Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a renowned scholar of the Talmud and one of the most respected religious figures in Israel, died March 18 at 94. The country’s leaders paid tribute to the rabbi and hundreds of thousands attended his funeral.
Spiritual leader in Israel of the Litvak branch of Haredi Judaism since 2017, the rabbi, revered as one of the greatest scholars of this generation, is said to have spent 17 hours each day studying the Torah. He could recite entire passages of the Torah from memory.
Thousands of people each week sought his blessing, guidance and personal advice by mail or by visiting him in his tiny apartment in the crowded ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, a suburb of Tel Aviv.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called the rabbi’s death “a great loss to the Jewish people.”
His "love of the Torah, his modesty, humility and spiritual leadership will be missed," said President Isaac Herzog.
“Beyond his greatness when it came to religious law, Rabbi Kanievsky was a man with deep life wisdom,” said Defense Minister Benny Gantz. “He cared for the Torah, and he cared for humankind.”
“He was a giant who will be missed not only by those who saw him as their leader but by all of Israel," said Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called Kanievsky “an important and meaningful leader in the lives of many Jewish people.”
And Benjamin Netanyahu called him, “a tremendous, wise scholar, who was a central link in the chain of passing down the Torah from generation to generation.”
Kanievsky was born January 8, 1928, in Pinsk, a city that was then part of the Second Polish Republic, located now in Belarus. In 1934, his father, a renowned Torah scholar and spiritual leader, moved the family to British-controlled Palestine. They settled in Bnei Brak, where the rabbi began his religious studies when he was a boy. He lived there the rest of his life.
During Israel's 1948 War of independence, Kanievsky served in the army as a guard.
Kanievsky’s family had strong rabbinical roots: His father, Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, was also a rabbi, and his mother, Miriam Karelitz, was the sister of Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz.
The municipality estimates that even before the opening of the funeral procession March 10, some 750,000 people had filled the streets of Bnei Brak. And as many as 1 million came to pay their respects to the religious leader, making his the largest Israeli funeral in history.
Rabbi Kanievsky published dozens of books on Jewish law. Admired for his ability to find 21st-century interpretations for seemingly antiquated edicts, he was widely seen as a modern-day prophet capable of working miracles.
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