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Over 750K Attend Bnei Brak Funeral of Sar HaTorah, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, zt’l

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Bnei Brak municipality estimates 750,000 lined the streets ahead of the funeral.

Edited by: TJVNews.com

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis thronged to Bnei Brak to pay their last respects to Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the world’s foremost Torah scholar and leader of Israel’s non-Hasidic Lithuanian Orthodox community, according to a report on the World Israel News web site.

According to the Bnei Brak municipality, an estimated 750,000 people had filled the streets before the funeral procession began.

WIN reported that scuffles broke out at the entrance to the Zichron Meir cemetery when police tried to restrict access to 500 people for safety reasons. Hebrew media reports said hundreds of people managed to break through police barriers.

Previously, Bnei Brak’s largest funeral was for Rabbi Eliezer Shach, zt’l, which was attended by an estimated 400,000 in 2001.

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, zt’l, at his home in Bnei Brak on December 26, 2019. (Yaakov Nahumi/Flash90)

The largest funeral in Israeli history was in 2011 when an estimated 850,000 paid their respects to former Chief Sefardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in Jerusalem, as was reported by WIN.

Police closed parts of several key highways and roads to traffic and asked people not to drive in the Greater Tel Aviv area unless they were going to the funeral. Traffic is expected to return to normal later in the evening.

The city of Bnei Brak, adjacent to Tel Aviv, is about seven square kilometers in size, and has a population of 180,000, which raised fears for the safety of the hundreds of thousands people converging for the funeral. Of special concern were the city’s narrow streets and the possibility of people falling from rooftops.

WIN reported that authorities stressed that they didn’t want a repeat of the Meron tragedy. Forty-five people were killed and 150 injured in a crush of people celebrating the Lag B’Omer holiday in 2021.

Magen David Adom recommended that pregnant women and people with health conditions stay away from the crowds so that an ambulance could evacuate them quickly if necessary.

Hebrew media reports said 64 people were given first aid and another five were taken to hospitals after fainting or feeling unwell, as was reported by WIN.  A three-year-old boy was also reported missing and the public was asked to help find the child.

Rabbi Kanievsky, zt’l, was known to study Torah 17 hours each day. Photo Credit: ScreenShot YouTube

The Communications Ministry also asked people attending the funeral not to overwhelm the cellular phone system by making unnecessary calls.

Kan added that 328 kindergartens and 98 schools in the Greater Tel Aviv area switched to remote learning for the day so that students wouldn’t have to fight traffic to and from school, as was reported by WIN.

An analysis conducted by the business information company COFACE BDI cited by the Mako News website assessed that the funeral would cost the Israeli economy 1.5 billion shekels due to the effects of closing down Greater Tel Aviv.

Israel National News reported that when eulogizing his father, Rabbi Shlomo Kanievsky related, among other things, personally remembrances from his family home.

“When my father arrived home at midday after learning all morning in kollel, lunch was of course ready, as my mother would never miss an opportunity to serve a meal,” Rabbi Shlomo said. “But my father was particular never to eat without her; he wouldn’t eat unless she was seated at the table with him.”

INN also reported that Rav Chaim’s son added, “If it took my mother more than a moment or two to sit down to eat with him, my father would turn around to his stender, open a sefer [holy book] and start to learn.”

Rabbi Kanievsky, zt’l, was considered among the top tier of this generation’s Torah leadership and had hundreds of thousands of followers. Photo Credit: Haim Toito

“These may seem simple things, even minor things, but these were the things we saw with our own eyes,” he stressed. “These seemingly mundane things expressed the way my father lived, and the devotion he had to the things that really matter.”

The Times of Israel reported that  Rabbi Shlomo Kanievsky, also said his father was  “unparalleled in his generation” and praised his dedication to Torah study and to encouraging Orthodox youth to dedicate themselves to full-time study.

WIN also reported that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett paid tribute to Rabbi Kanievsky, zt’l, at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting.

“Many have spoken about his self-denial: The simple apartment, the modest and sparing way of life. I saw this with my own eyes when I visited him — the renunciation of the material in favor of the spiritual,” Bennett said, as was reported by WIN.

“The large scale mourning is a uniquely Jewish moment: The cultural heroes of the Torah world are not material giants, they are giants of the spirit. They are people who have dedicated their lives to Torah and mitzvot, to in-depth study and the preservation of tradition,” he added.

The late Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, zt’l, in his home. Credit: Yaakov Hanina / HaNekuda Journalism Network.

Opposition leader and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid his respects to the family before the funeral, only to be stuck for two hours as crowds gathered around the Kanievsky home, according to the WIN report.

Following the funeral service, Rabbi Kanievsky, zt’l, was taken from his home to the nearby Zichron Meir cemetery, where he was buried beside his wife, who passed away in 2011. The vehicle carrying the body was accompanied by 200 Border Policemen.

Overall, 3,000 police were deployed and helicopter rescue crews were stationed in nearby Ramat Gan as a precaution.

