Rav Chaim Fasman, “Our Sefer Torah” in Los Angeles


Rabbi Arye D. Gordon

A deafening silence settled on Los Angeles this motzei yom tov. A few among us knew on Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar that the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Los Angeles, Rav Chaim Fasman, had departed this world; for most of us, it was a shock to hear the news at the end of yom tov.

It seemed so swift, so quick. Before we had a chance to acknowledge the illness and recite tehillim on more than one or two occasions on his behalf, the Ribbono Shel Olam snatched our beloved rabbi from our grasp. The fact that Rav Chaim – our vibrant, strong, and solid sefer Torah – was seriously ill took us all by surprise. Only around Pesach time did we become aware of the dreaded disease that attacked his body.

Who knew, as we joyously counted the days that brought us closer to kabbalos haTorah, that we were counting the days that our sefer Torah would be raised and rolled up for the last time?

Born in Chicago to Rabbi Osher and Rebbetzin Shaina Baila Fasman, Rav Chaim studied in several renowned yeshivos – including Ponovez, Lakewood, and Bais Hatalmid. Over 40 years ago, he came to Los Angeles with the express mission of planting a makom torah. His efforts developed roots and spread Torah throughout Los Angeles. His emunah could not be shaken; his drive, his certainty that the Kollel would survive and plant fruit and eventually transform the California landscape, was paramount.

As great as his yedius in Torah were, to those seeking his advice or who merely managed to cross his path, it seemed that his erlichkeit, mentshleckeit, and ernstkeit surpassed all else. One by one, those at the levaya rose to tell us how great our loss was. Who was this adam gadol that we thought we knew? Among those to be maspid Rav Chaim were many of the original and early members of the Kollel: Harav Eliezer Gross, Rosh Hayeshiva, Yeshiva Gedolah of Los Angeles; Harav Gershon Bess, Mara d’Asra Kehillas Yaakov; Harav Dovid Grossman, Rosh Hayeshiva Yeshivas HaChaim; Harav Boruch Gradon, Rosh Kollel  Merkaz Hatorah Community Kollel of Beverly Hills; Harav Nosson Fasman, son and Menahel Kollel Los Angeles; Harav Yitzchok Botnik, son-in-law and Kollel member; Reb Zev Walmark , one of the Kollel’s main supporters; Harav Yoel Burstzyn, Menahel Bais Yaakov of Los Angeles; and finally Harav Shmuel Fasman, a son and Associate Rosh Kollel, Kollel Los Angeles.

With a broken heart, Harav Shmuel spoke of those final days. “We were waiting for a nes min hashamayim, a miracle,” he said. “And why not? Nothing is beyond the Ribbono Shel Olam. But it was not to be.”

It was the divrei hesped of these rabbanim that drove home the reality that has broken through our foggy disbelief – Reb Chaim will truly no longer be with us. He will no longer be there to answer our shaylos, to help us solve our personal problems, to guide us down the derech hayashar.

Rav Chaim is survived by his devoted and accomplished wife, Rebbitzen Yehudis Fasman; by a brother, Rabbi Reuven Fasman, and sisters, Rebbetzin Avis Sugarman and Rebbetzin Millicent Drebbin; by his children Reb Shmuel Fasman, Reb Nosson Fasman, Reb Eli Fasman, Mrs. Frumy Botnik, and Mrs. Basya Bursztyn; and by many grandchildren, bli ayin hara.

Much will be said about this heiliger mentch, this powerhouse of Torah. We will share amongst ourselves the special moments of our own personal encounters with the Rosh Kollel, his uncanny insight, his clear thoughts and direction that always brought us back on the derech.

At the conclusion of the hespedim, we headed to the Kollel exit, falling into line. We then solemnly were melavah the aron through the darkened and empty streets of Los Angeles, to the Rosh Kollel’s home. It was from there that he would journey on to Eretz Yisroel and to his makom kevurah to await the be’as haMoshiach.

Harav Chaim Fasman, Rosh Kollel, Kollel Los Angeles – yehi zichro baruch.