Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

27 Tammuz 5761 - July 18, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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HaRav Chaim Shaul Karelitz zt"l
by S. Bruchi and Yated Ne'eman Staff

Torah Jewry went into deep mourning last Wednesday, 20 Tammuz, at the passing of HaRav Chaim Shaul Karelitz, mashgiach of Beis Meir Yeshiva, head of the Shearis Yisroel kashrus organization, and one of the great advocates for Sephardi Jewry in Eretz Yisroel. HaRav Karelitz returned his holy neshomoh to his Maker at dawn that day. He was in the 89th year of his life.

Tens of thousands of people covering the entire spectrum of religious Jewry, and led by the gedolim, accompanied him to his final resting place.

The tragic news spread swiftly through all the religious areas of the country and by noon many had gathered next to his home in Kollel Chazon Ish. Many thousands of people arrived from all over the country in order to share in the deep pain and sorrow caused by the passing of one of the gedolei Yisroel, who waged the wars of Hashem courageously.

The crowded streets surrounding Kollel Chazon Ish became a mass of black as tens of thousands of avreichim and bnei Torah from yeshivos all over the country arrived in a never-ending stream in order to participate in the levaya. Before the levaya began Tehillim were recited with HaRav Noach Palei standing before the oron.

The hespeidim were heard in all the neighboring streets, thanks to a loudspeaker system installed by Degel Hatorah.


Rav Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz was the first maspid: "We have suffered from a series of calamities, today we have lost a great person from a family of geonim and one of the talmidim of Rav Boruch Ber zt"l. A man devoted to Klal Yisroel and the education of its children. A man who established chadorim and a talmud Torah in Rosh Ha'ayin, who did not rest and travelled all over the land in order to save children from the Sephardic communities. A man who dedicated his life to prevent calamities befalling Klal Yisroel and never thought of himself, for his entire life was dedicated for the klal.

"The Shaarei Teshuvah says that man was created in order to be a loyal messenger and learned servant of Hashem. HaRav Chaim Shaul was Hashem's loyal emissary whom He dispatched to our generation to fulfill such a great assignment. A man swift at his task and nimble in his meleches Shomayim, he nullified his personal needs for the sake of the public and in order to support families of talmidei chachomim. In this week's parsha it says: `Pinchos ben Elozor ben Aharon Hacohen has turned My wrath away from the Bnei Yisroel, in that he was very jealous for My sake among them, so that I did not consume the Bnei Yisroel in my jealousy.' Pinchos's zealousness prevented the destruction of the Jewish nation.

"Who knows to what extent the departed's zealousness preserved Klal Yisroel? How much effort he expended into fulfilling the words of the Shaarei Teshuvoh, that man's purpose is to seek the good of his nation! How much good resulted from his efforts, how many great homes he built, not sparing any effort. We know from the Chovos Halevovos that the main thing is to bring Jews closer to Hakodosh Boruch Hu. May it be Hashem's will that we merit to follow in his footsteps and bring our youth closer to Torah and thereby merit a speedy redemption."

An emotional HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman said: "Everybody knows that I am not capable of eulogizing him, he was much greater than any of us could imagine. `Men of truth have passed away,' `They have gone to their final resting place, and have left us to our sorrow.' He was one of a select few, there are only a few men of truth in each generation. His whole life was dedicated to the truth. He fought for the truth. Of him it can be said, `Men of truth have passed away.' One cannot imagine the mockery and contempt he was willing to undergo for the Torah and things he was convinced about: his entire being was dedicated to this. There are only very few individuals like this in our generation and therefore this is a very great loss. May Hashem help his family find salvation and bring salvation and redemption to the Jewish people speedily."

Then HaRav Boruch Rosenberg spoke: "'Woe to Eretz Yisroel that it has lost a great man.' Rav Chaim Shaul zt"l was a great man. He was great in Torah and in Torah knowledge, his yegias haTorah was great as was his shimush of talmidei chachomim: he was meshamesh the Bircas Shmuel. He was great in anovo, nullifying himself completely for the sake of Klal Yisroel just in order to do everything for the sake of kvod Shomayim. He did everything he felt Hashem required him to do, without being embarrassed of anything. And after doing what he had to do, he immediately returned to his learning, immersing himself in it ceaselessly.

