Rabbi Yoel Kahn – or, “Reb Yoel” as he was known – was born in the Soviet Union, on 16 Shevat, 5690 (1930) to Reb Refoel Nachman and Rivkah Kahan.
Reb Yoel served as the senior “chozer,” erstwhile transcriber, of the Rebbe’s talks. The task of transforming the Rebbe’s voluminous verbal addresses into hundreds of volumes of published scholarship was led by Reb Yoel.
At the time of the Rebbe’s inaugural address in the winter of 1951, he was a Yeshiva student recently arrived from Israel. That discourse turned out to be the first of many thousands of addresses that the young scholar would go on to transcribe.
His encyclopedic knowledge of Torah and Chasidic philosophy was a product of his photographic memory, as well as his absolute devotion to absorbing the Rebbe’s teachings.
After the Rebbe’s farbrengens, public addresses, on Shabbos and Jewish holidays — when the use of recording technology is disallowed by Jewish law — Reb Yoel would lead the team who reconstructed the Rebbe’s every word verbatim for printed publication.
Of sound mind until his last breath, he spent his final years as he had every day of his adult life — entirely devoted to publishing and sharing the wellsprings of Chasidut.
Perhaps the highest praise was offered by the Rebbe himself, who once compared Reb Yoel to Eliezer, servant of the Patriarch Abraham, whose made it his mission “to dole out and serve his Rebbe’s teachings for others to drink from.”