Hazon Ish letters
Hazon Ish letters National Library of Israel, Jerusalem

Fourteen letters penned in the 1940s by the legendary rabbi known as the "Hazon Ish" have been donated to the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem by the family of their recipient, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda, one of the rabbi's students.

The Hazon Ish (Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, 1878–1953), is considered to be one of the most influential rabbis of the 20th century. The letters to Rabbi Yehuda reveal a very personal side to the revered spiritual leader.

In one instance, relating to Rabbi Yehuda's decision to join the army and enroll in secular studies, Rabbi Karelitz responded, "I am rich with love for others, particularly toward you, a young person armed with talents and with an understanding heart… But when I saw the sudden change in you recently… I had to wait and process my great pain."

Born in what is now Belarus, in 1933 Rabbi Karelitz moved to the Land of Israel, with the help of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Mandatory Palestine, and a formative figure in the modern Religious Zionist movement. Countless visitors flocked to Rabbi Karelitz's humble home in Bnei Brak during the last two decades of his life, from simple devout Jews to the leaders of the secular Zionist movement, including David Ben-Gurion, despite the fact that Rabbi Karelitz was an opponent of Zionism.

As a teacher and halakhist (expert in Jewish law), Rabbi Karelitz left an indelible mark on modern haredi Jewish thought and culture, which endures until today.

The letters have been donated to the National Library of Israel by Rabbi Yehuda’s widow, Hassia Yehuda, and his children Rachel Yehuda, Talli Yehuda Rosenbaum, and Gil Yehuda.

In a statement, the Yehuda family said, "These letters represent a bond between two remarkable individuals; an unlikely teacher-student pair. We invite laypersons and scholars alike to access the letters, and learn about the teacher, the student, and their special connection."

Dr. Yoel Finkelman, curator of the National Library of Israel's Haim and Hanna Salomon Judaica Collection, said: "We are grateful to the Yehuda family and pleased that these letters will now be safeguarded among the National Library of Israel's collections, alongside treasures from countless other significant Jewish and Israeli culture figures from Maimonides to Ben-Gurion."

A free online event celebrating the arrival of the collection will be held on October 17th. The event will be moderated by Rabbi Zvi Yehuda’s daughter, Prof. Rachel Yehuda, and will include words from scholar Prof. Marc B. Shapiro; Hazon Ish biographer Prof. Benjamin Brown; and Rabbi Zvi Yehuda's son, Gil Yehuda.