"Chazal say that the death of a talmid chochom is more severe than the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh. Today we have lost a man whose every action during his life was directed towards giving pleasure to Hakodosh Boruch Hu. He did not permit his ego to have a say in his life. Chazal had such a person in mind when they said, `Happy is he who is great in Torah, who toils in Torah, and gives pleasure to his Creator.' Such a man was Rav Chaim Shaul zt"l. He was great in Torah, he toiled in Torah, and his whole being was dedicated to giving pleasure to his Creator. Such a person, Chazal say, is a happy person. A tzaddik has been taken from us, and we must bolster our Torah learning. May he be a meilitz yosher for his family and for the whole Jewish nation."

HaRav Nissim Karelitz commenced his hesped as follows: "When we want to describe the greatness of something, whose level we are far removed from, we say that we perceive a great light emanating from a distant star, but we cannot explain the light or its greatness. We only realize that it is a greatness, which we cannot fathom.

"Chazal say, `Someone whose fear of sin precedes his wisdom, his wisdom will last.' When we see a great man's fear of sin, we realize how great his Torah is. All his actions were lesheim Shomayim and without negios. What can we say? He was a great man, very great. We must reflect on his ways and learn from them, and that will be a merit for the distinguished deceased and for us. Let us learn from his ways and follow his example."

HaRav Avrohom Kopshitz stressed his greatness and joy in Torah. How he cherished every dvar Torah! All his actions were accompanied with immense yiras Shomayim. "The gemora says, `Why was he called Yechezkel ben Buzi? Because he humiliated himself. How the deceased humiliated himself! He was not perturbed by anything. I have not seen a man with such dedication, without any negios or calculations. His sole concern was that there should be another shomer Torah, another ben Torah.

"His house was totally devoted to the klal. Disregarding all other considerations, he was only concerned with doing whatever was in his power to save nefoshos and with the spiritual salvation of Klal Yisroel. Let the whole nation bemoan this sereifoh which Hashem has wrought upon us. We have to follow his example, and do our utmost to save more and more Jewish souls, and to strengthen ourselves in Torah and yiras Shomayim."

His son, Rav Yehuda Karelitz spoke next: "We have been beset by a series of calamities -- woe unto us. My father zt"l said that half the world exists in the merit of the late Rebbetzin Kopshitz zt"l, but he did not speak about the other half. I say that half the world existed in the merit of my father zt"l, whose every action was not undertaken for himself, but for the sake of the klal. The Sephardi community has today lost a father who took care of both their spiritual and physical needs. Throughout his life he worked to augment the ranks of students in pure educational systems and he was totally dedicated to outreach work."

His son, rav Yeshaya Karelitz: "Woe unto us that we have been struck twofold. Only five months ago our mother o"h passed away, and now our father zt"l has departed this world. If I want to describe my father, I would cite the Mishna in Ovos, `Yehuda ben Teimo says, "Be strong as a leopard, light as an eagle, fleet as a hart, and strong as a lion, to do the will of your Father in Heaven." This is an exact description of my father. He did the will of his Father in Heaven, and he observed the commandment not to be fearful of anybody. How many humiliations he suffered, but none of that mattered to him, his only concern was to do the will of Hashem and of the gedolim whose instructions we follow. We all remember his rischo deOraisa in Beis Meir Yeshiva, and when he learned with his brother, Rav Shlomo zt"l.

"Who could remain unmoved at the sound of his tefillos? He would plead like a servant before his master. He distributed charity to everybody, leaving himself nothing. I had the merit of learning with him for 22 consecutive years. From the moment he started learning, he did not divert his attention even for a minute from his Torah learning. All his actions were undertaken with the purpose of increasing kvod Shomayim. Everybody knows how much he achieved acting as the shliach of the gedolim and of HaRav Shach shlita. We saw the extent to which he was willing to suffer humiliation for the sake of the kovod of the gedolim, and we saw the last letter he wrote. How much effort he invested into Shearis Yisroel; and his heart's desire was that this kashrus system would continue to be run along the lines which he set up during his lifetime."

