Wednesday, April 8, 2015

HaRav Shmuel haLevi Wosner Zatzal - a brief eulogy

Guest post by Eddie

We are told that Moshe Rabbeinu was the most humble person that lived. This is the same Moshe Rabbeinu who was the greatest Navi, who received the Torah on Har Sinai, and spoke to Hashem “Face to Face” as the Torah describes in the language of men. The quality of Anava, humility should not be confused with lack of greatness.

HaRav Wosner perhaps was one of the greatest poskim, Gedolei Torah, from the previous generation, and yet avoided publicity, newspapers etc, and was not well known in the secular press or the political echelons of Israel. He showed true humility, and all the time had great Torah knowledge and engaged in complex piskei halacha. [The equation of Anava with avoidance of politics does not imply that other gedolim who are more involved in “politics” lack Anava].

Rav Wosner was born over a century ago in Vienna, and studied in yeshivot before moving to Eretz Yisroel before the war. On the advice of gedolim in Israel, including the Chazon Ish, R' Isser Zalman Meltzer and Rav Herzog, he set up Yeshiva Chochmei Lublin – named after the Yeshiva he studied at in Lublin. He was a member of the Eda haCharedit, but was a leader for all sectors of Klal Yisrael, and was respected across the frum spectrum.

Some people are fortunate to know Gedolei Torah personally, but not everyone has this zchus. However, sometimes there are other routes to appreciating Torah leaders, for example in seeing the weight of their Haskomos on sefarim, or their piskei halacha. This was how I came to know of R' Wosner z'tl. His Beit Din Tzedek was – as far as I am aware – one of the most reliable and respected Batei Din. A story is told where a dispute between a Chatan and Kallah was brought to this BD. The Kallah asked R' Wosner for a blessing, whereupon he turned around and asked her to bless him!

Yeshayahu Hanavi (ch.65) speaks of the day when there will be no more weeping heard in Jerusalem, and that even ordinary men will live to 100 years. Although those days have not yet come, we see that Gedolei Torah are more frequently living to more than 100 years. Sadly we have to weep for the loss of great men, and also for the tragedy that occurred at that Levaya. May the Torah and the memory of the righteous guide us and all of Israel.


  1. Beautiful post. Thank you, Eddie!

  2. LeHasir Michshol -- Lo Sa'amod Al Dam Rei'Echa!

    What are the details and circumstances surrounding the tragic deaths of two frum people at Rav Wozner's levaya?

    How did such a catastrophe come to be at the levaya of such a notable rabbi?

    Who is to blame and is there a commission of inquiry to prevent people from people trampled to death at the funerals of great Rabbonim?

    Have those who mercilessly and callously trampled two fellow Jews to death been apprehended and will they be punished for their shocking acts of manslaughter? Do people realzie what has happened here and what a terrible stain on Klal Yisrael and a terrible kitrug against the great Niftar??

    It is time to change the way masses of people are called out or just hang out and converge if the result is going to be the same as if it was just another English or German "soccer riot" or an Indian helter-skelter "riot" in the marketplace.

    Have any Rabbanim or Charedi organizations started indicated or said anything that could such uncalled for tragedies from happening again?

  3. While you are correct that changes need to be made in terms of handling large crowds, nobody should be charged with manslaughter. What happened was that when they brought the bier out of the building, people on the steps fell, and the crush of people from the top of the stairs made it impossible for those around them to stop their "forward progress," and several were trampled.
    And yes, several Chassidic Rabbis have changed the way they manage their public appearances in light of what occurred.

  4. Those nearest to the most injured people might have been pushed forward against their will by many others behind them, in which case those nearest might not have been at fault.

  5. Allow me to tell a story about the Rov zt"l. I once spoke to Reb Moshe about a very difficult shaalo, allowing people in terminal pain to die without medical stimulus to continue suffering and living. Some rabbis disagreed with this, but I found two open gemoras that supported Reb Moshe. "One bitten by a poisonous creature will surely die. But we sustain his life until he can say good-by to his family and settle his estate." I told this to Rav Wodner zt"l and he said, "Poshut azoy." It is obviously and simply true." Why did he not just say that he agreed, which what I anticipated? Because he felt that Reb Moshe was gadol hador and it would be wrong to "agree" with him as if Reb Moshe needed agreement! Talking to gedolim gave me insights about their saintliness that no book or lecture could have given.

    Later on, I was in Israel, and made an appointment with the great posek who constantly argued with Reb Moshe, on Shabbos, Tsits Eliezar. I was eating the Shabbos meal at the home of a Gadol and was afraid I might be delayed there and miss my apppointment which was early Shabbos afternoon. I asked the grandson of the Tsits Eliezar to come to where I was eating and get me. He did that, but that was the day of the Belzer Bar Mitsvah and the son-in-law of this Rov I ate by had a son-in-law a Belzer. He returned so late that it was ridiculous for me to go. But the grandson forced me to go with him and I did. Finally, we got to the house and the grandson knocked on the door. Nobody answered. Look, I said, let me leave. He is probably sleeping. The grandson climbed in a window and opened the door. The Rov had fallen asleep on a table near the door waiting for me. I was so embarrassed that I blurted out, "If somebody did this to me, I would call the police." The Rov insisted that he really wanted to see me, although he didn't know me at all, and we got to work. I told him my proof that he was wrong and Reb Moshe was right. He said to me, "Write it up and send it to me." He wrote man books with his teshuvose and wanted this to be in there, showing that he was wrong! I was stunned at the good character this displayed. Yes, that is a gadol. Today, well, anyway.

  6. The issue of safety at large public events is both a secular one and a religious one, ie the Torah governs not only the sacred, but also secular matters, eg a Maakeh - parapet on the roof of a house. The Mishnah is full of examples of public safety, eg pollution from a tannery.

    I remember a tour of the Old City in Jerusalem, where the steps leading up to the Beit Hamikdash were designed so as to prevent the kind of disaster where people run down the steps and crush those below. In other words, the kadosh architecture of the Beit HaMikdash was considerate of public safety, and we should learn lessons from it.


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