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
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
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
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
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
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.