A deep mourning descended upon the world of Torah and Halacha with the passing of HaRav Yaakov Yeshaya Blau, rav of the Pagi-Sanhedria neighborhood in Jerusalem and one of the giants of Torah and Halacha, author of many seforim, including a series bearing the title "Pischei Choshen." He was also a member of the Beis Din of the Eida Chareidis. He died at the age of 83 and the loss will be deeply felt by large segments of Jewry who seek Torah and Halacha, and by his disciples and admirers.
HaRav Blau was born on the 11th of Elul, 5689 to his HaRav Boruch Yehuda Blau, one of the foremost Yerushalmi `guardians of the faith' who followed in the footsteps of his father, HaRav Moshe Blau, a leader and captain of the Agudath Israel movement - and to his mother, the righteous Yocheved Fruma, also a descendant of an illustrious family.
At the age of one, after his mother passed away, he went to live with his famous grandfather, who raised and educated him, establishing the firm foundations of Yiddishkeit grounded in love for Torah, toil in Torah and a deep affinity to truth through pure yiras shomayim. He also taught him how to deal with the public and the individual.
In his youth, HaRav Blau studied in the Eitz Chaim and the Torah veYirah chadorim, continuing on to Yeshiva Mir. He was a favored student of the Rosh Yeshiva, HaRav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, who valued his straightforward grasp of Torah and his rare application in delving to the depths of Torah secrets, studying diligently day and night. Thanks to his blessed talents, he was able to plumb the innermost chambers of Torah in a marvelous manner. When the Rosh Yeshiva realized that he was a veritable `lime pit that didn't lose a drop,' he opened before him the wellsprings of his wisdom in the various subjects of the Torah and expressed vast pleasure in parrying with him in pilpul.
He married Tila, daughter of the wealthy Yaakov Yehoshua Roth, who was the right hand of the Pressburg Gavad and founder of an illustrious yeshiva. After his marriage, he continued to dedicate himself to Torah, studying in Yeshivas Ohel Moshe together with the cream of Jerusalem scholars, young and old. As a cohesive group, they succeeded in covering all of Shas and the four parts of the Shulchan Oruch several times in depth.
During this period, he became a preferred student of HaRav Dovid Jungreis, the Ravad of the Eida Chareidis, and also of the Tomashover Gavad. They shared with him their vast knowledge and helped him acquire a solid grounding in intensive study of the four parts of the Shulchan Oruch. They eventually conferred smicha ordination upon him. With the passing of the rav of the Pagi neighborhood, HaRav Binyamin Zev Yaakobsohn in 5732, he was appointed in his stead, for as he had testified in his lifetime, Rav Blau had been his loyal right hand in halachic rulings and in leading the community, preserving its pure spiritual character, with a firm hand, while dealing with the individual with equal dedication. He served his community devotedly for over forty years, being actively involved in strengthening whatever needed reinforcement vis a vis religious matters. He continued a regimen of Torah study and also delivered shiurim in Halacha and Aggada, while implanting pure values in his listeners. He answered halachic questions for the residents of the community, as well as for those beyond it in every area, in matters of weightier or lesser importance.
As leader of the community, he was also involved in establishing charity and welfare organizations for the benefit of poor Torah scholars, needy brides and ongoing support for widows and orphans and hard-luck cases. He similarly devoted many, many hours in marital guidance for troubled couples.
For many dozen years, he also served on the Kashrus committee of the Eida Chareidis, which took him to distant corners of the earth to inquire into the sources of raw materials and various ingredients, and also visiting many food plants and industries throughout Israel and upgrading kashrus to a high level until he became the leading kashrus authority for the Eida Chareidis.
After the passing of the Minchas Yitzchok in 5749, he was appointed dayan in the Eida Chareidis Beis Din and from then on his fame rose as an expert in wisely guiding the course of halachic hearings and getting to the crux of matters with perception. He also advised countless individuals who sought his insights and guidance. He was very decisive and clear, especially in the complex matters of usury and even more so in the intricacies of kashrus, through the extensive experience gained from his travels which was applied to many food industries.
He published many seforim in a broad array of areas. Among them are Pischei Choshen on Choshen Mishpat and Even Hoezer, Melo Ho'Omer on the laws of Challah, Chovas Hador on mezuzah, Bris Yehuda on the laws of ribbis, Malbushei Yesha on the laws of Shatnez, Nesivos HaShabbos on eruvin, Pischei Mikvo'os on mikvas, Chanoch Lana'ar on chinuch, Birchas Yaakov on brochos, Tzedokoh Umishpot on the laws of shuls and of ma'asros. His seforim are considered among the basic works in the areas they cover, in particular Pischei Choshen and Bris Yehuda.
The levaya left from the Pagi neighborhood that he served for so many years and continued to Zupnick. The rabbonim of Pagi said hespedim and also many of the rabbonim of the Eida Chareidis. His son HaRav Chaim Yosef Blau, a motz for the Eida Chareidis, was announced as the successor to his father. He was buried on Har Hamenuchos.