After having consulted with the gedolim, headed by HaRav Eliashiv, HaRav Yitzchok Levenstein, a close talmid of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman made an announcement at the end of the hespedim in the name of the gedolim: "I have been asked by the gedolei hador to announce that the members of the beis din of Shearis Yisroel are responsible for the kashrus system and will continue to lead Shearis Yisroel in their holy work following the practice of the Av Beis Din zt"l."

The funeral procession continued on its way through the streets of Bnei Brak, until it reached the cheder in the house of the Chazon Ish. The deceased was a member of its executive committee and part of its spiritual leadership, having spared no efforts to establish the famous cheder.

HaRav Boruch Dov Povarsky was maspid the niftar next to the cheder: "`Men of faith have been lost to us.' We are standing next to HaRav Chaim Shaul Karelitz zt"l who, from his youth, was very close to his uncle, the Chazon Ish zy"o and to the Brisker Rov zy"o. To be a man of faith, you have to be a brave man standing in the breach. You need gevurah intermingled with pure yiras Shomayim. From HaRav Boruch Ber zt"l he absorbed the fire of Torah and the fire of yiras Shomayim. Hakodosh Boruch Hu let His Presence rest upon the Mikdosh, and put shevet Levi in charge of guarding its kedushoh. The Mikdosh requires special protection. Today we do not have a beis Hamikdosh but we do have the four amos of halocho, which also require special protection. Hakodosh Boruch Hu has provided us with watchmen, he appointed a guard for Klal Yisroel, who invested unlimited efforts in watching over it with all his might. These are the men of faith who have been lost to us.

"Here, on this spot, stood his father HaRav Meir zt"l when he was maspid his brother, the Chazon Ish zy"o. The Karelitz family is a family imbued with kedushoh. The Torah is their guide, and all their actions are lesheim Shomayim, without any ulterior motives. How dedicated he was to the cause of drawing children from the Sephardic communities close to Torah. This was a man of faith, and today we see the fruit of his labor. Here on this location, a cheder was set up, a fitting memorial to the Chazon Ish. For more than thirty years he spared no effort to support the cheder, and guarded the boys as befits a mashkon. Thus he conducted himself throughout his life. How grateful we must be to HaRav Chaim Shaul zt"l and to the administration of the cheder, all of us, whose sons and grandsons have learned in this place, which was so carefully guarded by the niftar. May it be the will of Hashem that just as he was a watchman in this world, so may he continue in his holy labor of watching over the mikdeshei me'at here in this world, until the arrival of the Redeemer, may he come speedily."

The funeral procession moved on slowly along Rechov Chazon Ish which was closed to traffic. Tens of thousands of mourners accompanied the niftar to Beis Meir Yeshiva, where he served as mashgiach for decades.

The Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Zalman Rotberg, made an emotional hesped on his brother-in-law: "The walls of this beis hamedrash can testify to his hasmodoh. I cannot adequately describe his greatness, his tzidkus and chassidus. All the students of the yeshiva remember his prayers, in which he poured out his heart. Everyone remembers his pesukei dezimrah. This great man, whose whole life was an embodiment of, `I have set Hashem always before me,' and of, `There is none else beside Him.' Only a man who lives every moment of his life with Hakodosh Boruch Hu is a genuine chossid.

"Rabbeinu Yeruchom explained that the Remo in the first section of the Shulchan Oruch adds the phrase, Shivisi Hashem lenegdi tomid, because this is the foundation of the whole Shulchan Oruch. Anyone observing the Shulchan Oruch has to live in accordance with this motto. Only such a person can reach the stage of `then you will understand yiras Hashem.'

"The Chazon Ish zy"o testified about him that his greatness, his tzidkus and perishus was not that of a mortal. It is well-known that when the Chazon Ish was asked by his wife who would be their heir he replied, `Rav Chaim Shaul Karelitz is our heir.' How does someone reach such a level? Only by shivisi Hashem lenegdi tomid. With every action he deliberated with himself how Hakodosh Boruch Hu would react to it. He was so concerned that no Jewish neshomoh should get lost, and he was especially devoted to looking after the needs of the Sephardic community and integrating their youngsters into the yeshivos. We pray that he may be a meilitz yosher for the holy Yeshiva."

