With great sadness we regret to inform you of the passing of Rabbi Moshe Homnick, OB”M. Father of Rabbi Tzvi Homnick of Crown Heights.
Rav Homnick was niftar less than a week after the petirah of his devoted rebbetzin, Mrs. Miriam Homnick a”h, who just passed away last week.
As a youngster, Rav Homnick joined Yeshivas Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin when it was located on Stone Avenue in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The yeshiva was then housed in a tall, eight-story building. On Sukkos, the sukkah was built on the roof, and Rav Homnick would recall listening to the maamarim of the rosh yeshiva, Rav Hutner, while trying to ignore the howling of the wind some 80 feet above street level. The sounds of traffic and an occasional siren from a fire truck did not make it easier to concentrate either.
Rav Homnick first learned under Rav Zeidel Epstein, mashgiach in RJJ who later became mashgiach at Yeshiva Torah Ore in Eretz Yisroel. Rav Homnick would go to Rav Zeidel’s shmuessen prepared with a handkerchief, and Rav Homnick would cry at every shmuess.
When Rav Homnick learned under Rav Hutner, the first maamar he heard was called “Bitulo Zuhi Kiyumo.” It was Elul, the zeman following the first summer spent by the talmidim in Camp Morris. Rav Hutner spoke about bein adam lachaveiro and the opportunities people have in that time to forge close relationships with chaveirim. Rav Hutner was afraid that bochurim would feel bad and a little guilty for spending more time than usual playing outside and relaxing more over the prior two months spent in camp.
“He wanted to show everyone the maalos gained during that time period and teach his talmidim to exercise simcha shel mitzvah over what they accomplished during the summer,” Rav Homnick once recalled. “He said that chavrusos can learn for years without saying a word to each other besides for their learning and sometimes don’t become friendly. But bochurim who play and interact with each other can bond in a unique way. He said that sometimes chumriyos can create a stronger bond than ruchniyus. It’s a big chiddush, but that is what he said. I was very surprised by the message of the shmuess, which was warm and loving, without any sharp mussar.”
Since Rav Homnick was new to the yeshiva and this was his first maamar, Rav Hutner called him in to ask him how he enjoyed the shmuess. Rav Homnick told him, “Rebbi, if you would take my advice, you should change your style!” Rav Hutner laughed and replied, “In two years from now, I will repeat to you what you just told me and you will laugh!” Indeed, Rav Homnick did not have to wait two years. On Chanukah of that year, only a few months later, he said a maamar that moved Rav Homnick greatly. Rav Hutner had answered many questions that Rav Homnick had on Chanukah and Rav Homnick became very close to the rosh yeshiva, listening to all the maamarim intently.
In fact, while Rav Homnick was learning at Yeshivas Chevron, Rav Hutner would send him copies of his maamarim with his talmid, Rabbi German, to make sure that he kept up with the maamarim.
In describing Rav Hutner’s maamarim, Rav Homnick once recalled, “A maamar was aimed to instill proper hashakafos into talmidim. Rav Hutner had a few topics that he would speak about often. He was a big advocate of learning b’iyun and chazarah. He would push these inyonim a lot in his maamarim. His maamarim contained chiddushim that uplifted his talmidim to feel the kedusha of Yom Tov. The maamarim lifted the talmidim and allowed them to understand many deep concepts of Yom Tov. He refreshed the halachos of Chol Hamoed too, reinfusing the kedusha that was lacking at the time. He reiterated the issur melacha on Chol Hamoed and made a big impact in the way his talmidim felt about Yom Tov in general. Yes, during the maamarim, there were attendees who stood with eyes gazing, unable to understand his deep words. But for those who understood, they became chassidim. The Sukkos maamarim were always delivered to a packed crowd. People would come from far and wide, bringing their children for brachos and savoring the Yom Tov maamar. It was a derhoibener experience to sit with the rosh yeshiva during every Yom Tov, especially Sukkos. There was an air of kedusha surrounding him the entire Yom Tov.”
