Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, Rav Yona Metzger, spoke to Arutz Sheva earlier this year about Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, considered the leader of the Ashekanzic Orthodox community worldwide and of the Lithuanian hareidi yeshiva community in particular, after he had been hospitalized.
“Rabbi Elyashiv is one of the most outstanding figures I have ever met, above all the rabbis all over the world, and I’ve met hundreds of rabbis,” said Rabbi Metzger. “He knew the entire Torah by heart, familiar with all the tagim [symbols and letters, said about Rabbi Akiva] in every holy book in existence.”
“He studied Torah ceaselessly; his system was to learn alone and always with a melody,” added Rabbi Metzger. “I once came to visit him on Purim. He was staying with his daughter in a home with only two rooms. One room was the living room and one room was the bedroom. He sat inside the bedroom and he continued to learn Torah, while in the other room all the children, the grandchildren and many guests came to take part in the Purim party.”
Rabbi Metzger spoke of the close friendship between Rabbi Elyashiv and Rabbi Kook, iconic leader of religious Zionism, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel.
“He told me several times, ‘For me it makes no difference at which Beit Midrash you learned. For me, I need to know if this person is a bright student, G-d fearing, a righteous person,’” said Rabbi Metzger. “He didn’t involve politics at all. He was a man of great integrity.”
He described Rabbi Elyashiv as “one of a kind.”
“He’s a modest man, a quiet man,” said Rabbi Metzger. “There are only two rooms in his house. So many people wanted to support him and give him a new house and he said that to him that is meaningless. Give him a holy book,this was his entire world. He lived in the same house for close to 100 years. He didn’t change anything. The walls were filled with Torah-related books.”
“He lived a very simple life,” he added. “All he needed was a cup of tea, a small piece of bread, a Gemara or a Shulhan Arukh [Code of Jewish Law] and that’s all.”