Cloaked in mourning, a crowd of thousands, including
gedolei Torah, rabbonim, and bnei Torah,
participated in the levaya of HaRav Refoel Yitzchok
Wassermann zt"l, who passed away without warning last
Wednesday at the age of 80. Among the gedolei Torah on
hand were HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, HaRav Shmuel Halevi
Wosner, HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkovitz, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky,
HaRav Nissim Karelitz and HaRav Yerachmiel Gershon Edelstein,
A great cry went out as the mittoh left HaRav
Wassermann's home last Wednesday, 27 Elul. A bitter
hesped was delivered there by Eida Chareidis Gavad
HaRav Y. Tuvioh Weiss, who said, "I can attest that my
brother and friend who I have known for over 50 years was an
emblem of the verse, `Achas sho'alti mei'eis Hashem .
. .' He had only a single desire, `Shivti beveis Hashem
kol yemei chayay.'"
The procession headed toward the Ohel Yaakov yeshiva and
kollel via Bnei Brak's main thoroughfares, Rechov R' Akiva
and Rechov Chazon Ish, which were packed with mourners. It
then continued on to Kollel Chazon Ish, which HaRav
Wassermann helped to establish and where he headed one of the
chaburos in the lifetime of his rav muvhok, the
Chazon Ish zechuso yogen oleinu.
Afterwards the mittoh was brought into the main hall
of Ohel Yaakov, where HaRav Wassermann taught Torah for over
thirty years even until his final day on earth. Last Tuesday,
although he felt his heart was weak, he made a special effort
to come to the kollel to deliver the shiur
kloli to strengthen the avreichim in their
HaRav Shmuel Wosner, the rov of the Zichron Meir
neighborhood, spoke of his harbotzas Torah with
tremendous nekius in yiras Shomayim as he
fought to mend breaches. He then recounted that when the
Chazon Ish made his famous pruzbol over 50 years ago
and looked for a third dayan, he told HaRav Wosner to
call HaRav Wassermann, and made an uncommon remark when he
added, "R' Yitzchok is a wonderful dayan."
Afterwards the talmidim and avreichim carried
their rebbe into the beis medrash, where he was
eulogized HaRav Lefkovitz, who cited Chazal's axiom, "The
departure of tzaddikim is worth more than the 98
curses in Parshas Ki Sovo." He concluded by asking
HaRav Wassermann to act as an advocate for all of his
talmidim and family members, and for Klal Yisroel,
which is in need of great mercy.
Rosh Yeshivas Slobodka HaRav Boruch Rosenberg said, based on
the commentaries to maseches Ovos the words,
"Umosroh leYehoshua" actually mean every individual
passes on the Torah, a task to which the deceased dedicated
his entire life.
HaRav Yaakov Edelstein, rov of Ramat Hasharon and Naot Yosef
in Bnei Brak and HaRav Wassermann's mechuton, recalled
that in 5702 (1942), when he went to study at Yeshivas Lomzha-
Petach Tikva the deceased, then a young bochur, went
up to him to ask whether he was comfortably situated at the
yeshiva. "The warmth his face radiated remains with me to
this day," noted HaRav Edelstein.
Afterwards HaRav D.T. Ordentlicht, rov of Beitar Illit who
once taught at HaRav Wassermann's yeshiva, noted his
combination of greatness, pleasantness and mesirus
nefesh for the sake of his talmidim.
He was followed by another of HaRav Wassermann's
mechutonim, HaRav A. Ben Shlomo, who described the
deceased's successful work in the French Diaspora.
Weeping bitterly, his son-in-law HaRav Chaim Yisroel Shapira,
rosh yeshivas Shaarei HaTorah, parted from him. He recalled
HaRav Wassermann's near brush with death 17 years ago and his
wife's devotion in taking care of him.
The procession then proceeded down Rechov Chazon Ish to the
Shomrei Shabbos Cemetery, where he was buried at sunset.
Following stimas hagolel his son HaRav Boruch, a
ram at Yeshivas Shaarei Torah, offered impassioned
words of parting.
Refoel Yitzchok Wassermann was born on 6 Kislev 5685 to HaRav
Nachman Shmuel Hy"d, the gavad of Stoisk and a
long-time talmid of HaRav Boruch Ber Leibovitz. HaRav
Nachman Shmuel was known for his gadlus in Torah,
tzidkus and great concern for the poor, and all of
these traits were manifested in his dedicated leadership of
his kehilloh during the Holocaust.
HaRav Refoel Yitzchok managed to secure a certificate to
enter Eretz Yisroel through one of the heads of the Mizrachi
movement, as a sign of appreciation for his father's
outstanding leadership of the entire community without
He spent the first few months of World War II at Yeshivas
Baranovitch, where he had close, personal ties with HaRav
Elchonon Wassermann, and with the mashgiach, HaRav
Yisroel Yaakov Lubchansky.
After consulting the Gra's famous goral he fled for
Eretz Yisroel in 5700 (1940). Arriving without his parents as
a lone refugee he began his studies at Yeshivas Lomzha in
Petach Tikva. His friends from this period recount his
fabulous shekido and omol as well as his
radiant face familiar to all. He was acquainted with Maran
HaRav Shach zt"l and the other gedolei Torah at
the yeshiva, which served as the setting for the famous story
of how HaRav Shach recanted a shiur he gave there
following HaRav Wassermann's kushyo. As a young man he
began to form a lifelong relationship with the Chazon Ish,
who encouraged him like a father and guided him in Torah like
a master craftsman guiding his apprentice.
After marrying the daughter of the famous mohel, HaRav
Yisroel Yitzchok Shakul, he continued to live in Petach
Tikva, studying at the Lomzha kollel. Later he moved
to Bnei Brak where he was among the Chazon Ish's
Through his learning he also formed an intimate relationship
with the Kehillas Yaakov, who sent him to Yeshivas Chachmei
Tzorfas at Aix-les-Bains in 5718 (1958). As a marbitz
Torah there he made the place flourish, raising the
talmidim to high levels of Torah and yir'oh. He
even merited seeing second and third generations of
talmidei chachomim issue forth from his
talmidim in France, who remained close to him until
the end of his life.
HaRav Wassermann also served as a ram in Antwerp for a
short period, where he formed a friendship with HaRav Y. T.
Weiss. In 5723 (1963) he moved to England where he began his
period in the rabbinate as the rov of a kehilloh in
Kehal Chareidim of London. He gained renown there for
stopping breaches and for his powerful drive to do Hashem's
will. During this period he set up a kollel in
London, where the idea of a ben Torah continuing his
Torah studies after getting married was almost unknown. To
this day the kollel still bears the name Kollel HaRav
In 5733 (1973) he returned to Eretz Yisroel to accept a
position as Rosh Yeshivas Ohel Yaakov, a post he held
faithfully until the very day of his passing.
HaRav Refoel Yitzchok Wassermann is survived by his wife; his
sister Channah; his sons HaRav Nachman, HaRav Pinchos in the
US and HaRav Boruch; his sons-in-law, who are well-known
marbitzei Torah veyiroh; grandchildren and great-
grandchildren through whom he had the merit to set up a
tribute to his family, which perished in the Holocaust.