When Rav Homnick was in Chaim Berlin, Mirrer Yeshiva had recently moved over in its full glory form from Shanghai to East New York, where it was located in a shul on Ashford Street. The Mir was learning the same masechta as Chaim Berlin, Maseches Kiddushin, and Rav Homnick would go to Rav Chaim Shmulevitz’s shiurim, and he also attended Rav Chatzkel Levenstein’s shmuessen. Rav Homnick was so impressed by the shiurim that he decided to go learn in the Mir. Rav Homnick asked two brothers, Rav Gershon Weisenfeld and Rav Mattis Weisenfeld, to come with him. They agreed, and they all went for Elul.
Rav Elya Weintraub set up Rav Homnick to learn bechavrusah with Rav Shmuel Berenbaum in the Mir. Rav Homnick sat next to Rav Shmuel on one side and Rav Elya Svei sat on the other side of Rav Homnick, learning with his chavrusah.
Rav Homnick was among a group of 11 bochurim who went from Chaim Berlin to Bais Medrash Govoha in Lakewood to learn under Rav Aharon Kotler. Each bochur came prepared with a shtickel Torah, but Rav Aharon shlugged up each one. Rav Homnick, though, did not say a shtickel. Rather, he came with 12 difficult kashos from a few masechtos. Rav Aharon agreed with his questions and repeated a segment of his shiur that dealt with one of them.
At the time, Rav Moshe Chevroni was in Lakewood and took a liking to Rav Homnick. He asked Rav Homnick to come learn in Yeshivas Chevron. When Rav Homnick arrived in Chevron, Rav Moshe recognized him and placed him in the otzar haseforim, where a group of metzuyanim learned. This chaburah learned separately from the yeshiva and was known to be a very select group. Rav Homnick learned there for one zeman, but after a few older bochurim in Chevron were noticeably unhappy about the new young American bochur learning in the elite chaburah, Rav Homnick decided to leave and go to Mir Yerushalayim.
In the Mir, Rav Homnick heard shiurim from Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, Rav Beinish Finkel and Rav Leizer Yudel Finkel. At the time, Rav Homnick was an 18-year-old bochur and in desperate need of parnassah. Rav Homnick approached Rav Dov Schwartzman with this dilemma. Rav Homnick knew that he was planning on returning to America and undoubtedly was a sought-after maggid shiur in Eretz Yisroel. Rav Homnick asked him to refer him to one of the yeshivos that offered him a shteller. Since he was returning to America and not accepting the many offers he received, Rav Schwartzman gladly obliged. He instructed Rav Homnick to go to a certain yeshiva that had invited him to say a daily shiur and tell them that he was sent there by Rav Schwartzman to say the shiur in his stead. When Rav Homnick arrived, the hanhallah immediately agreed that he should take the position.
In that yeshiva, however, Rav Homnick encountered a problem. Rav Homnick assumed that he would be able to eat meals in the yeshiva, saving him an important expense of money, but to his dismay, the yeshiva relied on two kulos in their food preparation that left Rav Homnick hesitant about whether he should eat the food. Firstly, they used powdered milk imported from the U.S. which was not cholov Yisroel. Secondly, they served “farfoirener fleish,” frozen meat from South America that was frozen before it was salted and then shipped to Eretz Yisroel, where they salted and processed it. (Many relied on a kulah that the meat was allowed to remain unsalted longer than three days, since it was immediately frozen.) Rav Homnick decided not to eat and became unwell after a short while, because he was not eating properly. Rav Homnick traveled to Bnei Brak to ask the Chazon Ish what to do. The Chazon Ish told him, “About the fact that you don’t drink the milk or eat the meat, you can drink the milk.’ The Chazon Ish let Rav Homnick know clearly that he can drink the milk, but he should continue his chumrah about not eating the meat. Rav Homnick asked him if he should be matir neder, and the Chazon Ish replied that there was no need.