HaRav Zvi Rotberg described his illustrious uncle: "His whole life was dedicated solely to Hashem, without any other considerations. For the last sixty years there has not been any spiritual or holy matter in Klal Yisroel, with which HaRav Chaim Shaul was not involved. His heart was involved, his soul was there, and his hand was there. Everything was there, except for him. Why? Because he did not exist. Sixty years of bilti Lashem levado. `I am not there, because if I am, then it is not bilti Lashem levado.' Only through bilti Lashem levado is it possible to achieve such anovoh, to attain such middos and kedushoh.

"Everybody knew him, but his real essence was hidden. Who knew about his greatness in Torah, who realized that he knew the whole Torah? Who was aware of his kedushah and taharoh? No one knew him. Some people with a hidden greatness live in faraway places, but his greatness consisted in concealing his greatness despite being famous. The gemora says that Hashem has a place called Mistorim ["hiding place"]. When everything collapses, Hakodosh Boruch Hu is to be found there. The Maharsho adds, `In that hiding-place is His strength.' Hashem's hiding place is to be found amongst people with a hidden greatness, amongst HaRav Chaim Shaul zt"l. How many prayers and supplications are needed to create even a shadow of an abode for Hakodosh Boruch Hu! We have to appreciate that the world needs to be supported by pillars, and one of these pillars has left us. May he be a meilitz yosher for his family, for the Yeshiva, for Klal Yisroel and for the projects he set up in his lifetime."

At the conclusion of the hespedim, the levaya left for the beis hachaim Pillars of Ponevezh Yeshiva, where he was eulogized by his close friend, HaRav Yehoshua Shklar, who talked about their joint activities to save the children of the Sephardic communities, and their joint project for the distribution of prizes to outstanding students from all the Sephardic yeshivos who had written up their chiddushim. This wonderful organization was presided over and directed by the niftar, who took an active part in all its activities and in the distribution of prizes. HaRav Shklar also talked about how they had learned together over many years, which had resulted in the publication of Yalkutei Peirushim and dozens of seforim on all the masechtos of Shas.

"HaRav Chaim Shaul zt"l was a personification of hineni. He was always ready to run towards any dovor shebikedusho and to undertake activities for the sake of the klal. He was renowned for his clear and undiluted hashkofoh. There are many kanoim who do their work in private, but not in public. He was a genuine kanoi, of the type described by the Or HaChaim, someone who is `very zealous for My sake' in public and does not fear anyone."

HaRav Chaim Shaul Karelitz was buried in the Pillars of Ponevezh Yeshiva cemetery towards nightfall.


HaRav Chaim Shaul Karelitz zt"l, was born on the 8th of Elul, 5672 (1912). His father, HaRav Meir Karelitz, the rav of Lachowitz, was one of the great leaders of his generation, and was highly trusted by the gedolei hador, HaRav Chaim Ozer and the Chofetz Chaim.

In that home, HaRav Chaim Shaul's special personality as a man of Torah guided by truth was forged. The traits he displayed throughout his entire life, that gained him the respect of all of the gedolei hador, were evident even when he was young. These included remarkable hasmodoh, a brilliant mind, refinement, outstanding middos, respect for one's fellow and kindliness.

Armed with his enormous knowledge of Torah, pure yiras Shomayim, halochoh and a Torah-true outlook that he imbibed in his father's home, he devoted his entire life to Torah study.

As a child, he studied at first in Vilna and then in the Talmud Torah of Kovslova. In his youth he studied for a brief period in the Ramailles yeshiva in Vilna under HaRav Meir Bassin. Afterward, he went to Baranowitz where he imbibed Torah and yir'oh from HaRav Elchonon Wassermann, Hy"d and the author of Mikdosh LeDovid.

When he was eighteen he transferred to the Kaminetz yeshiva, where he studied under HaRav Boruch Ber Lebowitz for more then ten years. During that period, he was very attached to HaRav Boruch Ber. He amassed a vast amount of Torah knowledge and quite rapidly became the yeshiva's outstanding student.

