Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The 23rd of Iyar is the first yahrzeit of Rav Simcha HaKohen Kook (1930-2022). His father, Rav Raphael Kook was the nephew and student of Rav Avraham Yitzchok Kook. Simcha was named for his maternal grandfather, Rav Simcha Mandelbaum, whose home was later the location of the famous Mandelbaum Gate which separated the Old City and the newer areas of Yerushalayim. The family owned a textile factory which employed many people who would otherwise have struggled daily with putting food on the table. Numerous needy people joined them each Shabbos for meals.

Rav Simcha Kook

When he was seven, his father was appointed Chief Rabbi of Tveriah. Simcha learned in Yeshivas Bnei Akiva and Chevron, where he developed a relationship with Rav Chatzkel Sarna, and spent a short amount of time in Slabodka. After his marriage he studied in Mechon Harry Fischel in Bayit Vegan. He served in the IDF during the Israeli War of Independence.


Rav Simcha taught for a few years in Yeshivat Merom Tzion in Kiryat HaNoar before opening a Bnei Akiva High School in Netanya. In Netanya he drew close to the Kloizenburger Rebbe. In 1969 he ran for local office under the banner of Agudath Israel as he felt that the observant inhabitants of Netanya were not having their interests properly represented. After his father’s passing in 1971 he was a candidate to replace him as Chief Rabbi of Tveriah. However, he saw that the charedim opposed his candidacy as they viewed him as part of the Religious Zionist party, so he withdrew his candidacy.

The following year his brother Rav Shlomo Kook, Chief Rabbi of Rechovot, was killed in a car accident along with his wife and some children. Rav Simcha was offered the position, which he assumed a year after his brother’s death. As he was in charge of the local kashrus, he formed a Mehadrin B’Datz as well, with which he was associated until 2008. Beginning in 2007 at the suggestion of Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv he also functioned as the rabbi of the Churva Shul in Yerushalayim. He served as the head or on the board of a number of schools, yeshivos and seminaries.

Everyone in Rechovot, observant or not, knew that his door was open to them at any time. Local politicians often came to consult with Rav Simcha and even the politicians on the left could be found at his Shabbos table. He would visit the commercial areas of Rechovot on Friday afternoon to encourage shopkeepers to close their stores on Shabbos. On occasion he would arrange for a public davening of Musaf on Shabbos morning in commercial areas as a way of encouraging stores to close. He would tell those attending that they were not protesting against, but for: for Shabbos, for Torah, for Hashem. In 1983 the city council approved the opening of recreation centers on Shabbos. After publicly protesting the decision, Rav Simcha began to befriend the secular mayor until he, too, became a regular at his Shabbos table.

He opposed the returning of land to Arabs in exchange for peace and worked closely with an organization that purchased land from Arabs. He was despondent at the disengagement from Gush Katif and expended much effort offering support to those who were forced to move from their homes. Rav Simcha dreamed of moving back to Yerushalayim at some point and never purchased a home in Rechovot. Eventually, he purchased a home in the Rova where he would stay for Shabbos when functioning as the rabbi of the Churva Shul.

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The 24th of Iyar is the yahrzeit of Rav Yitzchok HaKohen Feigenbaum (1828-1911). Born in a suburb of Warsaw, Yitzchok was a descendant of the Tosefos Yom Tov. After studying with private tutors, at the age of thirteen he was accepted into the yeshiva of the Chiddushei HaRim who lived then in Warsaw. At the age of 18 he married his cousin Mindy Feinlicht. He frequently visited the rebbe of the Chiddushei HaRim, the Kotzker, and absorbed the Kotzker’s approach to chassidus.

Rav Yitzchok Feigenbaum

After the Chiddushei HaRim moved to Gur, Rav Yitzchok served as a tutor for his children. The passing of the Chiddushei HaRim in 1866 affected him greatly and he struggled to find a new rebbe. In 1866 Rav Yitzchok was appointed to the Beth Din of Warsaw under the auspices of Rav Dov Ber Meisels, the rabbi of Warsaw. Two years later Rav Dov Ber passed away and the chassidim and misnagdim of Warsaw could not agree on a replacement. Initially, Rav Yaakov Gesundheit was appointed in his place, but the chassidim fought against his appointment and he resigned. Eventually, they settled on Rav Yitzchok as the new rav and he left the suburbs and moved to Warsaw proper.

Rav Yitzchok was the official representative of Warsaw Jewry and was responsible for any interactions with the government. He founded a yeshiva in his home and became a follower of Rav Avraham Bornstein, Sochotchover Rebbe. In 1882 he published Kreisi U’Pleisi, written by his ancestor, Rav Yonoson Eibshitz, with his own footnotes and insights. He also published a halachic periodical. Unfortunately, most of his writings were lost during the Holocaust.

As a staunch Zionist he supported Chovivei Zion and helped raise money to buy the land on which Rechovot was built. He owned some of the land there personally. He would only drink Carmel wine.

Most of his children and descendants were murdered during the Holocaust, with only a few grandchildren surviving. One of them, also named Rav Yitzchok, served as the rav of the Hague for a number of years.


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Chayim Lando is the practice manager at Maryland Neuro Rehab & Wellness Center and has been a Jewish educator for over three decades. His favorite activities are studying and teaching Talmud and spending time with his grandchildren.