Led by roshei yeshivos, admorim, dayanim and rabbonim, thousands laid to rest HaRav Mordechai Dovid Kahane, the Admor of Spinka Jerusalem zt"l, who returned his soul to his Maker in his 80th year. With his passing the Holy City lost a lofty figure who led his holy flock, cleaved to Torah and Hashem and shed light for his followers over the course of decades.
The Admor was born on 19 Elul 5691 (1931) in the city of Ungvar, Hungary to the Admor of Spinka, HaRav Yosef Meir zt"l, and the daughter of the Admor of Husakov in Hungary. At the age of nine he traveled to Spinka to study under his grandfather, the Admor of Spinka, HaRav Tzvi Hirsch zt"l. Throughout his lifetime he spoke with longing of his grandfather's beis medrash, where the Imrei Yosef, the Admor of Spinka zt"l, once davened. He would describe the Imrei Yosef's shtender and chair, which were then surrounded by a chain, while his son the author of Chakal Yitzchok zt"l had a set place for tefilloh in a different corner of the beis medrash.
The Imrei Yosef had a single son, Rabi Yitzchok Eisik the author of the Chakal Yitzchok Hy"d, who had fled Spinka during World War I and was later murdered by the Nazis ym"sh. The son-in-law of the Imrei Yosef, HaRav Nachman Kahane zt"l, passed away about a year before his father-in-law. His son, HaRav Tzvi Hirsch Hy"d, merited to help his great grandfather by reading the notes from the thousands who came to the Admor.
HaRav Tzvi Hirsch had two sons, both of whom served as Spinka Admorim: HaRav Nachman Kahane zt"l of Bnei Brak, and HaRav Yosef Meir zt"l of Yerushalayim, who was the father of HaRav Mordechai Dovid zt"l.
When World War II broke out the Hungarian authorities started expelling anyone who was not a Hungarian citizen. His father, who came from Romania, was among those who received an expulsion order. He wanted to move to Eretz Yisroel, but the British did not approve his entry. His grandmother, who was already living in Eretz Yisroel, made extraordinary efforts to obtain entry certificates for the family, but their distribution was controlled mostly by secular activists, who were not eager to see observant Jews come to Israel. Every day she went to the Jewish Agency office to try to secure entry visas. One day she came across a Spinka chossid with the name Kahane who was connected to Chief Rabbi Yitzchok Izaak Halevi Herzog, and he helped her obtain the visas.
Although on the one hand the Hungarians wanted to expel Mordechai Dovid's father, on the other they were unwilling to grant exit visas to his wife and their children, who were Hungarian citizens. Only a year later were the exit visas issued and in 5701 (1941) they arrived in Israel when Mordechai Dovid was ten years old.
In Jerusalem he studied at T.T. Torah Veyiroh under HaRav Yaakov Rotman and later at Yeshivas Toras Emes under HaRav Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky and at Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin in Bnei Brak under HaRav Shmuel Wosner ylct"a, where he learned with his younger brother, HaRav Alter Kahane, the admor of Ziditchov, who passed away three years ago.
After marrying the daughter of HaRav Moshe Menachem Hershtik of Jerusalem he helped his father start Yeshivas Spinka in Jerusalem, which is named after the Imrei Yosef.
For five decades he was part of Otzar Haposkim's staff of talmidei chachomim editing the commentaries by the Rishonim and Acharonim on Shulchan Oruch Even HaEzer. At a young age he was named chief editor by Otzar Haposkim founder HaRav Shmuel Kipnis. Whenever one of the editors or visitors to Otzar Haposkim had a question they knew they could step into the Spinka Rebbe's room for an answer and a citation. Furrowing his brow he would pull a book off the shelf, leaf to the right page and show him an answer to the question.
The staff recalls that HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt"l once paid a visit to Otzar Haposkim, engaging in divrei Torah with him. The Minchas Yitzchok, who visited the talmidim of Otzar Haposkim when he was av beis din of Manchester, was greatly impressed by the young avreich, then the son of the Admor, HaRav Yosef Meir.
In 5738 (1978) the Minchas Yitzchok, HaRav Yitzchok Yaakov Weiss, Gavad of the Eida Chareidis of Jerusalem, appointed him, as the eldest son, to serve as Admor when his father passed away on 9 Shevat of that year. HaRav Weiss said he had a rare combination of genius, constant study of halacha and Chassidic leadership, and HaRav Dushinsky said it was hard to find someone in Jerusalem who has such a mastery of Even HaEzer.
For over 30 years he led his followers, based on the customs of Spinka and Ziditchov handed down to him from his forefathers who were his rabbonim. He had a custom of always opening the divrei Torah at his table with teachings from his grandfather, the Imrei Yosef.
He lived in simple and modest conditions, raising 12 children in a one-room apartment, where he also spent time learning.
A portion of his chiddushim were published by his sons in Birkos Avi. As a Kohen of a carefully traced lineage, he redeemed some 500 firstborn sons, including Jews from the former Soviet Union. Because of his ties to Belz, he redeemed the grandson of the Admor of Belz.
Two years ago he became ill, but continued to guide the editorial staff at Otzar Haposkim. The leading editors often came to his home to consult him. This week he was hospitalized for pneumonia and passed away early Tuesday morning 24 Tammuz.
The levaya set out from his beis medrash on Rechov Salant in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, making its way to the Spinka section on the heights of Har Hazeisim. Among the maspidim were the ylct"a Gavad of Yerushalayim, who is also a brother-in-law, as well as his brother, sons and sons-in-law.
HaRav Mordechai Dovid Kahane zt"l is survived by seven sons, four sons-in-law, four brothers and three brothers-in-law, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.