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
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
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
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
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