In Memoriam Rav Yechezkel Roth, the Karlsburger Rav, zt”l

By Eliezer Braun

On Sunday morning, the Torah world suffered yet another loss with the sudden petirah of Rav Yechezkel Roth, the Karlsburger Rav.

Rav Yechezkel was born in 1935 in Buzias near Timisoara in Romania to his father, Rabbi Yitzchak Eizik.

When Rav Yechezkel’s mother fell ill before giving birth to him, Rav Yitzchak Eizik traveled to the grave of his grandfather, the famed tzaddik Rav Yechezkel of Karlsburg, known as the Mareh Yechezkel. Rav Yitzchak Eizik pledged that should his wife recover and give birth to a son, he would name the child Yechezkel.

Even as a young boy in Timisoara, Rav Yechezkel displayed a remarkable understanding and brilliance. The Roth family was saved during the Holocaust because they heeded the advice of the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel, and didn’t leave Romania for Hungary, despite the widespread belief that Hungary would be safer. In fact, the Nazis ended up occupying Hungary, and many Jews who had fled Romania were later transported to concentration camps, where most of them perished.
After the war, in 1953, the family left Romania, which by then was part of the Soviet bloc, and moved to Jerusalem. Rav Yechezkel learned in the Satmar yeshivah under Rav Moshe Aryeh Freund, gaavad of the Eidah Hachareidis, where he shone under his tutelage.

During his period learning in the Satmar kollel in Eretz Yisrael, Rav Yechezkel would learn on his own in the ezras nashim. Reb Shlomo Braver, who was a close confidant of the Rebbe, upon realizing that Rav Yechezkel was not on the stipend list of the monies being sent by Satmar inquired as to why not. He was told that Rav Yecheskel was not getting a stipend because he was learning on his own and not coming to shiur. When Reb Shlomo told the Satmar Rebbe about it, the Rebbe replied, “You know what you have to do.” Reb Shlomo then began sending a special stipend for Rav Yechezkel. Rav Yechezkel was already a recognized talmid chacham, and the Satmar Rebbe wanted him to be able to learn.

For several years after his marriage to Rebbetzin Chaya Rechel, a”h, the daughter of prominent Satmar chasid Rabbi Chaim Mendel Cohen, he served as the rav of the Satmar community in the Katamon neighborhood of Yerushalayim.

In 1972, the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, zt”l, was seeking a posek who was not only proficient in all of Shulchan Aruch but was uncompromising in his standards and wouldn’t buckle to outside influence or public pressure. He asked Rav Yechezkel to move to America and serve as the dayan of Satmar in Boro Park. “Rav Yechezkel is a tzaddik katamar yifrach—the righteous one who flourishes like the palm,” the Rebbe said of him.

After assuming the mantle of Satmar Dayan, he quickly acquired a reputation as a fearless posek who dealt with the most complex issues of our time. “The rav strove for emes, and no matter who was on the other side of the issue, his psak always followed his interpretation of the Gemara and poskim,” Reb Yitzchak Greenbaum, a longtime talmid who davened in his shul told Ami. “Rav Yechezkel was a tremendous masmid, who would be so deeply engrossed in a sugya that it would take him a while to realize when someone entered his study. Even as recently as last year, several years after suffering a massive heart attack, Rav Yechezkel would learn deep into the night. Rav Yechezkel was available all hours of the day and night. I remember being in his waiting room at 1:30 in the morning, and four other people were also waiting to speak with him.”

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