President Shimon Peres visited Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood on Thursday morning to pay a condolence call on the family and closest aides of Torah giant Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 102 following a prolonged illness.

When Peres stepped through the doorway of what had been Elyashiv’s humble home, it was not the first time. He had visited with him before, most recently in October 2009, sitting at the narrow table at which Elyashiv used to study. The room was small, and the few aides who attended the rabbi, together with Peres’s aides, all but filled up any vacant space.

When the president arrived at the house on Thursday morning, though, there were considerably more people in the room – members of the family who had begun the week of mourning, and many others who had come to commiserate with them. The president offered words of sympathy to Elyashiv’s three sons and two daughters, and expressed his own personal sadness at the rabbi’s departure from the world.

He spoke of his many years of acquaintance with Elyashiv, who he said had been unique in his modesty and in his integrity. Peres recalled Elyashiv’s vision and wisdom and said the rabbi had taken upon himself all the burdens of the Jewish people. He had boundless understanding for the needs of the nation and the Jewish people, said Peres, and in this way made an enormous contribution to the state.

“Even though his body became weak, his mind remained clear, and studying Torah with yeshiva boys was the most important item on his agenda,” the president said. He also credited Elyashiv with a keen comprehension of politics, a factor that enabled him to recognize extremism in others and to use his influence to prevent a split in the nation.

The day before, tens of thousands from all over the country accompanied Elyashiv on his final journey.

“He fled from honors all his life,” said Peres. “Only after his death could people come in their multitudes to demonstrate how much they appreciated him. There are no words of comfort when a man of his caliber passes. The only comfort is that his spirit will remain with us forever.”

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