Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the leading rabbi of the Ashkenazi non-hassidic
haredi community, died on Wednesday afternoon, age 102, at the capital’s Shaare
Zedek Medical Center.
Elyashiv, the guiding force behind the haredi
political parties, had been suffering from congestive heart failure and was
hospitalized since February in critical condition.
Tributes for the man
known as the preeminent rabbi of the generation flooded in, with Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu expressing great sorrow at Elyashiv’s death.
rulings, Rabbi Elyashiv made a deep impression on the ultra-Orthodox world and
on the entire Jewish people,” the prime minister said in a statement to the
press. “In his teachings, he outlined a path for many, who drew their strength
from his wisdom and his sharp thinking.
Rabbi Elyashiv’s way was to love
the Torah and humanity, to be self-effacing and to maintain the sanctity of
“Today, the Jewish people have lost a sharp and incisive rabbi, a
wise man of great stature, an emissary who was faithful to the values of the
Torah and who gave to others.
We mourn his passing,” Netanyahu
Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yechimovich sent her condolences to
MKs Moshe Gafni and Uri Maklev, who represent the non-hassidic, “Lithuanian”
faction (Degel Hatorah) of United Torah Judaism in the Knesset, and expressed
“deep pain at the passing of their spiritual leader... despite the huge
differences between him and the community he led and broader Israeli
Gafni said that the leader of this generation “has been taken
from us, on whom the entire [Jewish] people leaned on.”
“His entirety was
Torah and fear of Heaven, and concern for the entire Jewish people and the
individual in distress,” Gafni said. “His house was a source of strength for the
people who benefited from the advice and wisdom which flowed from his
UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks also commented on Elyashiv’s
“We deeply mourn the passing of one of the greatest Talmudic and
halachic authorities of our age, a man widely admired for his wisdom and
erudition, and consulted by Jewish communities throughout the world. He was a
Torah giant of our time,” Sacks said in a statement.
Tens of thousands of
mourners arrived at the rabbi’s residence in Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim
neighborhood to participate in the funeral procession to Har Hamenuchot cemetery
in Givat Shaul.
In accordance with Elyashiv’s wishes, eulogies were not
given during the funeral procession and ceremony, but psalms were recited by the
Elyashiv had been in the cardiac intensive care unit of the
Jesselson Heart Center in Shaare Zedek under the supervision of cardiology
branch head Prof.
Dan Tzivoni, as well as his personal
The medical center’s 10th floor is dedicated to cardiac care,
from diagnosis and treatment to prevention and rehabilitation.
large foyer managed to accommodate the rabbi’s family members who came to pray
for him, consult with the medical staff and “stand guard.” But police were
needed to keep out curious onlookers and non-relatives, who reached the main
Only months ago, Elyashiv – who lived in a modest Mea
She’arim apartment – underwent the insertion of a supportive stent in his aorta
because of a leak.
During previous hospitalizations, surgery to implant a
ventricular support device to strengthen the pumping of his own heart was ruled
out because of Elyashiv’s age and condition.
Elyashiv, an only child, was
born in Siauliai (Shavel in Yiddish), Lithuania and came to Mandatory Palestine
in 1922 when he was 12-years-old. His wife, Sheina Chaya (a daughter of the
famed Rabbi Aryeh Levin), died in 1994, and five of their 12 children have also
died; his surviving children are in their 70s and even older.
was the spiritual leader of the “Lithuanian” Degel Hatorah political party,
which, together with the hassidic Agudat Yisrael party, make up the United Torah
Judaism faction in the Knesset. As the leading figure in Lithuanian haredi
Jewry, Elyashiv also wielded huge influence over the outlook and stance of the
community toward contemporary issues within Israeli society.
widely seen as having maintained the deeply conservative path established by
Degel Hatorah founder Rabbi Elazar Shach, who split from Agudat Yisrael in the
late 1980s, largely opposing haredi accommodation with Israeli society on key
issues such as national service and integration into the workforce.
the five months since Elyashiv’s hospitalization, Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib
Shteinman, 98, has emerged as the de facto leader because of Elyashiv’s
Shteinman was passed over for leadership by Shach in the
1990s, who anointed Elyashiv as his successor instead.
A power struggle
waged during Elyashiv’s hospitalization between Shteinman and Rabbi Shmuel
Auerbach, 86. That conflict has been particularly manifest in the battle for
control over the Degel Hatorah mouthpiece, Yated Ne’eman, the most influential
daily newspaper serving the haredi community.
Shteinman succeeded in
having a close associate installed as chairman of the board of directors of the
paper’s publishing company, which led to the dismissal of the longstanding
director of the paper and of its editor- in-chief, both appointed by
Although this coup was fiercely resisted by the old guard and
Auerbach, the revolution was completed when the newspaper, under the new
management, published a letter from Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, perhaps the third-most
senior rabbi of the non-hassidic stream, and son-in-law of Elyashiv, declaring
Shteinman to be the new leader of the Lithuanian community.
leadership of the generation is passed on today to our master the revered Rabbi
Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman, whose every deed is for the sake of heaven, and we
have now merited to put upon him the leadership of the Yated Ne’eman newspaper,”
Auerbach’s loyalists called on the community to cancel
their subscriptions to the paper and established HaPeles last week, a new daily
meant to compete with Yated.