Wednesday, July 18, 2012
End of An Era: Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv Zt'l
Jerusalem - The breadth and depth of knowledge of Rav Elyashiv is something that will not be replaced. Torah Chigri Sak. Nafla Ateres Rosheinu.
This morning Rav Shalom Yoseph Elyashiv, the Posaik haDor passed away after a weakening of his general health. Rav Elyashiv was 102.
Rav Elyashiv was known for his incredible hasmada, dedication in learning and his penetrating analysis of all parts of Torah. He was an only child born after seventeen years of marriage. Rav Elyashiv lived in the Meah Shearim section of Yeruhalayim. He taught at an adjacent synagogue, all until very recently.
Rav Elyashiv arrived in Eretz Yisroel during the period of the British Mandate in 1922. A year after his arrival, he was Bar Mitzvah’ed. When Rav Elyashiv was fifteen his grandfather, a well known Mekubal, passed away.
The greatest Rabbinic minds in Eretz Yisroel took notice of this young Talmudic master when he was very young. Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook suggested a shidduch with one of the daughters of Rav Aryeh Levin, Shaina Chaya,the famed Tzaddik of Yerushalayim. The Shidduch went through and Rav Kook was mesader Kiddushin.
Rav Elyashiv had five sons and seven daughters. Two of his very prominent sons-in-laws are Rav Chaim Kanievsky ilc"t and Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein ilc"t.
Rav Elyashiv dealt with many issues in the fast-paced changing world of today. His halachic rulings have had significant and far-reaching ramifications. When the majority of people stopped smoking on account of health issues, Rav Elyashiv issued a stern warning that the heter or leniency to smoke on Yom Tov was now very very questionable if not altogether forbidden. The majority of Bnei Torah stopped smoking on Yom Tov because of Rav Elyashiv’s ruling.
Rav Elyashiv’s position on the issue of hatmanah, insulating on Shabbos, changed the way Bnei Torah used cholent pots on Shabbos. The use of an insert type cholent pot dropped dramatically and even those who did use them adopted the idea of placing three or four stones on the survace of the outer container to avoid the problem of hatmanah.
When faced with numerous abuses of software licensing, Microsoft had actually approached Rav Elyashiv for a ruling on the matter and Rav Elyashiv ruled stringently regarding software. The dramatic difference in software piracy within our own community seriously declined, When asked whether Bnei Torah should remain silent during the moment of silence held on Israel’s Veteran’s Day, Rav Elyashiv responded that they definitely should. This ruling set a new tone in the relationship between the Hareidi world and the secular world in Israel.
Rav Elyashiv’s ruling that when there is evidence that a religious instructor is molesting a child, Heaven forbid, rabbis should rule that the violator should call in the authorities has been hailed by child advocates as a game-changing ruling.
Rav Elyashiv was one of the leaders of the Degel HaTorah party after Rav Eliezer Menachem Schach had appointed and urged him to the position. Many years prior to this Rav Elyashiv was a dayan in the Rabanut and ruled on many thousands of cases, now found in the Piskei HaRabbanut. His role in the Rabbanut was a initially a cause of consternation among the Hareidi world, but Rav Elyashiv’s breadth of knowledge, saintly deportment, and towering intellectual stature soon ameliorated their concerns.
Rav Elyashiv was quick to recognize the scholarship and erudition of others. On a number of occasions he informed visiting Rabbis from America that Rav Feivel Cohen shlita was one of the most outstanding Poskim in America. He informed a friend of mine that Rav Dovid Morgenstern was proficient and knowledgeable in Kol HaTorah Kulah, the entirety of Torah. These are just two examples.
Some rulings that this author had posed to Rav Elyashiv throughout the years were: Is there an obligation of Chinuch for the Laws of Shnayim Mikreh Echad Targum? (He answered that there was not.) When the leining of the Torah is missed at Shacharis, when is the Torah leined at Minchah? (He answered before Shmoneh Esreh just like on Shabbos Mincha.) Is “time is of the essence” ever to be reckoned with when dealing with a possible molestor (He answered that it was definitely dependent upon time is of the essence as well.)
Rav Elyashiv’s halachic positions have been collated in a three volume work called “Ashrei HaIsh.” Three volumes of his responsum have been published and a series of books on mesechtos has been published called “Haaros.”
The author can be reached at