The skeletal remains of HaRav Yehoshua Heschel Levine
zt"l, the well-known author of Aliyos Eliyohu,
were flown to Eretz Hakodesh on Wednesday after being
disinterred from a French cemetery and placed in a box that
was stored for eight years because the burial fee had not
been paid, as per French law. Following a prolonged campaign
with the French authorities and a search for relatives to
sign various forms, this week the bones were brought to
Israel, where they were buried in the rabbinical section of
Har Hazeisim in Jerusalem, 124 years after his passing.
Born in 5578 (1818), Yehoshua Heschel Levine was one of the
grandchildren of HaRav Aryeh Leib Epstein, author of Sefer
Hapardes, and among the gedolim of his generation.
At a young age he gained recognition as a diligent, dedicated
student and a great prodigy. He was chosen to marry the
daughter of HaRav Eliyohu Zalman, the son of R' Yitzchok of
Volozhin, who was the son of R' Chaim of Volozhin, and later
was appointed one of the roshei yeshiva of Yeshivas
Volozhin. He soon became widely known as a genius, a
lamdan, a masmid and a tzaddik, and won
the respect of gedolei Yisroel, especially the Beis
Halevi of Brisk.
His book Aliyos Eliyohu, was the first work written
about the Vilna Gaon ztvk"l, and serves as a vital
source for the Gaon's biographical details and customs.
His other works are Hagahos Al Medrash Rabboh,
Pleitas Sofrim and Tzion Yehoshua. He was also
provided with the writings of his father-in-law, R' Chaim of
Volozhin, and published Ruach Chaim on Pirkei Avos,
with his own commentary, Ma'ayanei Yehoshua, and an
essay called "Mitzpeh Yehoshua."
The founder of the Mussar Movement, R' Yisroel Salanter, who
moved to Paris in 5640 (1880) to strengthen religious
practice and institutions in the city, appointed HaRav Levine
as his replacement when he came to the city to consult with
physicians and R' Yisroel returned to his city.
When R' Yisroel Salanter passed away in 5643 (1883) HaRav
Yehoshua Heschel arranged a large eulogy for him in Paris.
HaRav Yehoshua Heschel's personality made a great impression
on Paris and he embarked on his holy task of returning
Yiddishkeit to its original shining glory. A short time
later, in 5644 (1884), he passed away at the height of his
efforts to promote Torah and elevate the Name of Heaven, and
was buried at Mon Parnas Cemetery in Paris.
Based on French law, since the family did not pay the hefty
fee required to renew the burial license every 50 years, the
remains were disinterred and placed in a box stored in the
building adjacent to the Perlshaz Cemetery, which also
contains the Jewish section where HaRav Dovid Zintzheim lies
Eventually a young Jewish man discovered what had happened
and notified HaRav Yirmiyohu HaKohen, the av beis din
of Paris, and after making the situation known relatives were
located to sign the documents needed to bring the remains to
After lengthy dealings with French bureaucracy, the remains
were released and a procession was held in central Paris
before the bones were flown to Eretz Yisroel. The
levaya, held on Rechov Padwa, began with a series of
eulogies by HaRav Yirmiyohu HaKohen, along with several
roshei yeshivos and prominent rabbonim. The remains
were then brought from the Shamgar Beis Halvayos in
Jerusalem, to the Mount of Olives Cemetery and buried in the
section reserved for the gedolei olom who were
disciples of HaRav Yehoshua Leib Diskin zt"l.