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13 Marcheshvan 5772 - November 10, 2011 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt"l

By Yechiel Sever

The Torah and yeshiva world was cloaked in mourning Tuesday following the sudden histalkus of HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt"l, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir and a member of Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, who expended every ounce of energy he had to teach Torah until passing away unexpectedly Tuesday morning at the age of 69.

"Everyone has an obligation to take part in the levaya since the Rosh Yeshiva ztvk"l showed mesirus nefesh for Torah," HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv shlita remarked upon his demise. "His petiroh is a great loss for Klal Yisroel. He led the holy yeshiva with an upraised hand and served as an exemplar of mesirus nefesh for the Torah."

Nosson Tzvi Finkel was born on 5 Adar II 5703 (1943) in Chicago to Rabbi Eliyohu Meir Finkel, the son of HaRav Avrohom Shmuel Finkel, the mashgiach of Yeshivas Chevron in Jerusalem. He was named after his great-grandfather, the Alter of Slobodka.

As a boy he studied at local Jewish schools in Chicago and at a young age he was summoned by his grandfather, Rosh Yeshivas Mir HaRav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel zt"l, to come to Eretz Yisroel and study at his yeshiva. His grandfather promised his parents that he would grow up to become a great marbitz Torah. The Rosh Yeshiva made every effort to nurture the young man's growth in Torah, arranging chavrusas for him with top avreichim, including HaRav Chaim Kamil and HaRav Yehoshua Korlansky shlita. He insisted the young man present a chaburoh before him every week and share his chidushei Torah. Nosson Tzvi also received constant encouragement from the other roshei yeshiva, HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, HaRav Chaim Zeev Finkel, his father-in-law-to-be HaRav Binyomin Beinish Finkel and HaRav Nachum Partzovitz.

For the rest of his life he recalled this period at the yeshiva with fondness, saying during his first zman enrolled there he went through Bovo Kammo (through the x chapter) twice which each of his three chavrusas and another seven times on his own.

In 5724 (1964) HaRav Eliezer Yehuda sought the young man as a mate for his granddaughter, Rasha Leah, the daughter of HaRav Binyomin Beinish Finkel (who was also his father's cousin) who was married to the daughter of HaRav Shmuel Greineman, the brother-in-law of the Chazon Ish.

In the early 5730s (1970s) he started giving shiurim to review the material presented by HaRav Nachum Partzovitz, teaching three separate groups of students every day.

In 5750 (1990), following his father-in-law's petiroh, HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel was named to replace him as rosh yeshiva and began giving the shiur kloli. He bore both the spiritual and physical needs of the yeshiva on his shoulders, taking heed of every problem that arose among his students, showing a sense of responsibility that became apparent during the Gulf War, when he would rush to the yeshiva every time the warning sirens sounded.

Under no circumstances did he ever miss Tefillas Shacharis at the yeshiva. One winter morning he trudged to the yeshiva following heavy snowfall. When asked why he made such an effort to come he replied with his typical humility: "When it snows all of the bochurim are happy, and how can I not come and see them happy?"

Despite the hardships caused by the disease he suffered from (Parkinson's), HaRav Finkel expanded the yeshiva to enormous proportions, making it the world's largest Torah center with some 6,000 students, according to some estimates. According to a worker in the kitchen, the yeshiva served about 5,000 meals a day. He built beis medrash after beis medrash, serving a broad range of students including Americans who come for a few years to absorb the Torah of Eretz Yisroel, native Israeli yeshiva students and traditional Yerushalmim.

His mesirus nefesh for the talmidim knew no bounds. Twenty years ago a student at the yeshiva was rushed to Mt. Scopus Medical Center, but passed away upon arrival. The Rosh Yeshiva took the trouble to travel to the yeshiva to watch over the body. The police were demanding an autopsy, but HaRav Finkel stood his ground. The director of Boruch Rofei Cholim arrived to relieve him, but HaRav Finkel wouldn't leave.

At the cornerstone laying ceremony for Yeshivas Mir-Brachfeld in Modi'in Illit, he shed many tears praying for siyata deShmaya and that he had the zchus to be able to start a yeshiva left him too choked-up with happiness to speak.

To raise funds for the aging yeshiva facilities he traveled far and wide, despite his poor health. Before one excursion HaRav Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman shlita asked if he had the strength to travel. No, he said, but he could travel even without strength.

Integrity and honesty were deeply ingrained in him. Once he was asked to sign a document that all of the other yeshiva heads had signed to make them eligible for large amounts of funding. But he would not sign, saying it did not accurately reflect the actual circumstances. When told that everyone else had signed it, he retorted, "Perhaps that's how you build a yeshiva, but it's not the way to build Torah. Torah is built only through absolute truth."

Just one day before he passed away he followed his usual schedule of giving shiurim and chaburos,d> and even traveled to Bnei Brak to pay his condolences to the family of HaRav Yosef Aryeh Halperin and to take part in the levaya for HaRav Dov Schwartzman zt"l. He also consulted with HaRav Chaim Kanievsky shlita about the yeshiva finances. Upon his return to Jerusalem he gave shiurim in both Yiddish and English.

At 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, paramedics were summoned after he went into cardiac arrest. Thousands of students who were awoken by the disturbance began reciting Tehillim for his recovery, but at 7:00 a.m. he was pronounced dead.

When the paroches was removed from the aron kodesh after Shacharis talmidim burst into tears upon realizing that their beloved rosh yeshiva was gone. The streets surrounding the yeshiva turned black as thousands upon thousands began to arrive.

The levaya set out at noon from Jerusalem's Beit Yisroel neighborhood, led by HaRav Eliashiv, HaRav Shteinman, HaRav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, HaRav Shmuel Auerbach, HaRav Meir Tzvi Bergman and his uncle, HaRav Chaim Greineman. According to police estimates quoted in the press, about 100,000 people participated in the levaya. By all accounts it was one of the largest levayas Jerusalem has seen for a long time.

Hespeidim were given by HaRav Shteinman, who named the deceased's son, HaRav Eliezer Yehuda, as his successor; HaRav Aryeh Finkel, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir-Brachfeld; HaRav Refoel Shmuelevitz, one of the roshei yeshiva; his brother HaRav Gedaliah Finkel, a ram at the yeshiva; his eldest son HaRav Eliezer Yehuda; his son HaRav Avrohom Shmuel, a ram at the yeshiva; and his son-in-law HaRav Noam Alon, one of the roshei yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir-Brachfeld.

The levaya then proceeded on foot to Har Hamenuchot Cemetery. After the grave was covered, words of parting were offered by HaRav Yitzchok Ezrachi, one of the roshei yeshiva, his brother-in-law HaRav Nachman Leibowitz, also one of the roshei yeshiva, and another brother-in-law, HaRav Binyomin Carlebach.

The Rosh Yeshiva HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt"l is survived by his wife, Rochel Leah; his sons, HaRav Eliezer Yehuda, HaRav Avrohom Shmuel, HaRav Yeshayohu, HaRav Yitzchok, HaRav Shmaryohu Yosef and HaRav Chaim Yehoshua Tanchum; his sons-in-law, HaRav Noam Alon, HaRav Chaim Salomon, HaRav Yosef Shlomo Shirkin, HaRav Yoel Birnbaum, HaRav Aharon Kessler and HaRav Shimshon Bloch; and grandchildren following the lofty path he set for his family and innumerable talmidim.


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