HaGaon HaRav Matis Blum zt”l was a true hidden Torah gem of Queens. He was unpretentious and the precise definition of a talmid chacham brandishing anivus. Rav Blum was known to always see the positive in everyone and never utter a harmful word, frequently expressing thoughtful humor. Rav Blum illustrated being a true mentch, always welcoming guests to his Shabbos table.
Rav Blum’s sincerity made him the quintessential example of a talmid of HaGaon HaRav Avraham Yaakov HaKohen Pam zt”l, long-time respected Rosh HaYeshiva of Mesivta Torah Vodaath, member of Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel of America, and founder of the SHUVU organization. Reb Yisrael Blumenfrucht, a close talmid of Rav Pam, explained, “Rav Blum was chosen by Rav Pam for the lofty position of editing his sefer Torah LaMelech. This was not a writing based on shiurim, rather Rav Pam’s only actual script.”
For over 43 years, Rav Blum compiled and edited Torah Lodaas, a compendium of commentaries on the parshah, which has been appearing in mainstream Orthodox shuls and homes worldwide. In all the years, it may have only had one or two graphical changes, and roughly a decade ago, began to include the answers to the posed parshah questions, instead of providing the previous week’s resolutions. These sheets received widespread acclaim, as they followed the teachings of Rav Pam, exploring halachic topics in depth and including a d’var Torah. Eventually, Rav Blum became a m’chabeir s’farim, creating many volumes of Torah Lodaas with his chidushei Torah.
Rav Dovid Sheinfeld, rav of Congregation Degel Israel and a close friend, added, “Rav Blum amassed a tremendous amount of knowledge, but always acted in a subdued manner, often concealing his true depth.” Rav Sheinfeld continued, “Rav Blum was a meticulous individual who was extremely organized and began preparing the Torah Lodaas parshah sheets as a bachur a full year and a half in advance. In Camp Agudah, Rav Blum would literally be immersed from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., writing his interpretations often with the assistance of his brother Rav Moshe Blum.”
Rav Peretz Steinberg, Rabbi Emeritus of the Young Israel of Queens Valley, explained that Rav Blum was appointed to inspect our Kew Gardens Hills Community Eruv before each Shabbos. Mr. Jay Garrel, an orthodontist from Boro Park residing in Cedarhurst, originally from KGH, has checked the eruv every Friday afternoon and Erev Yom Tov with Rabbi Blum since 1990. Mr. Garrel elucidated: “The last time we checked the eruv together was Friday, March 20, 2020, when Rav Blum mentioned that he felt good but had a runny nose from the novel coronavirus.” Naftoli Farber, a longtime friend and neighbor of the Blum family, mentioned that Rav Blum also checked the NewYork-Presbyterian Queens area eruv. Rav Peretz Steinberg, who was Rav Blum’s first shadchan to Mrs. Etty Blum a”h nee Shore, asked Rav Blum in roughly 1985 to begin checking the eruv with Rabbi Yehuda Zakutinsky, who continued until Mr. Garrel took his place in 1990. Rav Steinberg, as well, instituted the practice of Rav Blum leading chasan classes, which continued from around the same time until 2008. It was revealed that Rav Blum led these classes for only a small donation to his shul.
“Rav Blum was a true synthesis of humbleness and all that the Torah embodies,” according to his dear mechutan and Vaad Harabonim of Queens member Rabbi Marty Katz.
Rav Binyomin Kessler, rav of Congregation Toras Emes and Menahel of Yeshiva Ketana of Queens, remembers the decade and a half he spent davening in Rav Blum’s shul, Congregation Torah Lodaas, at the intersection of 77th Avenue and 141st Street in KGH, fondly. “It was a privilege to have my three sons learn to daven in a serious minyan with Rav Blum,” Rav Kessler remarked. Early on, Rav Blum coordinated a bachurim minyan on the third floor in the Yeshiva of Central Queens. One attendee recalled a class given where Rav Blum discussed his parshah sheets before they were distributed. They held a boy’s minyan that did not allow talking, and allowed each bachur to practice his leining skills.
Mr. Farber added, “Rav Blum demonstrated exceptional kibud av va’eim, showing the utmost of respect and appreciation to his esteemed parents, Rabbi Zishe and Rhoda Blum.” In his pastime, the niftar enjoyed tending to his vegetable garden and was an avid swimmer, capable of doing over 70 laps.
Since Rav Blum began his teaching career, he had been lecturing at Bais Yaakov high schools and yeshivos in the New York area, including Machon Bais Yaakov. Mrs. Rosenshein of Prospect Park Girls High School Bnos Leah revealed that the several yeshivah alumni department social media chats filled up with women opting to take upon themselves to discuss a halachah a day that they learned from Rav Blum. Mrs. Rosenshein suggested that the alumni and students should choose a vort from Torah Lodaas to discuss at their Shabbos table to help elevate the rav’s neshamah. Rav Blum was a unique halachah mentor, able to disseminate his teachings with warmth, patience, and wit, benefiting countless young women.
Rav Naftali Rubin, rav of Khal Beis Dovid D’Lantzut, remembered Rav Blum attending the minyan in his original shul location, noting, “Rav Blum was an unassuming, self-effacing baal midos, extremely dedicated to the affairs of his family, and undertook much responsibility.” Students recall Rav Blum as the ultimate example of derech eretz kadmah l’Torah, where he gave of his time to help students create yearbook fundraising projects. One was a detailed parshah sheet that attracted decent sponsorships.
Another recalled at a wedding that someone was given one of his s’farim, but the binding was upside down. Without hesitation, Rav Blum, with his special humor, inscribed “Hafoch bah v’hafoch bah,” advising the recipient to delve deep into the writings.
One Shabbos guest noted that Rav Blum often had garlic bread or garlic matzah on the menu as a special treat.
This past Shiv’ah Asar B’Tamuz, the renowned Chazaq organization co-hosted a livestream program with the Agudath Israel of KGH that featured Rav Blum.
Rav Blum succumbed to COVID-19 on April 4, and is survived by his loving wife Mrs. Sharon Blum, his ten children (Bina Katz, Shoshana Purec, Baila Malka Elephant, Tzvi Blum, Yocheved Burztyn, Bracha Tova Zakutinsky, Henoch Blum, Mordechai Blum, Yaakov Blum, and Shulamis Blum), his parents Rabbi Zishe and Rhonda Blum (KGH), his brothers Rabbi Moshe Blum (Flatbush), Mr. Avi Blum (Lakewood), and his sister Mrs. Miriam Finestone (KGH).
Y’hi zichro baruch!
By Shabsi Saphirstein