Just as Moshe Rabeinu’s birthday and Yahrzeit are on the same day, so, too, Rabbi Dahan was decreed to be taken from us on his birthday. One year since his passing
orn and raised in Monsey, New York in the home of his illustrious parents, Rabbi Yitzchak Dahan shlita and yb’l Rebbetzin Ruthy Dahan a’h, Rabbi Dahan spent twenty years in Telz Yeshiva in Cleveland (eleven years as bochur and 9 more in the kollel, when he also taught the 9th grade) becoming a talmid muvhak of Rav Mordechai Gifter and Rav Chaim Stein zt’l. Even when he moved to Brooklyn, he remained a lifelong Telzer returning to Telz year after year for summer vacation with his family. At the urging of his Rebbe, he delved deeper into his Morrocan mesorah, until he became a noted expert in the field and a leading Torah figure in the Syrian community of Brooklyn, NY. Using the traditional Morrocan pronunciations and nigunim, with reverence and dedication to Rabbi Shlomo Lankry, Reb Chaim was a baal tefilla at the Morrocan shul, Chesed L'Avraham for more than two decades. A pre1A and first grade Rebbi at Yeshivat Shaare Torah, and a popular lecturer with hundreds of shiurim on Torah Anytime, he is missed by young and old alike across the Jewish spectrum.
How can one person fulfill all the mitzvot? Some mitzvot only a Kohen can perform, others only a nazir, etc. So, how can any one person ever achieve shleimut, if so many mitzvot are always out of his reach? The answer, Rabbi Dahan, used to say, is through 'veahavta l'reiecha kamocha.' Klal Yisrael is really one entity and if we are connected to other Jews fulfilling the other mitzvot, we fulfill all the mitzvot in the Torah.
Just as Moshe Rabeinu’s birthday and Yahrzeit are on the same day, so, too, Rabbi Dahan was decreed to be taken from us on his birthday. Chazal teach that on the day we are born, we are entrusted with a mission. The righteous person “completes the number of his days' ' achieving his fullest potential, accomplishing his unique mission on earth in the most perfect way possible. This completion is expressed in the fact that his mission ends on the very same day that it was begun. Perhaps that is why Rabbi Dahan himself was taken from us on his birthday, Vav Nisan. Rav Dahan's 54 years of loving his fellow Jew connected him to all of Klal Yisrael.
Rabbi Dahan had an uncanny ability to look at a person and see exactly what they needed. He cared so deeply, he did whatever he could to fill that need.
Before his own daughter got married, he had already made a few weddings for girls who had no one else to make theirs. He took care of everything; the flowers, the music, the hall…
He would do anything for anyone. He left his phone on at night and when it would ring in the middle of the night, his wife would ask him to turn it off because "you need your sleep" but he answered the phone because 'if someone calls at this hour, it must be important.'
One woman wrote to the family:
A couple of summers ago, I believe you were on a family trip in Erez Israel, my cell phone rang with the Rabbi’s number, odd as my youngest was already in high school.
He was calling from the Kotel, I recall his choked voice as he told me how he just met an incredible older single girl from the community.
Why was he calling me?
It hurt him so much to see her pain, he asked that I please help her with shidduchim, that he couldn't wait until he came back to the U.S. to discuss it.
The girl herself relates that she had not opened up at all to Rav Dahan, but had only made an off-hand joke about being single. He was able to see straight through her and offered her words of chizuk. It was only later that she found out he had actually gone to the effort to make the call. And, it was only the first of many calls. He continued to do all he could to help her and be available for advice about her shidduchim.
And she was only one of many. It was not uncommon for friends and colleagues to receive a call from Rabbi Chaim when he was on a trip to mekomot hakedoshim asking for the names of their family members needing a yeshua so he could daven.
During the shiva, his own wife was surprised by the endless number of people who told her they had relied on his sound and insightful advice; in shidduchim, chinuch, shalom bayis, a broad range of personal issues and even business. A talmid chacham of note, his breadth of knowledge in Torah spilled over into other areas.
There are more stories of his quiet, unassuming chessed and concern for others than room to print them all.
Rabbi Dahan looked only for what he could do to help and to see only people's good points. He had an incredible ayin tovah and loved people, avoided judging and taught others to do the same.
He was incredibly proud of his wife, the elementary principal of the girls' division of YDE, and introduced her as such. He helped as much as he could in the house and with their daughters, so that she could do her job without distraction. He's probably one of the only fathers to have taken his daughter shopping to buy both an engagement dress and a wedding gown!
He was a Pre1A and first grade Rebbi at Yeshivat Shaare Torah in Flatbush for twenty years. Those little boys felt so loved, and so attached to their Rebbe, that several invited him to their bar-mitzvahs and weddings, years and years after they were in his class.
Rabbi Dahan was known to jump over desks, fly across tables and sing to make the lessons come alive. He played ball with the boys during recess at school and went to their birthday parties outside of school.
It is no coincidence that his name was “Chaim,” life. He was bursting with life, with love of life and gratitude to Hashem for every part of life. Rabbi Dahan wasn’t just “full of life” in the American definition of life: “animated, vital and charismatic leader”. Yes, he was all that, but his liveliness had a special spark to it because it came from a true source, “Eitz Chaim hi lamachazikim bah” Torah is a tree of life for those who hold on to it.
When his car caught fire, he texted his son in law "B"H, my car just exploded." And he meant it. If Hashem had set his car on fire, that was just what he needed.
He and his wife, Rivkah, waited 8 years to be blessed with children. People who knew them then said you would never have guessed if you didn't know. Rabbi Dahan always had a smile on his face. His emunah and bitachon accompanied him always, and he never wavered in the face of his own nisayon. He did all that he could to help others. He was always sure Hashem would give him, and everyone else, exactly what they needed.
"It was impossible to be upset, depressed or despondent with Rabbi Chaim Dahan around. He would know just the right joke or quip to say, indeed he was a wellspring of inspirational stories. The love of people that throbbed in his heart flowed into his eloquent speeches and uplifting songs. The message of hope, of Emunah, resonated into the listeners’ ears. He intuitively knew who needed the chizuk and chose the right words to say" says colleague Rabbi David Zafrani.
After his last moments on earth, his wife made sure to get the names of every single hospital staff member that had worked so tirelessly, trying in vain to bring him back, so that she could thank each one individually for his efforts. She knew that was what her husband would have wanted.
Rabbi Dahan may have completed his mission on this earth, but he is certainly continuing in Shamayim. Just as he spent his days on earth learning Torah, lauding Hashem’s greatness and caring for Hashem’s children, surely he now spends his days in Shamayim learning in Yeshiva Shel Maalah and pleading to Hashem to send Yeshuot for us all.
Yehi Zichro Baruch.
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