Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Av 5763 - July 31, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











HaRav Yitzchok Kulitz, zt'l
by Betzalel Kahn

HaRav Yitzchok Kulitz zt'l, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem for over two decades, passed away last week at the age of 81 following a protracted illness.

HaRav Kulitz was born in Lithuania on 18 Sivan 5682 (1922) to HaRav Eliyohu Dovid Nachman, rov of the town of Alita and head of the town's Knesses Yisroel branch and one of Lithuania's leading rabbonim. HaRav Eliahu Dovid was very close with the Chazon Ish and learned with him bechavrusa for many years. When his son was only three, Rav Eliyohu passed away and when Yitzchok he was just 10 years old his mother sent him to Yeshivas Slobodka. Among his rebbei'im during this period was HaRav Zevulun Graz.

On Rosh Chodesh Elul 5693, when he was 11, his family moved to Eretz Yisroel and settled in Yerushalayim. His mother sent him to learn with the mechina of Chevron Yeshiva which was then located in Chevron.

When he was 14 his friends advised him to relate his chiddushim to HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer. The young bochur went to his home one the evening. HaRav Meltzer received him graciously. Ever since that visit the two often engaged in pilpul.

Later he formed bonds with gedolei Yisroel far older than he because at Chevron he learned with them despite his young age.

His rebbe, HaRav Yechezkel Sarna, was very fond of the young man and even helped his family. During the war of 5708 (1948), as shells fired by the Jordanian army were falling on Jerusalem, HaRav Sarna brought the entire Kulitz family into his home for an extended stay.

During R' Yitzchok's time at Chevron the yeshiva was full of renowned talmidei chachomim who had a major impact on the young man and later he would regularly visit the homes of maranan verabonon. As a young yeshiva bochur he would sit and learn constantly. Every night as midnight approached, HaRav Aharon Cohen, later the rosh yeshiva, would come to the beis midrash to send him to bed.

HaRav Kulitz received semichoh from HaRav Meltzer before he got married. HaRav Kulitz also grew close to Maran Hachazon Ish, zt'l, who had been his father's chavrusa. After Rav Kulitz sent him his chiddushim, at the Chazon Ish's request, the two would often exchange letters on Rav Kulitz' learning.

He married Gittel Tovoh a'h, the daughter of HaRav Yaakov Shimshon Auerbach, a prominent Karliner chossid from Tiberius. After his engagement the Chazon Ish sent him a letter of congratulations with the blessing that Rav Kulitz should have the merit to study in accordance with his pure aspirations.

At the age of 25 he was appointed a ram at Yeshivas Chevron, replacing Rav Aharon Cohen, who was unable to reach the yeshiva from the Central Region due to the war then raging. Afterwards he refused to take a permanent position at the yeshiva, despite entreaties by his rebbe, HaRav Sarna.

He moved to Bnei Brak, where the couple had a meager subsistence. The Rebbetzin devotedly raised the children without distracting Rav Kulitz from his Torah study, preparing them for lives of Torah and instilling in them middos tovos.

Rav Kulitz davened in Yeshivas Ponovezh and formed strong bonds with the Ponovezher Rov, HaRav Shmuel Rozovsky, HaRav Dovid Povarsky and Maran HaRav Shach, zt'l. Graced with a fine speaking ability, Rav Kahaneman once asked him to speak for the yeshiva's board of governors.

Rav Kulitz taught Torah until 5715 (1955), when he was appointed a dayan at a Tel Aviv beis din. He sat on the bench for many years, during which his rulings set an example for many other dayanim. In 5739 he was appointed to the Beis Din Godol and in 5741 (1981), after the petiroh of HaRav Betzalel Zolti, he was made rov of Jerusalem.

Rav Kulitz would deliver his Shabbos Teshuvoh droshoh at Beis Knesses HaGra in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Shaarei Chessed, where his listeners included Maran HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt'l. One year, after suffering a heart attack, Rav Kulitz announced he would be unable to give the Shabbos Teshuvoh droshoh. On the Thursday night preceding Shabbos Teshuvoh, HaRav Auerbach came to his home and said, "I heard the Rav would not be delivering his droshoh due to his weak state of health, so I've come to hear it in his home."

Rav Kulitz left his imprint on every area of life in Jerusalem and beyond. Of particular note was his uncompromising struggle to protect Jewish graves in Jerusalem and around the world. Before the reunification of East and West Germany Rav Kulitz traveled to Hamburg to provide his expertise as part of efforts to save a cemetery. The West German government submitted to his halachic decisions without question.

In Eretz Yisroel, as well, he fought against attempts to destroy Jewish graves. His firm stances helped solve many problems that arose throughout the years in numerous places, including French Hill, Givat Zeev, Maaleh Adumim Road, Begin Road and the Modi'in area.

Never raising his voice, his resolute insistence on truth overcame whoever confronted him regarding matters of kashrus, religion and municipal affairs. As Jerusalem Chief Rabbi he raised the kashrus standards of the Jerusalem Rabbinate. The improvements he helped bring about earned the Jerusalem Rabbinate such a good reputation that all of Klal Yisroel can unhesitatingly eat products bearing its hechsher.

He was also known for his uncompromising campaign to prevent the entry of Reform figures into positions of authority in Jerusalem, particularly the repeated efforts to bring them into the Religious Council.

Rav Kulitz had the merit to maintain close ties with gedolei Yisroel. Maran HaRav Shach, zt'l, was very fond of him. Rav Kulitz also had a special friendship with Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv, shlita, who would direct all of the halachic problems regarding Jerusalem to him and would meet with him frequently to discuss various issues.

As a dayan he was known for his sharp perception. Without unneeded words he knew how to identify the point of contention and to pursue the underlying truth. Soft-spoken and pleasant, his noble manner radiated all around him.

A few years ago he retired from civic life and stopped answering halachic questions due to his weakness. During this difficult period when he would discuss Torah he would regain some of his strength and speak animatedly. He published a sefer called Minchas Eliyohu, named after his father.

Five-and-a-half years ago his wife passed away. Recently he was hospitalized at Shaarei Tzedek for one month until he returned his soul to his Maker last Thursday, surrounded by his family members.

The levaya set out from his home on Abuhav St. in Bayit Vegan late Thursday night with thousands of mourners. Eulogies were given by HaRav Shmuel Auerbach, HaRav Dov Schwartzman, HaRav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi, HaRav Boruch Shimshom Salomon, HaRav Yosef Efrati and the deceased's sons, HaRav Yosef, HaRav Nachum, HaRav Moshe, HaRav Shlomo and HaRav Eliyohu. The funeral procession continued by bus to Har Hamenuchos Cemetery where the thousands of participants were provided special lighting using fire trucks brought in by Mayor Rabbi Uri Lupoliansky.

Rav Yitzchok Kulitz, zt'l, is survived by his five sons, his son-in-law HaRav Moshe Rubinstein, grandsons and other relatives following in his path of Torah and yir'oh.


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