Prior to the outbreak of World War II in 5699 (1939), he moved to Eretz Hakodesh following most of his family who were already living there. For a brief period he studied in the Kaminetz yeshiva in Jerusalem. On the advice of the Chazon Ish, he later transferred to the Lomza yeshiva in Petach Tikvah.

In Sivan 5702 (1942), he married Leah, o"h, daughter of HaRav Yehoshua Berger and granddaughter of HaRav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld. Their wedding took place in the home of the Kehillos Yaakov -- the Steipler Rav -- on Givat Rokach in Bnei Brak and was attended, of course, by the Chazon Ish.

After their marriage, the couple resided in Petach Tikvah, where HaRav Chaim Shaul continued his Torah studies in the renowned Toras Eretz Yisroel Kollel headed by HaRav Yitzchok Katz, zt"l. Some of the most outstanding Torah scholars in the country studied there, and the rischo deOraisa of its students resounded far and wide, Torah being their essence and lifeblood.

The Chazon Ish later asked HaRav Chaim Shaul to serve as rav and moreh tzedek of Petach Tikvah's bnei Torah community. HaRav Karelitz did not accept the offer, because he wanted to continue to study Torah undisturbed. Nonetheless, with clarity and firmness, he answered the questions of the many people seeking his halachic guidance.

His modest home, in its simplicity and starkness, personified the daled amos shel halocho veTorah. There were times in which there was barely bread in the home and when his only source of sustenance was his Torah and yegia. His knowledge of Torah was so vast that the gedolei hador said that there was no part of Shas and poskim that he hadn't mastered by heart.

In 5715 upon the petiroh of his father, HaRav Meir Karelitz, one of the founders of the Chinuch Atzmai and the Vaad Hayeshivos (along with the Lutzker Rov), as well as the chairman of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, HaRav Chaim Shaul moved to Bnei Brak to be near his mother. Nonetheless, he continued to travel every day to Petach Tikvah to study in Kollel Toras Eretz Yisroel.

When HaRav Eliyahu Dessler became menahel ruchani in Ponevezh, HaRav Chaim Shaul became very close with him, and avidly absorbed all of his teachings. He later knew HaRav Dessler's writings by heart, and Michtav MeEliahu was always at his fingertips. When HaRav Dessler was niftar, HaRav Karelitz became close with the mashgiach HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, listening to his discourses and discussing them with him. He also read all of HaRav Levenstein's articles.

In 5720, HaRav Karelitz was appointed to the position of mashgiach and menahel ruchani in the Beis Meir yeshiva, where he delivered mussar discourses and spoke in Torah with the yeshiva students. He toiled over his Torah in the Beis Meir yeshiva for more than forty years, continuing alongside his other activities, and had a deep influence on its students.

When the yeshiva ketana affiliated with the Tashbar Talmud Torah opened in 5728, he served as a maggid shiur there and also as a member of the executive board of the Talmud Torah and one of its mainstays. For more than three decades, he tested the students of that famous talmud Torah, the nurturing place for tinokos shel beis rabban who eventually became some of our generation's finest talmidei chachomim under his guidance.

Students of the Beis Meir yeshiva longingly recall the years in which the roshei yeshiva HaRav Reuven Fein, zt"l, and HaRav Zalman Rotberg, ylct"a delivered shiurim. HaRav Chaim Shaul Karelitz was present at these shiurim, and the rischo deOraisa was famous. It was well known that in that shiur, every svoro would undergo the scrutiny of HaRav Chaim Shaul Karelitz, who would examine each svoro with his clarity and absolute truthfulness to see if it was Torah- true.

He took a deep interest in the needs and futures of students of Sephardic backgrounds, making supreme efforts to draw them closer to the Torah world. He would travel all over the country -- from Dan to Beersheba -- in order to bring yet another student into yeshiva. Hundreds of yeshiva students from Sephardic backgrounds, today genuine bnei Torah, owe him their spiritual lives.

His focused most of his energies in this area on Rosh Ha'Ayin, where he went from door to door, gathering Yemenite children and bringing them to Torah yeshivos.

