The Shomrei Emunim Rebbe of Bnei Brak had a bad dream and
woke up with a start at 5 a.m. last Wednesday morning, 12
Iyar. He immediately did hatovas chalom, but soon
afterward the bad news reached him -- Reb Yehoshua Yitzchok
Katz, a noted Torah scholar and community leader from Neve
Yaakov with whom he was very close, had passed away. Rabbi
Katz was 59.
Many Torah leaders eulogized Rabbi Katz, including HaRav
Shmuel Auerbach, rosh yeshivas Maalas HaTorah; the
Belzer Rebbe from Petach Tikvah; the Shotzer Rebbe; HaRav Zvi
Weber, rav of Neve Yaakov; and HaRav Zev Leff, rav of Moshav
Mattisyahu. Their message was one and the same: Rabbi Katz
was a talmid chochom whose outstanding knowledge of
Torah was matched only by his stellar middos and
Rabbi Katz was born in Yerushalayim in 1941 and moved to
Haifa as a child. His family later moved to Brazil, but his
parents, with great mesiras nefesh, sent him to learn
at age 13 in Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland. An outstanding
student who was liked by all, Rabbi Katz learned in the
yeshiva from 1957 until 1971.
In 1966 Rabbi Katz married and started a family. Before
immigrating to Eretz Yisroel in 1985, he opened a store. His
many customers, however, remember how he was always learning
when they came into the store, and how he would only
interrupt his studies to assist them.
When Rabbi Katz and his family made aliya, they
settled for a short time in Mevaseret Zion, where Rabbi Katz
had a tremendous impact on the community. He was instrumental
in bringing many people closer to Yiddishkeit, a<%-
2>nd he proved to many families just how important it was for
their children to receive a Torah education.
Since there was no Bais Yaakov in Mevaseret Zion, he
encouraged parents to send their girls to Bais Yaakovs in
other cities, such as the one in Telshe Stone. One woman
recalled how Rabbi Katz personally took her daughter to a
Bais Yaakov to register her there.
Rabbi Katz also worked hard to assist immigrant girls from
Iran. He helped ensure they were admitted to Torah schools,
and he arranged for sponsors to pay for them to go to summer
camp so they wouldn't roam the streets while their parents
were at work.
When Rabbi Katz moved to Neve Yaakov, he and his family
immediately became active members of the community. He was
well known for his smiling countenance and the warm words
with which he greeted each and every person he came
On Shabbos his home was full of guests. He would conduct an
exceptionally beautiful "tisch," complete with
inspiring divrei Torah and zemiros.
A year ago, Rabbi Katz was afflicted with a serious illness,
which would later take his life. But even when he lay in the
hospital feeling extremely ill, he would give other patients
the strength to continue. People from all walks of life felt
comfortable in his presence, including a patient in the next
room who lived in a kibbutz. He and his wife would come to
speak with Rabbi Katz on a regular basis, and their
conversations often lasted for several hours at a time.
The man told Rabbi Katz, "I may not leave this place
religious, but thanks to you I now have emunah."
Rabbi Katz was also extremely exacting in his mitzvah
observance. He was especially careful never to speak during
davening while wearing a tallis and tefillin.
The last time he was admitted to the hospital, he did not
have his tefillin with him. He was experiencing
tremendous pain, but he asked that a pair of tefillin
be brought to him.
After a short search, his family found an elderly, wheelchair-
bound patient who agreed to lend Rabbi Katz his tefillin.
The man said he had never spoken during davening while
wearing his tefillin, thus proving to Rabbi Katz's
family that it was appropriate for Rabbi Katz to use this
particular pair of tefillin.
On the last day of his life, Rabbi Katz davened almost
until the very last moment.
In his eulogy of Rabbi Katz, the Shotzer Rebbe stressed that
what a person does subconsciously is a reflection of his true
essence. When the Shotzer Rebbe visited Rabbi Katz during his
last hours, he saw that he was davening and saying
Tehillim even though he was only semiconscious. His
speech was slurred, yet he kept repeating certain pesukim
over and over again, pesukim like, "Hashem
yimloch le'olom vo'ed," and "Hodu laHashem ki
tov." The Shotzer Rebbe said that in Rabbi Katz's final
hours, he saw his true essence.
In his eulogy of Rabbi Katz, Rabbi Zvi Weber, rav of Neve
Yaakov, spoke of his noble nature, refinement and
kindheartedness. He also said Rabbi Katz had a tremendous
positive influence on everyone he came in contact with.
That point was readily apparent in the reaction of Rabbi
Katz's co-workers when they learned of his death. Rabbi Katz
worked in an office where the staff was largely irreligious.
Upon hearing of Rabbi Katz's passing, the staff broke down in
tears, and following the funeral, they were so overcome by
grief they were unable to resume their work.
Shortly before his death, Rabbi Katz had made a shidduch
between his son and the daughter of an old friend from
his days in Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland. This old friend had
not seen Rabbi Katz in 30 years, yet he said that he had not
changed at all from the true ben Torah he had been in
his yeshiva days.
Other stories told at the shiva served as additional
testimony to Rabbi Katz's outstanding middos and his love for
Torah. One store owner recalled how Rabbi Katz would buy eggs
from him, but after he became ill was unable to walk the
distance to the store. One day Rabbi Katz called the man and
asked his forgiveness for not being able to continue buying
eggs from him. He then requested permission to buy eggs from
a store nearer to his home since he was no longer well.
Many other people told his family how they would visit Rabbi
Katz in the hospital to learn Torah with him, and they saw
with their own eyes how Torah literally revived him. But that
came as no surprise to his family, who knew that Torah was
his very life.
Rabbi Katz is survived by his wife, 11 children and several
grandchildren, who are all following the shining example he