Phivel Caplan

Rabbi Gafne is the quintessence of a mashpia. He is truly my spiritual father (not in any way contradicting that the Rebbe MH”M is our father). My history with Rabbi Gafne began after I was introduced to Lubavitch while in college. A former talmid of Rabbi Gafne and a shliach of the Rebbe MH”M, Rabbi Benyomin Kasowitz, told me all about this special rabbi. I had been involved in eastern meditation while at the same time becoming more actively involved in seeking out my Jewish heritage. Through Rabbi Kasowitz and Rabbi Manus Friedman I grew in my connection to Yiddishkeit. At that time I had made friends with a Bostoner chasidim who sent me to his Rebbe. Under the influence of the Bostoner Rebbe (Z’tZal), I decided to go to Ohr Someach in where I learned Torah for one year. I was happy but not totally satisfied with learning there. I realized that Chabad Chassidus was the medicine I required to help me develop in a meaningful way to cure myself from the foreign influence I had absorbed through my spiritual involvement outside of Yiddishkeit. While at Ohr Someach in Yerushaliyim, I decided to look up the rabbi that Rabbi Kasowitz had told me about. I made an
appointment with Rabbi Gafne on Shemini Atzeres, 5739. At our meeting, Rabbi Gafne inquired how satisfied I was with Ohr Someach. I told him 80%. Rabbi Gafne’s response came as a surprise. He responded that 80% is very good, and that I should stay at Ohr Someach. I told him that 80% is not good enough for me, so he responded that I could only come if I asked permission from the rosh yeshiva. Fortunately, I knew which rosh yeshiva to ask, Rav Nota Schiller. He appreciated my feelings for Chabad and gave me his blessing and an invitation to return to Ohr Someach should it not work out for me. Thank G-d Rabbi Gafne accepted me into his program which completely changed my life for the better. I
never had to look back.

I came to Kfar Chabad when Rabbi Gafne was teaching the ma’amer, Vyedaitaw – Moscow from the Rebbe Reshab. I literally was glowing from this ma’amer and from having found a teacher like Rav Gafne. The greatest simcha one can have is to be free of doubt. Learning with Rabbi Gafne left me without any doubts about the direction my life was taking and my connection to Hashem.

Rabbi Gafne brought Torah to life for me both in niglah and chassidus . His Torah understanding is subtle, deep, and nuanced. I saw many instances were chasidim from other groups would sit at his farbrengens and treat him like a Rebbe. (An emisdiker Chabad Chassid can be like a Rebbe for the non- Chabad.)

In addition to Torah, he taught us the avodah of tefilla. The talmidim who were there in those years took this very seriously. This was due to 100% immersion in the limud and darchai Chassidus that Rabbi Gafne taught so carefully. Rabbi Gafne affectionately call our minyon,” the shleppers minyon” because we would take so long to daven.

Rabbi Gafne’s involvement with the needs of his talmidim was not only in the realm of their spiritual pursuits of Torah and teflila. He helped us with our goshmius, leaving us without worries freeing us to concentrate on our learning and avodas Hashem. Most of his talmidim at that time could not afford to pay tuition. Rabbi Gafne would personally go abroad to collect on our behalf. He also busied himself helping to make shidduchim for his talmidim. Once when I was set up for a shidduch, Rabbi Gafne noticed the condition of my suit and generously gave me one of his own suits as a gift. (Later, one of my friends who was leaving the yeshiva requested that suit so that he could keep a tangible connection with Rabbi Gafne after leaving . I gave it to him, although I very much wanted it myself.)

Rabbi Gafne has always been there for me both while in yeshiva to this day almost 30 years later. I try to keep up a connection via telephone (although not as often as I should). It is still a big part of my life to keep up with Rabbi Gafne’s shiurim. They can be downloaded from the Ohr T’mimim website. I have a long commute and find this to be a very good way to stay connected to Rabbi Gafne and to have meaty d’var Torahs for my Shabbos tish and to share at a farbrengen.

As Rabbi Gafne enters this new phase in his avodah, I want him to know that we, his mushpayim, his children, are with Rabbi Gafne now. Anyone one that is capable of helping Rabbi Gafne in this new phase should take it on as a personal obligation, as one would do for his own goshmiusdiker parent. This new phase is wrought with many challenges and adjustments. Hashem should bless Rabbi Gafne and his family, with complete hatzlacha in his shlichus, and may we merit to the geulah shlaima v’emitus NOW!!!


Phivel Caplan