6 months ago, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l became critically ill. I wanted my class to understand for whom they were davening.
I also wanted to understand for whom I was davening. What I knew of Rav Elyashiv from news reports was sometimes bizarre. His name was quoted frequently, but often incorrectly. I knew there must be a reason that when someone mentioned the name Rav Elyashiv, the Torah world paid attention. Who was Rav Elyashiv?
Here is the biography I wrote six months ago. It was written for third graders so it as rather simple vocabulary. I have updated it to make it timely.
Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (1910 – 2012)
Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv was born in Lithuania. He was the only child of Rav Avrohom and Chaya Erener. His mother’s father was Rav Shlomo Elyashiv, a great Talmid Chacham who wrote a famous sefer on Kabbalah called the Leshem.
family when he was twelve. Rav Kook had suggested that the Erener family change their last name to Elyashiv so they could get a visa to immigrate. Seven years later, Rav Elyashiv Rav Kook, made a shidduch between 19 year old Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Sheina Chaya, daughter of Rav Aryeh Levin zt”l. They had five sons and seven daughters.
was the leader of the Chareidi community in Israel. He asked Rav Elyashiv to become involved in leading the Jews of Eretz Yisrael. After Rav Shach died, all major questions of importance to Klal Yisrael were addressed to Rav Elyashiv.
apartment in Meah She’arim in Yerushalayim. He spent most of his days learning Torah and teaching in a small shul in Meah Shearim. He was considered the posek HaDor and Ashkenazi Jews followed his psak.
The day after his wedding, Rav Elyashiv asked his wife if he could learn Torah undisturbed rather doing some errands right away. His wife, the daughter of Rav Aryeh Levin, was very happy with this request.
Since then, every day for the last eighty years, Rav Elyashiv learned for 16-20 hours a day.
This is what the doctor, Dr. Daniel Clair, his non-Jew doctor said:
“Taking into account that he is 101, when I initially walked into his hospital room, he was sitting at a desk studying. I began talking to him about the surgery and he asked the most insightful questions. . . . This was very impressive for someone at that age – he was so “with it” and involved in the decision-making.
In addition, I don’t know how to explain it, but he is obviously a very special person. I could identify that immediately when I first met him. His presence generates a feeling of reverence. When I returned home with him after the procedure, I got a better sense of how great he is, as there were fifty to one hundred people at his home, waiting to see him. I can’t imagine his importance to the community.”
Rabbi Orlofsky once went with his mashgiach for advice about a complicated question. He went to one gadol, and it took a long time to get an answer. His mashgiach then brought him to Rav Elyashiv. In the small apartment was a Rosh Yeshiva, avreichim, businessmen and a woman with a chicken all there to ask questions. When it was Rabbi Orlofsky’s turn, Rav Elyashiv immediately answered him in one sentence that put the question to rest.
sheitels until they found out whether the sheitels came from India or not. Overnight, women stopped wearing these sheitels because Rav Elyashiv had paskened they were forbidden to wear. All over the world, women gave up expensive sheitels because of the psak of the Gadol HaDor.