Rabbi Moshe Shmuel Shapira, one of the last purists of the strictly intellectual, deeply analytical Brisker talmudic learning method passed away on Saturday at 92.
For 60 years Shapira headed the Be'er Ya'acov Yeshiva, located in the small town of that name between Ramle and Rishon Lezion.
He taught thousands of students, many of whom came to the yeshiva Sunday to join in a huge funeral procession that ended in Bnei Brak's Ponevezh Yeshiva cemetery plot.
Shapira was born in Minsk, now in Belarus, but then in Lithuania. He arrived in Israel at 18 and studied at the Lomzha Yeshiva in Petah Tikva. Shapira was one of the three remaining students of Rabbi Yitzhak Velve Soloveitchik, known as the Brisker Rav.
During the eulogies for Shapira, Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik, son of Yitzhak Velve and one of the present heads of the Brisk Yeshiva in Jerusalem's Mea She'arim, said "father always made time for him."
According to Shimon Yosef Meller, a historian whose three-volume The Rabbi of Brisk will soon be published in English, "Men like Yitzhak Velve never wasted a second on frivolities. All their time was devoted to Torah learning. So if he had time for Rabbi Shapira, that is quite a statement."
Shapira, like most Brisk rabbis, strongly opposed Zionism. Although he personally opposed voting, he acquiesced to the opinions of leading haredi leaders who supported it. Unlike the Brisk yeshiva in Jerusalem, Yeshivat Be'er Ya'acov received money from the government.
Zvi Yacobson, whose father was the rabbi of Be'er Ya'acov, said he grew up "in the shadow of Rabbi Shapira."
"There were two things that all the kids in Be'er Ya'acov knew," he recalled. "First, that the big old house on the outskirts of town was where Menachem Begin hid from the British. And second, that Rabbi Shapira was up in his room learning Gemara and writing his books. Rabbi Shapira was a symbol of unwavering Torah scholarship. I never recall seeing him on the street or in the market."
Shapira's books are analytical explanations of the Talmud tractates traditionally learned in yeshivot.
He is survived by 10 children.