Rav Moshe Halberstam, First to Renew Semikha, Dies at 74
Rabbi Moshe Halberstam, senior Badatz Hareidi-Religious Court judge, died Tuesday at Jerusalem's Bikur Cholim Hospital after suffering a major heart attack.
By Ezra HaLevi
First Publish: 4/27/2006, 3:11 PM / Last Update: 4/27/2006, 5:16 PM
An ambulance rushed Rabbi Halberstam to the hospital’s Cardiology Division at around 10 AM where doctors fought for his life for more than two hours. The 74-year-old rabbi died at 12:25 PM.
Rabbi Halberstam served at the President of Hatzala Israel, a volunteer group providing first-aid and ambulance services. Head of the Galicia Kollel in Jerusalem, the deceased rabbi was the great-grandson of the Tzanzer Rebbe.
The rabbi was widely accepted in non-hareidi circles as well. He participated in the project to reestablish the Sanhedrin by becoming the first person to receive semikha (Biblical ordination as passed down from Moses). He was found to be “fitting to serve on the Sanhedrin" by both Sephardic Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef and Ashkenazi Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv and no objectors came forward to oppose his receiving the ordination. Halberstam then ordained Rabbi Dov Levanoni who, in turn, ordained the rest of the rabbis involved in the nascent Sanhedrin.
Rabbi Dov Shtein, the secretary for the Sanhedrin project, spoke with Arutz-7 Thursday about the late rabbi. "Without Rabbi Halberstam's efforts toward renewing semikha, it would not have happened the way it did," he said. "By agreeing to be the first to be ordained, he took a serious risk of being rejected and condemned by his community for taking part in such a project. His ordination set the ball rolling for the foundation of a Jewish legal body that seeks to eventually supercede the Badatz [hareidi rabbinical court system]. But despite the serious pressures put on him following his agreement and granting of semikha to others, he never went back on it or even tempered his agreement with the act of renewing semikha."
Recalling the rabbi himself, from time spent with him, Rabbi Shtein said, "He was a lover of Israel, a soft person, always willing to listen, a man steeped in the secrets of the kabbalah."
Rabbi David Greunwald, Chairman of Hatzala Israel, met with Rabbi Halberstam regularly and told Ladaat.net of his last meeting with the rabbi, shortly before his death:
“[Wednesday] morning I was at his home and he felt fine. A few hours later they alerted me to come back to his home. The rabbi was conscious and spoke with us. We soon realized that his situation was deteriorating and escorted him to the hospital. We appealed in prayer to the Creator of the World and deployed the best doctors, but to our great sorrow, the worst happened. It is unbelievable that Rav Moshe is no longer with us.”
The funeral procession began in Jerusalem’s Meah Shearim neighborhood and was attended by tens of thousands of mourners.