Thousands of Jerusalem residents, from Sanhedria Murchevet and elsewhere, participated this past Monday in the funeral of Rosh Yeshivas Knesses Yehuda, HaRav Nechemia Malin, who passed away at the goodly age of 97. During his long lifetime, he learned and taught and produced many, many talmidim from the halls of his institutions, Knesses Yehuda, which he founded with great devotion and from which he disseminated Torah for many years.
HaRav Nechemia Malin was born on Yom Kippur of 5677 (1916) to HaRav Isser Yehuda HY"D, and his mother, Chana Rachel HY"D, who had left their home in Brisk and moved to Minsk due to the dangers in the First World War.
HaRav Isser Yehuda had served as Rosh Av Beis Din of Brisk and in 5681, the family returned to Brisk, where R' Nechemia grew up and studied under HaRav Moshe Sokolovsky, author of Imrei Moshe. During his childhood, he learned together with ylct"a HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman in Brisk.
In his youth, he was privileged to study under HaRav Boruch Ber Leibowitz. He gained his reputation from the time when, after a shiur given in 5697, with characteristic modesty, he went over to HaRav Boruch Ber and asked a weighty question quoting the Minchas Chinuch which actually demolished the entire construction of the shiur. HaRav Boruch Ber mulled over his question for several moments and immediately afterwards, conceded that the young man was correct. Thereupon, he went back to the podium and began the shiur all over from a different aspect, with a new construction, which lasted an hour an a half.
At the end of that zman, when he came to the Rosh Yeshiva to take leave before returning home to his parents, HaRav Boruch Ber kissed him three times upon his head, whereas he was accustomed to kiss the other students in parting only once, and said, "This is for the shiur which you demolished." Later on, when he wrote his commentary on Bava Metzia, HaRav Leibowitz included the entire episode from beginning to end.
During the war, when he was forced to flee, R' Nechemia joined Yeshivas Mir in their exile in Shanghai. When he and his brother, HaRav Meir, took leave of their father, he said to them, "If you ever reach Shanghai, remember that Shabbos falls on Sunday." He passed on to them the tradition he had about this issue and its halachic implications. And indeed, when they lived in Shanghai and the controversy over the calendar days erupted, especially regarding Yom Kippur, the Mirrer yeshiva relied on the halachic ruling which they quoted from their father.
At the end of the war, the brothers went to the U.S. where R' Nechemia married Malka Bogner, through the matchmaking of HaRav Reuven Grozovsky. Both brothers settled in Washington, D.C., where R' Nechemia's father-in-law served as a rav, and which he found in need of spiritual uplifting. The first thing he and his brother did was to establish a yeshiva that catered to public school students and they toiled to salvage the Jewish souls there and to make them true bnei Torah.
Though there was a significant community of shomrei mitzvos in Washington D.C. of those days, there were very few who could provide the connection to the deep, Torah-based Judaism of Europe that the Malin brothers embodied. Although they did not reach masses of people, those who were fortunate enough to have contact with them were able to benefit from their extensive background of traditional Torah and full-fledged yiras Shomayim. The descendants of many of his talmidim from that period today glorify the halls of Yeshivas Lakewood and many other Torah centers throughout the U.S.
After some years in Washington, the brothers moved to Baltimore, but they soon moved on to Eretz Yisroel.
When he moved to Eretz Yisroel and at first settled in Bnei Brak, he went to pay his respects to the Steipler and spoke to him in learning. As usually happens, they became engaged in a lively discussion, which became the springboard for a deep friendship. During the time he lived in Bnei Brak, R' Nechemia used to daven in the Lederman beis medrash. Whenever he entered, the Steipler used to rise for him. In his noted modesty and humility, R' Nechemia was so disturbed by this that he stopped going to Lederman's altogether. A letter which the Kehillos Yaakov sent him also testifies to the high esteem in which he held R' Nechemia, witnessed by the titles with which he addressed him. He also said, "[He] does not need [consent] from me or people like me, because his Torah wisdom announces him [i.e. gives him credibility]."
Together with his brother, HaRav Meir, they received the rights to land that was on the border with Jordan, but later became a central neighborhood in Jerusalem. They established the Knesset Yehuda institutions where they both taught and upheld Torah through its cheder, yeshivos and kollelim for dozens of years. His extreme devotion and dedication, his love for Torah and for chessed were evident in every area.
He was renowned for his yiras shomayim which became evident while he was still young, a child in Brisk, and remained with him, growing with the years. One of the avreichim who used to drive him wherever he needed to go tells that on occasion during his latter years, he suggested to the Rosh Yeshiva that he take him to the wedding of one of his descendants. R' Nechemia refused, saying, "If my weakness forces me to occasionally miss davening with a minyan, how can I suddenly have enough strength to go to a wedding?"
He utilized every free moment to study Torah and was totally immersed in it. His family tells that during the demanding period that he was involved in establishing the Knesses Yehuda institutions in Sanhedria Murchevet, he would return home late at night, completely drained of strength, but would immediately sit down with his beloved gemora and not retire to bed at all. He would doze off when overcome by fatigue, but rear up like a lion for tefillas vosikin. Indeed, he devoted himself to Torah study far beyond his natural powers, and by four a.m. would invariably rise to study until it was time for shacharis.
He was blessed to reach his ripe old age with all of his mental faculties to his very last day, still utilizing every moment for Torah study. To his very last day, he was stringently observant of every iota of halacha, as he had been throughout his long and blessed life. Tension and apprehension settled over him before the Yomim Noraim of this year. "Will I be able to fulfill all of my obligations during this period?" he wondered with anxiety. "Will I be able to properly pray all of the special prayers of this time?"
On the very last night of his life, he awoke in the middle of the night and asked his attending son to put on his tzitzis for him, and he recited Krias Shema with great intensity. He then lay back. On the following morning, the family discovered that he had peacefully restored his soul to its Maker after having fulfilled his last mitzvah on earth.
With his passing the paroches was removed in the beis medrash of Knesses Yehuda, where the mittoh was brought for hespedim.
Among the maspidim were HaRav Noach Heisler, the Rav of Sanhedria Murchevet; HaRav Shmuel Auerbach; his mechutan, HaRav Moshe Aharon Rosenthal; his talmid, HaRav Aviezer Shapiro, who learned in the Knesset Yehuda kollel; his son-in-law, HaRav Menachem Wolpe; HaRav Yitzchok Berkowitz, rav of Kehillas Avreichim Sanhedria Murchevet; HaRav Yitzchok Ezrachi, one of the Mirrer Roshei Yeshiva; his son, HaRav Isser Yehuda Malin, and his son, HaRav Yosef Arye.