Rabbi Kanievsky passed away after collapsing in his home on Friday. Paramedics were unable to resuscitate him, as was reported by WIN.

His death was announced by Agudath Israel of America, the umbrella organization of ultra-Orthodox groups, which did not specify a cause, as was reported by the New York Times.

Rabbi Kanievsky was born in 1928, in the then-Polish city of Pinsk, now part of Belarus. His father, Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, zt’l, was known as the “Steipler Gaon.”

The family migrated to Eretz Yisroel in 1934, settling in Bnei Brak, just east of Tel Aviv, which was growing into a center of Haredi Jews, according to the NYT report. Today, with 205,000 people, it is one of the world’s 10 most densely populated cities.

His wife, Batsheva Elyashiv, a’h, was the daughter of another leading Torah scholar, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt’l. Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky, a’h, passed away in 2011.

Hundreds of thousands of people attend the funeral of prominent ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, zt’l, in Bnei Brak, Israel Sunday, March 20, 2022. Kanievsky was one of the most influential scholars in the religious community in Israel. He died Friday at the age of 94. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The NYT reported that Rabbi Kanievsky’s mother, Miriam Karelitz, was the daughter of a notable rabbinical judge, according to the Times report and she was the sister of Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz, zt’l, known as the Chazon Ish and was considered a superlative Torah Gadol.

The Steipler Gaon, zt’l. was appointed head of a yeshiva for older teenage boys while his son Chaim studied at the Lomza Yeshiva, in the nearby town of Petach Tikva, as was reported by the Times. It offered a “Mussar” education, which emphasized ethical as well as intellectual development and the cultivation of traits like modesty, responsibility, compassion and discipline, according to the Times report.

The NYT reported that Rabbi Kanievsky served in the army, stationed as a guard in the Jaffa area, during Israel’s 1948 war to cement its independence.

He was the official rabbi and spiritual guide for the non-profit organization Belev Echad, which was founded in Israel in 2011 and was dedicated to assisting sick and disabled children and adults, according to a Wikipedia report. Rabbi Kanievsky, zt’l, received thousands of visits every year from Jews seeking religious and Halachic advice.

Rabbi Kanievsky, zt’l, was known to study Torah 17 hours each day. Wikipedia reported that Eli Paley, the chairman of the Haredi Institute for Public Affairs, a Jerusalem-based research group, told The New York Times in January 2021 that Israel’s Haredi Orthodox community saw “their existence as relying on Rabbi Chaim and his Torah learning”.

Rabbi Kanievsky was famous for his analytical prowess and granular knowledge when it came to the Torah and the dozens of volumes of the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud, which he pored through year after year, according to the NYT report. Blessed with a photographic memory, he could recite entire passages.

“When you ask him a question and he answers, it’s as if the Torah is speaking,” Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz, editor of Yated Ne’eman, a leading Orthodox newspaper based in New Jersey told the New York Times.

Jews the world over would flock to his modest, book-lined apartment in Bnei Brak to seek his advice on questions both profound and personal, according to the NYT report.

Orthodox Jews attend the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in Bnei Brak, Israel Sunday, March 20, 2022. Kanievsky was one of the most influential scholars in the religious community in Israel. He died Friday at the age of 94. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Wikipedia report indicated that during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, Rabbi Kanievsky, zt’l, discussed with his hundreds of followers issues in regard to the Israeli Health Ministry. He said the best ways to defeat the virus were to avoid lashon hara (gossiping about one’s peers), strengthen humility, and place the needs of others before their own. As a result of the discussion, he was visited, on March 15, by senior police officials who, with great respect, wanted to ask him of the importance of following the orders of medical professionals with regard to the outbreak.

On March 29, after the ultra-Orthodox community was hit hard by the virus, with Bnei Brak having a high percentage of coronavirus cases in Israel, relative to its population, Rabbi Kanievsky ruled that one who does not follow the Israeli Health Ministry’s guidelines on COVID-19 is in the position of a rotzeach, i. e., one who pursues another with intent to kill, a murderer, according to the Wikipedia report. He also ruled that telephones may be answered on Shabbat to get COVID-19 test results, and that minyanim must not meet at all during the pandemic – a stricter requirement than the Health Ministry’s rules, which at the time allowed congregations to meet outdoors as long as participants are at least two meters (6 feet) distant from each other.

On October 2, 2020, Rabbi Kanievsky, zt’l, was diagnosed with COVID-19. Wikipedia reported that on October 28, 2020, his physician said Rabbi Kanievsky, zt’l had recovered from the virus.

Orthodox Jews attend the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in Bnei Brak, Israel Sunday, March 20, 2022. Kanievsky was one of the most influential scholars in the religious community in Israel. He died Friday at the age of 94. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Rabbi Kanievsky, zt’l, endorsed vaccination for all, and wished experts success in the national campaign of vaccination.

Rabbi Kanievsky, zt’l, is survived by three sons, four daughters and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

(Sources: WorldIsraelNews.com, the NYT, INN, TOI, Wikipedia) –  (Additional reporting by: Fern Sidman)

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