It would take an entire book – at least one – to capture all the remarkable qualities of Rabbi Chaim Dahan, the legendary Pre 1-A and first grade rebbe in Shaare Torah.
But, in truth, that description alone – “the legendary Pre 1-A and first grade rebbe” – already speaks volumes about what made this special tzadik so unique. How many first grade Rebbes can be called “legendary”? How many of them are even remembered by their students?
And Rabbi Dahan’s students don’t only remember him. They are still impacted by him, decades later. Many of his students are Torah scholars, and they attribute their accomplishments to Rabbi Dahan, who spent 54 years touching the hearts and kindling the souls of the people around him and those under his charge.
Loving and Pursuing Peace
People flocked to the rabbi’s home for advice and guidance, and didn’t feel ashamed to unburden themselves, because they knew he would never judge them or think of them negatively. He so naturally and effortlessly looked at everyone in a positive light, and this was the secret to his special ability to teach, encourage and inspire.
Rabbi Dahan’s simhat haim – joy of life – was contagious. His students loved him because he was always filled with joy and energy, and because he made it clear that he truly loved them.
With remarkable patience, the rabbis helped untold numbers of people make peace with others, and make peace with themselves. The rabbi embodied the sages’ timeless teaching to be an “ohev shalom verodef shalom – lover of peace and pursuer of peace,” and his efforts saved countless marriages. He spent hours, days, weeks, months, and even years helping people who needed his assistance. And he did so by emphasizing the importance of positivity, of approaching every challenge from a healthy, upbeat perspective, to the point where he succeeded in showing people how to laugh even during life’s trying moments.
Feeling the Pain
The Torah relates in Parashat Shemot, “Vayar besivlotam” – Moshe Rabbenu felt the pain his brethren suffered as slaves in Egypt. Rabbi Dahan had this same quality. He truly felt the pain of every person who came to him for help and advice. And they all palpably felt his sincere love and concern.
I have personally known the Rabbi for nine years, and every time I came to speak to him about an issue I was facing, he truly felt my pain, validated my feelings, and encouraged me like a loving father encouraging his daughter. He didn’t just listen – he felt my pain and even cried. Each time, I walked out a different person with so much more strength, thanks to his wisdom, his concern, and his heartfelt prayers.
A Heart Big Enough for All
The rabbi answered every single phone call whenever anyone needed him. He answered calls even at 4am.
Like a loving father, he provided me with his time and guidance, and so I always felt like I was special, that I was the closest one to him. But many people felt the exact same way.
I always wondered; rabbis are always so busy – how was Rabbi Dahan able to make so much time for me?! And at one point I even asked him, “How does the rabbi listen to everyone, feel their pain, and strengthen everyone?! The rabbi doesn’t get tired?!”
He replied, “My rebbe said when you help others with all your heart, you won’t feel tired.”
His heart was so big that it was able to handle everyone’s pain and troubles, and help them, with Hashem’s assistance.
The Torah tells us that when Aharon Hakohen died, he was mourned by “the entire House of Israel.” The rabbis explain that because Aharon was so instrumental in helping to bring peace among people, his death left a huge vacuum which everybody felt.
This is the feeling in our community with the loss of our beloved Rabbi Dahan, who filled so many peoples’ lives with peace, serenity and joy.
We are consoled by committing to follow his example, to love every Jew and to find warmth and joy in living a life of Torah and mitzvot.
May Hashem bring an end to all our troubles, and soon send us Mashiah, amen.
Yaffa Althkefati is a teacher at YDE who works under the special guidance of esteemed principal Mrs. Rivka Dahan – Rabbi Dahan’s wife.