Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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23 Iyar 5765 - June 1, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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HaRav Alter Eliahu Rubinstein zt"l

By Betzalel Kahn

HaRav Alter Eliahu Rubinstein zt"l, the gavad of Antwerp, passed away suddenly at the age of 58. Thousands accompanied the aron in Antwerp, at Ben Gurion Airport and in Jerusalem on Lag B'Omer.

The bitter news of his petiroh after midnight on the night of Lag B'omer took wings and the next morning a large levaya was held in Antwerp before the aron was flown to Eretz Yisroel. Late Friday afternoon the funeral resumed in Jerusalem, where a crowd of thousands, including gedolei Torah and admorim laid him to rest at Har Hamenuchos.

Alter Eliahu Rubinstein was born on 15 Kislev 5707 (1947) in the city of Sighet to HaRav Ephraim Fishel Halevy Rubinstein. A few years later the family moved to Eretz Yisroel, settling in Beit Gamliel, where his parents toiled hard to provide him and his other siblings an education in Torah and Chassidus despite the many challenges they faced during those years.

As a boy he studied under the Admor of Kretschnef. After his bar mitzvah he began to study under the Admor of Klausenberg- Tzanz at the yeshiva for outstanding bochurim at Netanya's Kiryat Tzanz, where he soon gained a reputation as one of the leading talmidim. Recognizing the young man's potential the Admor made special efforts to impart to him the kinyonei Torah.

On one occasion, when HaRav Yechezkel Abramsky paid a visit to the Admor, and they toured the yeshiva the Admor pointed at the young Alter Eliahu saying, "If you would like to meet one of my prodigies, go ahead and test this bochur." He indeed proceeded to test him on Kesuvos, Bovo Kammo and Bovo Basra and was so impressed with his knowledge he said, "Happy is your lot, Klausenberger Rebbe, that you have bochurim such as these."

The Admor of Tzanz zt"l would engage Alter Eliahu in lengthy discussions of their learning and once, when the deceased went to spend time in the Admor's presence during Tishrei while he was living in the US, as soon as he stepped into the room the Admor's face lit up and he called out, "Boruch Hashem, you came. I've been waiting for you for a long time to clarify a complicated halachic response I've been working on and it's important for me to hear your opinion on the matter."

He married the daughter of HaRav Yehoshua Deutsch, the gavad of Katamon, based on the suggestion of the Admor of Tzanz. As a young avreich he was chosen to join a select group of talmidim participating in daily horo'oh shiurim. Later the Admor gave him semichoh. The responsa book Divrei Yetziv contains several answers to halachic questions HaRav Rubinstein posed to the Admor, who even mentions him in his will.

HaRav Rubinstein studied at a kollel in Rechovot for several years. His acquaintances from that period recall how his greatness in Torah helped elevate the other lomdim.

The Admor of Tzanz then sent him to Jerusalem to serve as the rosh kollel of Kollel Tzanz, and later appointed him rov of Beis Medrash Heichal Tzvi in Botei Warsaw, where he remained for the next 22 years. During this period he also published Migdonos Eliyohu and served as rosh kollel for Kollel Shomrei Hachomos.

He received semichoh from gedolei Yisroel and paid visits regularly to HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, the Minchas Yitzchok and, ylct"a, Maran HaRav Eliashiv. Only words of Torah issued from his mouth and he often wrote down his chiddushim. He left behind numerous writings, including hundreds of halachic responsa that recently began to be prepared for publication.

In 5753 (1993) he started to serve as the rov of the Shomrei Hachomos neighborhood in Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo. After the Admor passed away he continued to visit his son, the Admor, particularly on Shavuos, which he never missed.

HaRav Rubinstein also served on the Halacha Committee at the Tzanz Medical Center and was among the leading members of the Tzanz Rabbinical Committee. He would often captivate audiences with his talks during Tzanz gatherings.

Just about one year ago he was named the gavad of Antwerp after receiving the blessings of gedolei Yisroel, including Maran HaRav Eliashiv shlita. In Antwerp he soon won the esteem of all of the various kehillos, which he managed to unite. He also made several important takonos for the city's benefit. All of Antwerp's rabbonim were amazed by his broad knowledge and wisdom.

Several months ago his health began to decline, but he gathered his strength to maintain his full daily schedule of learning and teaching Torah. Even during a stay in the US to receive medical treatment he would converse with his visitors on matters of Torah and halochoh. When chiddushim occurred to him he would often have his sons write them down on the back of the doctors' reports. Despite his poor health his thoughts never strayed from Toras Hashem.

On Shabbos Hagodol he delivered a droshoh in Antwerp during which he mentioned the difficult financial state of the community in the city, asking all of the well-to-do to hire the city's Jews in their businesses. During the last week of his life HaRav Rubinstein gave a shiur to yeshiva students before their return to yeshivas in Eretz Yisroel, engaging them in pilpul on Sefiras HaOmer.

He began to recover his strength but then suffered a relapse. During his last trip to his physician in Antwerp he shared with his escort, HaRav Shabsai Hoffman, a pilpul on the Pesach Sheini sacrifice and his last words on Thursday night, the night of Lag B'omer, were on parshas hashovua. Commenting on Rashi's explanation of "Im bechukosai teileichu"—"shetihiyu ameilim beTorah"—he said it is decreed that man is destined to toil, as is written, "Odom le'omol yulod" (Iyov 5:7). Therefore one must devote all of his toil to Torah study. This was in essence his final will and testament. Remarkably, during the days preceding his petiroh he spoke several times about his desire to be in Eretz Yisroel on Lag B'omer.

Despite the late-night hour, the bitter news traveled quickly throughout Antwerp as rabbonim, dayonim and local residents began to stream toward his home, where they recited Tehillim beside the aron.

At 5:00 am the aron was brought to the large Machzikei Hadas beis medrash where a large gathering had formed and continued to grow from one hour to the next. At the beis medrash words of parting and brief eulogies were delivered by the city's rabbonim: HaRav Moshe Dovid Lieberman, av beis din of Kehal Shomrei Hadas, HaRav Eliyohu Sternbuch, dayan and moreh tzedek of Kehal Machzikei Hadas, HaRav Avrohom Yehoshua Reich, rov of Kehillas Tzanz, HaRav Amrom Honig, dayan and moreh tzedek of Kehal Machzikei Hadas, and HaRav Aharon Schiff, rov of Kehillas Alexander. The deceased's son, HaRav Chaim Leib, also delivered poignant words of parting.

By 7:30 am the levaya had already set out, filling the street with mourners who accompanied the aron to the airport. Meanwhile all the arrangements were made to fly the deceased to Eretz Yisroel as quickly as possible and to receive the aron and the family members in Eretz Yisroel as quickly as possible. At 5:40 p.m. the aron arrived at Beis Medrash Tzeluso De'Avrohom in Ramat Shlomo, where thousands of residents who had benefited from the light he radiated were waiting to pay their final respects.

A short eulogy was delivered by HaRav Zalman Dovid Zuckerman, the rov of Beis Knesses Prushim in Givat Shaul.

Thousands more were waiting at Kikar HaShabbat where a short eulogy was given by HaRav Yitzchok Tuvioh Weiss, the gavad of the Eida Chareidis. From there the procession quickly made its way to Har Hamenuchos, where he was buried in the rabbinical section near the grave of HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth, the late gavad of Antwerp.


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