Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Sivan 5763 - June 25, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











HaRav Yitzchok Yehoshua Assaf, zt'l
by Betzalel Kahn

HaRav Yitzchok Yehoshua Assaf zt'l passed away unexpectedly in his home in Lakewood at the age of 64.

Born in Haifa in 5699, in his home he acquired the great ahavas Torah and shkeidas Torah that characterized his father, HaRav Dovid Assaf zt'l. He studied at a yeshiva ketanoh in Kfar Saba and by the age of 16 was already learning at Yeshivas Chevron, where he drank in the teachings of the Rosh Yeshiva zt'l.

During his stay in Yerushalayim he grew close to the Brisker Rov and hearkened to his teachings. While at the yeshiva Maran HaRav Aharon Kotler once gave a shiur and the young Rav Assaf began to fire kushios and engage him in pilpul. After the shiur HaRav Kotler was very impressed and said, "I need someone like that at my side."

Following much imploring, his father agreed to send him to Lakewood Yeshiva and for the next 48 years he did not budge from there until his histalkus. During his initial years he had a very tight bond with HaRav Kotler both in rischo deOraisa and while accompanying him on trips to New York, when the Rosh Yeshiva would take him along as a traveling chavrusa. Rav Assaf's Torah knowledge and brilliance were astounding.

Even his sichos chulin were mixed with Torah and he would bring proofs from Shas and poskim to support whatever he said. He was famous for despising money. When asked to serve as a dayan he sometimes spent days preparing his psak but he was totally unwilling to accept money from bnei Torah. The roshei yeshivos and the people of the town enjoyed delving into Torah discussions with him, particularly the mashgiach, HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, and Torah gems constantly issued forth from his mouth. Everyone recalls how he would sit at the back of the beis medrash or otzar seforim and offer fabulous new interpretations. He always loved to perform acts of chesed and would bring a grin to faces of the depressed. Anyone who spoke with him invariably left happy and smiling.

Last Tuesday he spoke with his friends about the death of Dovid Hamelech, debating on the subject at length. On Thursday he died of heart failure in his home.

The levaya began Thursday afternoon when his aron was brought into the beis medrash. He was eulogized by the roshei hayeshiva, HaRav Malkiel Kotler and HaRav Yisroel Neuman; HaRav Yosef Bornstein; his brother, HaRav Moshe; his sons, HaRav Mordechai Shlomo and R' Dovid, and his son-in- law, HaRav Avrohom Noach Taplin. The tearful procession of thousands then continued to the airport.

In Jerusalem the levaya resumed on erev Shabbos Kodesh at the square of Har Hamenuchos, with his relative the Admor from Boyan on hand. There he was eulogized by his son-in-law, HaRav Chizkiyohu Yosef Berlin, who noted that roshei yeshivos and gedolei Torah were thrilled to speak with him about learning because of his breadth of knowledge and his pilpul.

In another hesped his brother, HaRav Yehuda Assaf, cited Rashi on the first Mishnah in Ovos: " . . . And why does [the Mishnah] say `and transmitted it to Yehoshua,' and not to Elozor and Pinchos, and not to the seventy elders prophesying in the camp? For he wanted to transmit it only to one who killed himself [i.e. devoted all his strength] during his youth in the tents of knowledge . . . " He said the niftar truly exemplified this middoh, constantly toiling in the tents of knowledge.

He was buried alongside the grave of his rebbe, Rav Wachtfogel, shortly before Shabbos began. He is survived by sons and daughters and grandchildren following in his path.


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