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 Sholom Tzvi Hacohen Shapira, zt"l

Thousands of mournful Bnei Brak residents headed by gedolei HaTorah accompanied HaRav Sholom Tzvi Hacohen Shapira, zt"l, on his last earthly journey. He was a ram and a menahel ruchani in the Or HaTorah yeshiva, author of the illustrious works: Kovetz Bei'urim Al HaRambam, Hamaor ShebaTorah and Meishiv Nefesh. He was niftar after an illness at the age of 81.

HaRav Sholom Tzvi Shapira, son of HaRav Bentzion, was born in Brisk in 5680. When he was thirteen, he went to Baranovitch to study under HaRav Elchonon Wassermann, remaining there for many years. When HaRav Shapira later moved to Eretz Yisroel, he compiled HaRav Wassermann's Kovetz Shiurim for print. When only fourteen, his exertion in Torah was so great that he would remain standing for six consecutive hours out of his daily study schedule.

From Baranowitz, he transferred to the Mir, where he was very close to its roshei yeshiva, whom he merited to be meshamesh. The remarkable spiritual foundations that accompanied him throughout his entire life were formed in Mir. Brilliance, remarkable diligence, sensitivity and nobility of soul, chein vochessed and kedusha vetahoro were his watchwords. He was especially close with the mashgiach, HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, remaining attached to him until his final day.

His unique hasmodoh was evident wherever he studied. Torah was his entire essence. When in Shanghai with the Mir yeshiva, his hasmodoh was astounding. Friends from that period say that during the Shanghai period, he studied Nezikin and Noshim seventy times, and knew them by heart.

From Shanghai, he went to Paris where he married. For a short time he was a ram in the Chachmei Tzorfat yeshiva of Aix-les-Bains. He later moved to Eretz Hakodesh, where he was a ram in Be'er Yaakov and then in the Volozhin yeshiva in Bnei Brak. He helped found the Or HaTorah yeshiva for students from Sephardic backgrounds where he was a ram and menahel ruchani for twenty years, teaching thousands of students.

He had a strong impact on his students and those attending his shiurim. They consulted him on spiritual matters, regarding him as a model oved Hashem whose entire aim in life was to guide them in Torah and mussar.

His students admired his fatherly image and his pleasant ways. He once said: "I never expelled a student from the yeshiva, because that would be like casting a Jew out of Klal Yisroel. I dealt with the difficulties of each problematic student, drawing such students closer until they improved."

The following story attests to his tremendous shkeida: One Purim after shacharis he went to study in a beis medrash near his home, saying that he would return in time for the seuda. Towards sheki'a, his sons went to the beis medrash to see why he was late and found him so immersed in his studies that he hadn't realized that the entire day had passed.

On Shabbos, he would taste only a bit of fish and meat, saying that one should eat what is required by halocho and no more, and that overeating causes sluggishness. Immediately after the meal he would go into the Kollel Chazon Ish, and study for seven to eight hours at a stretch, both in the cold winters and in the hot summer months -- when beads of perspiration would collect on his brow due to his exertion in Torah.

His bekius in all aspects of the Torah was renowned. In an approbation to Kovetz Bei'urim Al HaRambam, HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein wrote, "He is one of the gedolei haTorah vehamussar." HaRav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel called him, "Chorif uvoki bechol chadrei haTorah: Sinai ve'okeir horim."

His seforim, occupy prominent places on the tables of gedolei haTorah, attesting to his amazing mastery of all aspects of the Torah. This mastery was so great that the Kehillos Yaakov once said of him: "There is no medrash that he doesn't know."

When his family asked him how many times he had completed the study of the midroshim of Chazal, he said, "I counted until 120 and then stopped counting."

Although his HaMaor ShebaTorah contains 1200 articles about the parasha of the week, he never repeated a dvar Torah twice. Each one illuminated the Torah in a different light.

During recent years, he delivered talks to roshei yeshiva and gedolei Torah on Shabbos after mincha. There some of the great light of this illustrious talmid chochom laboring so hard to conceal his greatness, was revealed. He leaves behind manuscripts that will soon be printed and will enlighten the entire world.

His prayers came from the depths of his heart, and it would take him nearly half-an-hour to recite the birchos hashachar in the mornings.

A year ago he fell ill and his situation steadily deteriorated. Nonetheless, he maintained his clarity of mind until his last day. Two weeks ago, he read his will to his family and said vidui. "I am very worried about the extent of the din," he told his family.

On Tuesday night, 13 Tammuz, his health took a serious turn for the worse. Before a minyan of relatives, he returned his pure soul to its Maker.

His levaya, which took place Wednesday morning, left his home in Bnei Brak and was attended by Torah Jewry's finest. Heading the procession were HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman, HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, HaRav Michel Feinstein, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, the niftar's mechuton, HaRav Nissim Karelitz and HaRav Gershon Eidelstein. They were followed by roshei yeshiva, rabbonim, gedolei haTorah and many bnei Torah.

Hespedim were delivered by HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, HaRav Boruch Rosenberg, HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman, HaRav Menachem Tzvi Berlin and by the niftar's son-in-law, HaRav Yaakov Rabinowitz- Te'omim.

From Bnei Brak, the levaya proceeded to the Mir yeshiva in Jerusalem, where thousands had assembled, including HaRav Shmuel Auerbach, HaRav Meshulem Dovid Soloveitchik; the roshei yeshiva of the Mir, and prominent talmidim from the Shanghai period.

The first hesped at the Mir yeshiva was delivered by HaRav Moshe Menachem Hacohen Shapira, the niftar's son. Hespedim were also delivered by HaRav Aryeh Finkel and HaRav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi.

He is survived by his wife, tibodel lechayim tovim ve'arukim and his sons: HaRav Moshe Menachem, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Reishis Chochmoh, HaRav Bentzion, a mechanech in Kiryat Sefer, HaRav Avrohom Michel, a prominent avreich, HaRav Aryeh Leib, the menahel ruchani of the Hevron Geula yeshiva, as well as by a daughter who is married to HaRav Yaakov Rabinowitz- Te'omim, one of the roshei yeshiva of Kol Torah. His grandchildren are also continuing to uphold the spiritual legacy he bequeathed them.


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