Over a hundred thousand people took part on Tuesday in the funeral of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, head of the famed Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, the largest yeshiva in Israel and second largest in the world.
The revered Rosh Yeshiva was a member of the Torah Council of Sages of Degel HaTorah.
Rabbi Finkel passed away early Tuesday morning at the age of 68, after apparently having suffered a heart attack. During his period as Rosh Yeshiva, the yeshiva expanded greatly and even opened branches in other areas of Israel.
Some of his students, who came to walk on foot behind the coffin of their beloved rabbi, told Arutz Sheva about Rabbi Finkel, his amazing personality and the profound effect he had on them.
“He was like a father to me,” one student said. “[I was] one of his 20,000 other sons. I learned with him, I ate by him, he helped me get married. He was everything to me. It’s a loss for all of Israel.”
“Anyone who wanted help, he was there for to listen,” he added. “All hours of the day, whenever you needed him. He catered to everyone. If you were Jewish and wanted to learn Torah, the Mir welcomed you with open arms.”
“He made all of his students feel like they were part of his family,” said another student. “We felt a deep connection to him. There was no one like him. You felt the love coming from him, the love for the Torah, for the students and to the entire nation of Israel. We saw from him what it meant to be self-sacrificing for the Torah.”
Rabbi Finkel, who made aliyah from Chicago, had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease for over 15 years. Despite the disease and the extreme pain he suffered, he never stopped teaching and did it wholeheartedly the entire time, the students said.
“He was warm, he cared about everyone, he came to every simcha,” said Rabbi Avraham Goldstein, co-head of the Diaspora Yeshiva in Jerusalem. “His word was valued. People valued him as a serious person.”
Stores and businesses in religious neighborhoods were closed during the hours of the funeral, which began with eulogies at The Mir in the Beit Yisrael section of Jerusalem that adjoins Meah Shearim, and continued slowly, followed by tens of thousands, including the aged Rav Yossef Shalom Elyashiv, who came to pay their respects to a Gadol Hador [expression meaning "great Torah figure of this generation", ed.]