Rav Homnick continued talking to the Chazon Ish in learning, and the Chazon Ish enjoyed something he said, and he repeated it to himself a few times, still enjoying Rav Homnick’s divrei Torah. At the time, the Chazon Ish was already in a weakened state and was no longer walking visitors to the door. However, as Rav Homnick left, he walked him to the door, and before Rav Homnick departed, he made a request of him. Rav Shlomka Berman had been sleeping in the Chazon Ish’s house and had recently become engaged to a daughter of the Steipler Gaon. The Chazon Ish asked Rav Homnick to replace Rav Shlomo and to sleep in his house for six months. It was Shabbos and the Chazon Ish did not want to talk about details of his request. He said that he would tell Rav Homnick the details when he returns.
Rav Homnick was very honored by his request, but before he could answer, the Chazon Ish told him something surprising. The Chazon Ish was still standing at the door and said, “Uber du gaist mir nisht folgin! But you won’t listen to me!” Rav Homnick was surprised. Why would the Chazon Ish say that he wouldn’t listen? The zechus to sleep with the Chazon Ish in his house?! Of course, Rav Homnick would accept his offer. Rav Homnick could not understand why he said that. But after he told Rav Homnick that, he gave Rav Homnick a brocha, “Vesakneinu b’eitza tovah milefonecha.”
Sure enough, a short while later, a few days before Elul, Rav Homnick returned to Bnei Brak to move in with the Chazon Ish. Not knowing what the exact details of the arrangement were, Rav Homnick borrowed some money from a relative to be able to buy himself food. Before Rav Homnick went to the Chazon Ish‘s house, he went to Ponovezh Yeshiva and noticed many bochurim heading inside. It was a few days before Elul and the zeman had not yet started, so Rav Homnick asked someone why everyone was heading to yeshiva. He told Rav Homnick that the mashgiach was recently niftar, and in his memory they were starting the zeman a few days early. Once Rav Homnick was there, he decided to stay and chap arein a shmuess from Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler.
After the shmuess, Rav Homnick was talking to some of his friends who learned in Ponovezh and mentioned that he was not feeling well. A bochur found Rav Homnick a bed to lie down on, but refused to bring him food from the yeshiva, as he was not a talmid. Being stuck in bed, Rav Homnick had no choice but to use the money he had to buy expensive restaurant food to satiate himself. After he felt a little better, he realized that his money was nearly depleted. Rav Homnick was too embarrassed to go back to his relative and borrow more and did not want to go to the Chazon Ish with no means of supporting himself. He decided not to go back to the Chazon Ish. Indeed, the words of the Chazon Ish were prophetic… (This story was recounted by Rav Homnick himself.)
Over the years, Rav Homnick was zoche to benefit from many gedolim.
Rav Homnick was a brilliant talmid chochom who delivered shiurim for over two decades at Rav Landau’s shul in Flatbush. He was also renowned for the shiurim he gave for years at Camp Morris in Woodridge, NY, including his annual shiur on Tisha B’Av.
Rav Homnick was a therapist and marriage counselor for four decades, but his primary occupation was limud haTorah, spending the bulk of his time immersed in his seforim.
The Homnicks resided in New York for many years and moved to Lakewood several years ago, at which time they settled in West Gate and Rav Homnick became a fixture at the Lutzk Bais Medrash, led by Rav Zalman Sorotzkin. Rav Homnick sat at the front of the bais medrash, and was venerated and loved by all the mispallelim and residents of the neighborhood.
Rav Homnick is survived by his children, R’ Yaakov Dovid Homnick, R’ Yisroel Yehoshua Homnick, R’ Refael Eliezer Homnick, R’ Tzvi Elimelech Homnick, Mrs. Shira Steinberg, Mrs. Sorah Gitel Biala, R’ Aharon Simcha Homnick, Mrs. Esther Shayna Meth and R’ Akiva Homnick.
Rabbi Tzvi Homnick, noted Crown Heights mashpia and lecturer, is sitting shiva until before Yomtov.
Baruch Dayan Ha’Emes.