Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Adar 5766 - March 15, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











HaRav Refoel Yaakov Yisrael zt"l

By S. Bruchi

HaRav Refoel Yaakov Yisrael zt"l, a prominent rov and a founder of the Torah world in France, passed away in Sarcelle at the age of 68 following an illness.

Refoel Yaakov Yisrael was born in 5697 (1937) in Fez, Morocco, and at the age of 15 he traveled to Sunderland, England to study Torah at Yeshivas Netzach Yisrael under HaRav Shamai Zahn, HaRav Chaim Shmuel Lopian and ylc"ta HaRav Binyomin Zeev Kaufman. For several years he remained at their sides, intent on his Torah studies day and night.

In an approbation for HaRav Yisrael's book, his rebbe, HaRav Lopian, referred to him as one of the top talmidim and said he excelled in all of the 48 ways through which Torah is acquired. In an approbation for his book on maseches Shabbos, HaRav Yitzchok Yaakov Weiss, who granted him semichoh, wrote that he had been among the outstanding avreichim at the kollel in Sunderland and, "through toil in Torah, had the merit to acquire extensive knowledge in Shas and poskim."

After marrying he was appointed rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Mesillas Yeshorim in Guggenheim, France, where he illuminated sugyos for his talmidim with exceptional clarity and served as a role model that left a strong imprint on them for the rest of their lives.

In 5735 he was asked to go to Sarcelle to breathe life into the local Jewish community, which was relatively large but where only a small number of families kept Torah and mitzvas. Cholov Yisrael was unavailable. He arrived in Sarcelle with a kollel and gradually the community began to develop into a mokom Torah.

Today the city has 2,000 observant families that followed his horo'oh in all matters of halochoh and hashkofoh. He became a magnet, drawing hundreds of people who formed bonds of love and respect and looked to him in times of joy and sorrow alike. Today the town boasts four Jewish schools with hundreds of students enrolled.

In recent years he published Menuchas Aharon, a 17- volume work on the entire Shas with approbations by HaRav Shach, HaRav Y.Y. Weiss and roshei yeshivos. All of the roshei yeshivos who visited the town during fundraising trips stayed at his home. When HaRav Simchah Wassermann zt'l was their guest, HaRav Yisrael gave him a copy of his book on maseches Shabbos. The next morning Rebbetzin Wassermann told Rebbetzin Yisrael her husband had not slept a wink all night. "Why didn't you tell us? We would have called a doctor," said her hostess.

"Chas vesholom! He felt fine, but he was studying from your husband's book and couldn't put it down."

Fifteen years ago he became very ill and his health declined. Later he could no longer eat. He never complained about his suffering except to express his sorrow over being unable to keep the mitzvas of matzoh and morror.

Numerous people streamed to his home seeking advice and using his eloquence he managed to bring baalei batim closer to Torah and ahavas Torah, even on his final day in This World.

HaRav Yisrael's conduct sanctified the Name of Heaven. French leaders respected him as well. They would seek his advice in various matters, noting his sagacity and the siyata deShmaya he merited.

A levaya was held last Thursday 2 Adar in Sarcelle and a plane was chartered to bring the mittoh and hundreds of kehilloh members to Eretz Yisrael, where he was buried Friday morning on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

HaRav Refoel Yaakov Yisrael zt"l is survived by his wife, who stood devotedly at his side for decades, sons and daughters, grandchildren and hundreds of talmidim carrying on his spiritual tradition and mourning the loss of their esteemed rebbe and teacher.


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