Thousands of Bnei Brak residents, including maranan verabonon shlita and bnei Torah, among them many avreichim from Kollel Chazon Ish, were on hand on the third day of Chol Hamoed Pesach to lay to rest HaRav Yehuda Shapira zt"l, one of the heads of Kollel Chazon Ish and one of the rabbonim and influential figures at Beis Medrash Lederman, as well as a prominent talmid chochom and marbitz Torah who passed away at the age of 88 on Shabbos Chol Hamoed, 17 Nisan.
Born in the Old City of Jerusalem, Yehuda Shapira studied at Yeshivas Eitz Chaim under HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer zt"l, eagerly taking in the Rosh Yeshiva's every word. Later HaRav Meltzer entrusted him with the task of editing the seforim he wrote.
At the age of just 17 he married, continuing his studies in extremely meager conditions. One year he was unable to afford either meat or fish for Rosh Hashanah. Returning home after the tefilloh he saw a pigeon had landed in his apartment and was sitting on the windowsill. He caught the pigeon and took it to a shochet, using the meat for his family seudos.
When Yeshivas Mir was started by HaRav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel zt"l, HaRav Shapira was among the first to join the group of top students. When his mother passed away at a young age, HaRav Eliezer Yehuda came to console the mourning family, saying, "You have nothing to cry about. Look what a son she left behind."
He eventually became a talmid muvhok of the Chazon Ish and, following his petiroh, HaRav Shapira was asked to move to Bnei Brak to head a group of outstanding avreichim that became Kollel Chazon Ish. For decades he continued learning at Kollel Chazon Ish, where he was known as one of the heads of the kollel.
HaRav Shapira was also well known for his close ties to HaRav Shach zt"l, who instructed him to handle various matters for the sake of the klal, trusting his judgment. When Degel HaTorah was founded HaRav Shapira became one of the leading supporters of the party, and even delivered impassioned speeches at the kollel regarding its importance.
During the past year his health became very frail. He was devotedly cared for at home until returning his refined soul to his Maker on Shabbos Chol Hamoed.
The levaya set out from Kollel Chazon Ish, the place where he learned and taught Torah for over fifty years. Among the gedolei Yisroel taking part were HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, HaRav Shmuel Halevi Wosner, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, HaRav Nissim Karelitz, HaRav Shmuel Auerbach, HaRav Gershon Edelstein and HaRav Meir Tzvi Bergman shlita.
Eulogies were delivered by HaRav Karelitz, HaRav Lefkowitz, HaRav Auerbach and two of the deceased's sons. His oldest son, HaRav Yechiel Tzvi, rosh kollel of Kollel Tal Torah in Jerusalem, said his father declined to accept any formal position. "He just wanted to sit and learn Torah leshmoh, and so he didn't publish any books during his lifetime, because he didn't want acclaim. When HaRav Aharon Kotler zt"l passed away there was pressure on [him] to take over as the head of Yeshivas Eitz Chaim, but he didn't want to. He just wanted to sit and learn Torah leshmoh."
He went on to recall his father's great fondness for the mitzvah of Arba Minim. "All of Succos Night he would stay up in anticipation, waiting to fulfill the mitzvah. From Rosh Chodesh until Succos many would come to his home to ask about Arba Minim and he would answer all of them patiently, from netz hachamoh until midnight."
HaRav Shapira's son R' Chaim Yisroel recalled how much his father labored in Torah, even toward the end of his lifetime when he would learn with his grandchildren during bein hazmanim. "A group of grandchildren would learn with him from morning until 11:00 am, and another group from 11:00 until 2:00 in the afternoon. And then the morning group would come back from 4:00 until midnight. He would go through tens of blat of gemora every day and that's how he labored in Torah, which was his lifetime joy." He also noted his father's great efforts for all yeshivaleit and everyone else who came to him, and how he received everyone warmly.
After the hespeidim, the levaya proceeded to the Zichron Meir Cemetery, where he was buried near the gravesite of the Chazon Ish zt"l.
HaRav Yehuda Shapira zt"l is survived by his loyal Rebbetzin, three sons, seven daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all carrying on the spiritual legacy he passed on to them during his lifetime, and by thousands of talmidim lamenting the loss of their esteemed teacher and rebbe.