Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

18 Sivan 5760 - June 21, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Sponsored by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Produced and housed by

Reb Yehoshua Yitzchok Katz, zt"l

by M. Shapiro

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 personality.

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 across.

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 set.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.