Thousands in Detroit, New York and Jerusalem brought to rest
HaRav Aryeh Leib Bakst zt"l, one of the Torah greats
of America from the last generation who for over fifty years
helped talmidim build themselves in Torah until he
returned his soul to his Maker last week in Detroit.
HaRav Bakst was born in the Lithuanian town of Daltish in
5675 (1915) to HaRav Yaakov Yehoshua Hy"d, the town
rov who had close ties with HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky
zt"l. In his youth he gained renown as the illui
of Daltish and at the age of nine his father sent him to
study under HaRav Yaakov Neiman in the city of Lida, where he
merited to see the Chofetz Chaim zt"l.
When he reached the age of bar mitzvah HaRav Grodzensky,
recognizing his exceptional talents, sent him to study at the
illustrious Yeshivas Mir. Despite his tender age the rosh
yeshiva, HaRav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel zt"l, took a
liking to him and encouraged him greatly. He also grew and
flourished under the wings of the Mashgiach HaRav Yeruchom
Levovitz zt"l and later under HaRav Yechezkel
Levenstein zt"l who showed much fondness for him.
Later R' Aryeh Leib followed Yeshivas Mir to Vilna, where he
attended shiurim given by HaRav Boruch Ber Leibowitz
and HaRav Y. Z. Soloveitchik zt"l. He joined the
yeshiva in its wanderings to Japan and Shanghai, and later he
would often recall the omol HaTorah of these periods.
In spite of the terrible news that, except for his older
brother Dovid who was with him at the yeshiva, his entire
family had perished, he immersed himself in study.
In 5706 (1946) while still in Shanghai HaRav Mordechai Rogov--
rov of Sainy, Lithuania, the nephew of HaRav Boruch Ber
Leibowitz, the author of Ateres Mordechai and a
talmid of Yeshivas Volozhin and Yeshivas Mir--chose R'
Aryeh Leib to marry his daughter.
After the war they traveled to the US where HaRav Bakst
accepted a position as a rosh yeshiva in Detroit. He changed
the whole face of the city and guided outstanding
talmidim along the path of Torah, sweeping them off
their feet with the fervor and love of Torah ingrained in
him. In his mussar talks he passed onto his
talmidim the way of life he acquired from his
He served as a rosh yeshiva for over fifty years and as a
beacon of light for the Jews of the Detroit and his
talmidim, many of whom became exceptional talmidei
chachomim who cleaved to him and the joy and love of
Torah coursing through his veins.
At the levaya last Thursday at his yeshiva in Detroit,
HaRav Bakst was eulogized by HaRav Avrohom Chaim Levine, rosh
yeshivas Telz in Chicago and a member of Moetzes Gedolei
HaTorah of the United States, the rov of the city, his
talmidim and two of his sons, HaRav Yehuda Boruch Dov
and HaRav Meir Simchoh, his successors at the yeshiva. They
spoke of the great, irreplaceable loss for chareidi Jewry
across the US, and the city of Detroit and the yeshiva in
particular, stressing the rischo de'Orayso in his
shiurim based on his constant labor in Torah study.
On Friday a mass levaya was held at Yeshivas Mir in
New York, where hespeidim were delivered by HaRav
Yisroel Garber; HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum, rosh yeshivas Mir of
the US; his mechuton HaRav Elya Svei, rosh yeshivas
Philadelphia; his mechuton HaRav Binyomin Tzeilberger,
rosh yeshivas Beis HaTalmud; HaRav Simchoh Schustal; HaRav
Malkiel Kotler, rosh yeshivas Lakewood; HaRav Dovid Schustal,
rosh yeshivas Lakewood; and his son-in-law HaRav Yehuda
The levaya continued in Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon,
setting out from Yeshivas Mir, where maspidim included
the rosh yeshiva HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel; HaRav Chaim
Pinchos Scheinberg, rosh yeshivas Torah Ohr; HaRav Yitzchok
Sheiner, rosh yeshivas Kamenitz; HaRav Binyomin Carlebach and
his son-in-law HaRav Dovid Oppen and grandson HaRav Mordechai
All of the eulogizers mourned the loss of a great gaon
and tzaddik, whose entire lifetime was a tapestry of
ahavas haTorah and guiding talmidim on the path
to Hashem and His Torah.
HaRav Aryeh Leib Bakst zt"l is survived by the
Rebbetzin, three sons, two daughters and sons-in-law,
grandchildren and great-grandchildren following in the path he blazed
for them during his lifetime.