Along with HaRav Eliyahu Raful and HaRav Yehoshua Shklar, he was active in integrating these youths in yeshivos. His activities constituted the foundations for restoring the Torah crown of Sephardi Jewry and he personally took care of their needs. He would sit and study with these bochurim, helping them advance in Torah and yiras Shomayim.

His primary concern was placing those students in yeshivos kedoshos. At times, these attempts to integrate them in yeshivos were unsuccessful, and he eventually decided to open a yeshiva in which those students would study with avreichim until they were ready to join regular frameworks. Some of those students had received anti-Torah upbringing, and this program helped them become genuine Torah Jews. During his decades of activity, he reached out to many rechokim, and was active on behalf of Torah-true chinuch.

In 5747 (1987), a shmittah year, Maran HaRav Eliezer Menachem Shach, shlita, asked him to found Shearis Yisroel and the Vaad Hakashrus Hamehudar of the bnei Torah community in Eretz Yisroel. He directed every detail of its vast kashrus system, safeguarding the walls of kashrus and tohoroh, and supervising its far-reaching Torah activities, which include a beis horo'oh and a beis din.

He directed the huge nationwide kashrus network and later a shechita network abroad for fourteen years. He personally examined, supervised and followed up every detail. On his merit, the hechsher hamehudar founded by Maran HaRav Eliezer Menachem Shach, shlita, developed in a remarkable manner, to benefit the Torah world.

HaRav Chaim Shaul Karelitz was a gaon in all aspects of Torah. Gedolei Yisroel praised his vast Torah knowledge. He would study with tremendous fervor, deriving his vigor from Torah study. Even when deeply involved in efforts on behalf of the klal, he would withdraw when he sat down to study. His zerizus in mitzvah observance and meticulousness were exemplary; there are many accounts of the cherda with which he observed the mitzvos. But his greatest trait was his unusual humility, and his self-effacement.

As one who dauntlessly fought Hashem's battles, he was the loyal trustee of maranan verabonon, the gedolei hador: those who have gone to the World of Truth and those still with us today. He fulfilled many missions on behalf of kodshei Yisroel, with all of the gedolei Yisroel relying upon him and trusting that all his deeds were totally for Shomayim's sake.

His uncle the Chazon Ish regarded him as an odom godol me'od,and once said that he was in the category of "less dein bar nash." On one particular occasion, the Chazon Ish asked everyone to leave the room because he wanted to speak with someone privately. HaRav Chaim Shaul was also in the room, and the Chazon Ish said that he could remain inside. He was so immersed in his learning and so detached from this world that he wouldn't hear what was being said.

Along with his greatness in Torah, he was also a giant in middos, and had a good rapport with all types of people. He greeted everyone warmly. His simplicity, pleasant manner and goodness had a strong impact on all who encountered him and were the basis of the great esteem in which people held him.

HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman related that for a while HaRav Karelitz studied with the son of a very wealthy person. The man wanted to pay HaRav Karelitz for his efforts but HaRav Karelitz said, "If you want to pay me for learning with your son, I refuse to take the money. But if you want to pay me because I am poor, I am willing to accept the money." HaRav Shteinman added: "In general it's the opposite. People are willing to be paid for teaching, but do not want to undergo the disgrace of being paid because they are poor."

Two months ago he fell ill and in recent weeks his health deteriorated. Prayer were recited in yeshivos and kollelim for his recovery, and all sought to fulfill the dictum of lekayem bonu chachmei Yisroel. Nonetheless, early Wednesday morning he returned his soul, which had been refined by much suffering, to its Maker.

The great gaon, HaRav Chaim Shaul Karelitz left a deep impression on the generation by means of his enterprises and personality. They constitute his legacy.

His survived by al his illustrious sons, HaRav Yaakov, HaRav Yehudah, HaRav Yeshaya and HaRav Meir, as well as by his daughters, who are married to: HaRav Yosef Korman, HaRav Yonah Eliyahu Zloshinski and HaRav Yehuda Landi. He is also survived by grandchildren and great grandchildren, who are continuing to uphold his spiritual legacy, and by his sisters, Rebbetzin Alfa and Rebbetzin Rotberg, the wife of HaRav Zalman Rotberg.


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