Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv niftar at age 102: BDE

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the leading rabbi of the Ashkenazi haredi community, died Wednesday afternoon at Jerusalem's Shaarei Zedek Medical Center, aged 102. Elyashiv, one of the leading forces behind the formation of the haredi political parties, had suffered from congestive heart failure and been hospitalized several times in recent years.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed great sorrow at Elyashiv's passing and said that the "nation of Israel has lost a great rabbi, an unmatched and sharp authority."

Rabbi Elyashiv had been in the cardiac intensive care unit of the Jesselson Heart Center under the supervision of cardiology branch head Prof. Dan Tzivoni and his personal physician.
The medical center’s entire 10th floor is dedicated to cardiac care, from diagnosis and treatment to prevention and rehabilitation. Thus the 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 nonrelatives, who reached the main fourth-floor lobby.
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 the patient’s age and condition.
Elyashiv, an only child, was born in Siauliai (Shavel in Yiddish), Lithuania, came to Mandatory Palestine in 1922 when he was 12 years old. He lost his wife, Sheina Chaya, (a daughter of the famed Rabbi Aryeh Levin) in 1994, as well as five of their 12 children; his surviving “children” are in their 70s and even older.
Elyashiv controlled the “Lithuanian” Degel Hatorah political party that, which together with the hassidic Agudat Yisrael party, make up the United Torah Judaism faction in the Knesset. Additionally, Elyashiv, as the leading figure in Lithuanian haredi Jewry, had huge influence over the outlook and stance of the community toward contemporary issues within Israeli society.
He was widely seen as having continued along the same conservative path that was laid out by Degel Hatorah founder Rabbi Elazar Shach, who split from Agudat Yisrael in the late 1980s.
Shach, who died in 2001 at age 103, came to lead the Lithuanian, or non-hassidic, haredi world and opposed haredi integration within Israeli society, such as service in the army and integration in the workforce.
Elyashiv, on the other hand, having less charisma and dynamism than Shach, had sought to preserve the established order and has opposed what some refer to as the “new haredim,” those from a small but growing community who serve in the IDF and have joined the mainstream labor force.
There are two leading haredi figures who may succeed Elyashiv as the spiritual and political leader of the Lithuanian community: Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, who lives in Bnei Brak and heads the Ponovitz Yeshiva kollel; and Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, who lives in Jerusalem, heads the Maalot Hatorah yeshiva and is the son of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, who was the greatest haredi arbiter of Jewish law before his death in 1995.
Shach, in the years before he died, unofficially designated Elyashiv as his heir apparent, overlooking Shteinman, who is now 97.
Shteinman is seen as slightly more moderate than Elyashiv was, and has supported the Nahal Haredi army battalion set up to enable ultra-Orthodox Jews to serve in the IDF and preserve their lifestyle. He also does not oppose the increasing trend of haredim joining the army and the general workforce.
Auerbach, however, was closer to Elyashiv and more inclined to his conservative outlook, opposing the “new haredim” and seeking to preserve the old order. He is charismatic and has many devoted followers.

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