Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

27 Ellul 5760 - September 27, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
Rebbetzin Chaya Rochel Sarna, o"h
by Betzalel Kahn

A large throng of bnei Torah and bnei yeshiva, headed by the country's most eminent roshei yeshiva, accompanied the righteous Rebbetzin Chaya Rochel Sarna, o"h, wife of HaRav Chaim Sarna shlita, rosh yeshiva of the Chevron-Geula yeshiva, on her last earthly journey.

Rebbetzin Sarna was born in the Lithuanian city of Memel, the daughter of HaRav Malkiel Friedman, one of the prominent residents of the city. As a child she studied in a private school in her hometown and then in the Yavneh school in Telz. She grew up in the milieu of the Lithuanian gedolei Yisroel of that period.

When Maran HaRav Chaim Ozer was niftar, Chaya Rochel's mother sent her to help his wife so that Chaya Rochel could learn about the life of R' Chaim Ozer and absorb the kedusha and taharo of that sacred household. During the early years of the war, HaRav Elchonon Wassermann Hy"d lived in the Friedman home in Kovna. Chaya Rochel was the last person to serve him, before he was taken to his martyr's death.

When the war broke out, her flight from the Nazis brought her to the home of a gentile in one of the villages. Although a ferocious dog was posted at the gate to the house, it did not prevent her entry and she miraculously succeeded in passing through.

The gentile landlord who noticed this was stunned, because his dog never let strangers into the house. He decided to test Chaya Rochel and told her that in the morning he would let her stand in the yard alone and that if the dog did not attack her, he would help her. All that night, she poured out her heart before Hashem, and recited Tehillim.

In the morning, she rose and went out into the yard, while the members of the household watched from a distance in order to see if the dog would attack her. To their amazement, the dog looked at her and turned around without harming her. After that, the gentile landowner told her that he would help her hide.

She managed, with Hashem's help, to escape to Switzerland, where she spent a number of years in the home of HaRav Wolf Rosengarten, zt"l. In 5714 (1954), she came to Eretz Yisroel and married HaRav Chaim Sarna, the rosh yeshiva of Chevron. With great dedication she helped him in his position as the rosh yeshiva and aided him in the founding of the yeshiva in the Geula neighborhood, serving as a mother to the yeshiva students and attending to all their needs.

She was a source of support to orphans, widows and brides who received much help from her. She made shidduchim and generously assisted young couples with hachnosas kallah. She taught in various seminaries for many years, stopping her teaching only seven years ago.

Eight years ago, she feel ill with a serious case of pneumonia and had to be connected to a breathing apparatus. Her illness was so serious because only one of her lungs functioned due to a childhood illness. Two weeks ago, she suffered from strong pains and was taken to the Hadassah hospital. The doctors decided to operate on her, due to her critical situation. However, she never awoke from the operation. On motzei Shabbos, her situation deteriorated and at 9:45 Sunday morning, 17 Elul, she returned her pure soul to its Maker, while surrounded by her husband, her daughter and her son-in-law, who recited Vidui.

Her levaya, which set out from her home in the Chevron Geula yeshiva, was attended by thousands of bnei Torah and former students of the yeshiva, who came to pay her their final respects. HaRav Shmuel Yaakov Bornstein recited Tehillim with the throng, and then her husband, HaRav Chaim Sarna, delivered a stirring hesped.

HaRav Sarna said that the life of his wife was a long series of miracles. He also spoke about her nobility of soul and about her many acts of chessed, as well as of her concern for all of the needs of the yeshiva and its students, even when she was afflicted with pain. He related that before entering the hospital, she asked him to return her debts. This was her final request.

She was buried in Har Hamenuchos at sunset. She is survived by two sisters, Rebbetzin Reishel Kotler, the widow of HaRav Shneiur Kotler, rosh yeshiva of Lakewood, and Rebbetzin Shulamis Wolpe, the wife of HaRav Y. Wolpe. She is also survived by one daughter who is married to HaRav Boruch Soloveitchik, one of the roshei yeshiva of Chevron Geula yeshiva, and grandchildren who are continuing on the path of Torah and yirah.


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