to Vilna. After a year, the Brisker Rov traveled with his family from Vilna to Moscow.

When the Brisker Rov was in Vilna, he was summoned for interrogation by the NKVD, accompanied by Rav Nayman. The Brisker Rov needed exit visas from Vilna to Eretz Yisroel, and he had to take various forms and birth certificates to the NKVD in Vilna for final approvals. The Brisker Rov asked Rav Nayman to accompany him to the fearful offices to serve as an interpreter from Russian to Yiddish. The exchanges that took place in the NKVD offices were fascinating in themselves and have been recounted by Rav Dovid Soloveitchik and others.

Rav Nayman once said that he had proof that the Brisker Rov had ruach hakodesh. On 11 Av, 5690/1930, when Rav Nayman was at the dacha (vacation spot) with him, the Brisker Rov suddenly turned to him and said, “Rav Michel Rosches – one of the gaonim in Brisk and grandfather of Rav Boruch Rosenberg, rosh yeshiva of Slabodka – has passed on.” Rav Nayman knew that the the Brisker Rov had received no correspondence from Brisk and after a short while they received confirmation of the news. Later on, Rav Nayman said, he learned that the the Brisker Rov had dreamed a few days before Rav Michel’s passing that he had died. That morning he performed hatovas chalom, and a few days after that, Rav Michel indeed passed away.


After arriving in the United States following World War II, Rav Nayman settled in Chicago in 1946 where he served as a rebbi at Arie Crown Hebrew Day School and rov of Kehillas Adas Bnai Yisroel in Chicago. In that capacity, he transmitted the heritage of the pre-war gedolei Yisroel to the Chicago community, laying the foundation for a city that over the past fifty years has come to be an ihr ve’aim b’Yisroel.

The poor condition of Yiddishkeit in Chicago during that time was recognized by Rav Nayman. The city had no idea what intensive Torah study was and what kavod haTorah was. Rav Nayman saw that the future of Klal Yisroel depended on the children of the generation. Though he was a giant from a bygone era, Rav Nayman responded to the challenge and invested all his energies to the teaching the young children of immigrants what a Torah life is all about.

Rav Nayman exposed the Chicago community to what kavod haTorah means. The respect of Torah in the Chicago community is attributed to Rav Nayman’s efforts.

Kehillas Adas Bnai Yisroel was Telshe Yeshiva’s original home in Chicago. Rav Nayman was instrumental in Telshe’s arrival and development in Chicago, even against strong opposition.

After serving as rov at Kehillas Adas Bnei Yisroel in Chicago for 49 years, Rav Nayman moved to the Five Towns about 18 years ago where he served as rov of Beis Medrash HaRav.

Rav Nayman, throughout his life, conducted himself with utmost humility, shoving all honor and accolades aside, living a life with a mission of spreading Torah Yiddishkeit based on the mesorah of the gedolei Torah of the previous generation.

Rav Nayman is survived by his one son and his five daughters, Mrs. Schwartz, wife of Mr. Morton Schwartz; Mrs. Muller, wife of  Rabbi David Muller; Mrs. Lipschutz, wife of Rabbi Yosef Lipschutz; Mrs. Cohen, wife of Rabbi Jack Simcha Cohen and Mrs. Hershfeld, wife of Rabbi Naftoli Hershfeld. He also levaes behind close to one hundred ainiklach.

The levaya will take place tomorrow, at 1:30 p.m., at Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv, located at 1 Cedarlawn Avenue in Lawrence, NY (not at his bais medrash as previously publicized).

Yehi zichro boruch.

 {Dovid Bernstein-Matzav.com Newscenter/Photo: 5tjt}


  1. Kvurah will be held in Eretz Yisroel. Plans for the time and place of the levaya have not been announced yet. The flight to Eretz Yisroel is scheduled at 7:00 PM

  2. The Levaya is scheduled for Sunday at 1:00PM in his Bais Medrash located at 3 Beechwood Drive in Lawrence, NY.

    Yehi Zichro Baruch

  3. Boruch Dayan HaEmes! But, I would like to take issue with the comment in the article that “The city had no idea what intensive Torah study was and what kavod haTorah was.” The Chicago Yeshiva (later in Skokie) was established in 1921 by Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Rubinstein who was a talimd chacham from Volozhin. There were many great talmidie chachamim that learned there. No question that Horav Nayman zt”l added tremendously to the Torah of the city – But don’t belittle the giants that proceeded him.

  4. I was a talmid of his in Chicago. He was a very special mechanech. He never lost his temper or yelled at a student. Just his glance and loving look that you did something wrong was enough of a punishment. He taught us a special nigun to the words ?????? ?? ??? ??? ??? ??? He told us that in his hardest and worst moments he would sing this song and he was always with Hashem’s help saved. How incredable, this morning starts the parsha with this posuk. Many a time he would sing us this tune in class.
    ??? ???? ???? ???? ???? ????? ????? ????? ???????? ????? ????? ?? ?? ??? ??? ????? ?????? ???



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