HaRav Alter Eliahu Rubinstein zt"l, the gavad
of Antwerp, passed away suddenly at the age of 58. Thousands
accompanied the aron in Antwerp, at Ben Gurion Airport
and in Jerusalem on Lag B'Omer.
The bitter news of his petiroh after midnight on the
night of Lag B'omer took wings and the next morning a large
levaya was held in Antwerp before the aron was
flown to Eretz Yisroel. Late Friday afternoon the funeral
resumed in Jerusalem, where a crowd of thousands, including
gedolei Torah and admorim laid him to rest at
Alter Eliahu Rubinstein was born on 15 Kislev 5707 (1947) in
the city of Sighet to HaRav Ephraim Fishel Halevy Rubinstein.
A few years later the family moved to Eretz Yisroel, settling
in Beit Gamliel, where his parents toiled hard to provide him
and his other siblings an education in Torah and Chassidus
despite the many challenges they faced during those years.
As a boy he studied under the Admor of Kretschnef. After his
bar mitzvah he began to study under the Admor of Klausenberg-
Tzanz at the yeshiva for outstanding bochurim at
Netanya's Kiryat Tzanz, where he soon gained a reputation as
one of the leading talmidim. Recognizing the young
man's potential the Admor made special efforts to impart to
him the kinyonei Torah.
On one occasion, when HaRav Yechezkel Abramsky paid a visit
to the Admor, and they toured the yeshiva the Admor pointed
at the young Alter Eliahu saying, "If you would like to meet
one of my prodigies, go ahead and test this bochur."
He indeed proceeded to test him on Kesuvos, Bovo Kammo
and Bovo Basra and was so impressed with his knowledge
he said, "Happy is your lot, Klausenberger Rebbe, that you
have bochurim such as these."
The Admor of Tzanz zt"l would engage Alter Eliahu in
lengthy discussions of their learning and once, when the
deceased went to spend time in the Admor's presence during
Tishrei while he was living in the US, as soon as he stepped
into the room the Admor's face lit up and he called out,
"Boruch Hashem, you came. I've been waiting for you
for a long time to clarify a complicated halachic response
I've been working on and it's important for me to hear your
opinion on the matter."
He married the daughter of HaRav Yehoshua Deutsch, the
gavad of Katamon, based on the suggestion of the Admor
of Tzanz. As a young avreich he was chosen to join a
select group of talmidim participating in daily
horo'oh shiurim. Later the Admor gave him
semichoh. The responsa book Divrei Yetziv
contains several answers to halachic questions HaRav
Rubinstein posed to the Admor, who even mentions him in his
HaRav Rubinstein studied at a kollel in Rechovot for
several years. His acquaintances from that period recall how
his greatness in Torah helped elevate the other
The Admor of Tzanz then sent him to Jerusalem to serve as the
rosh kollel of Kollel Tzanz, and later appointed him
rov of Beis Medrash Heichal Tzvi in Botei Warsaw, where he
remained for the next 22 years. During this period he also
published Migdonos Eliyohu and served as rosh
kollel for Kollel Shomrei Hachomos.
He received semichoh from gedolei Yisroel and
paid visits regularly to HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, the
Minchas Yitzchok and, ylct"a, Maran HaRav Eliashiv.
Only words of Torah issued from his mouth and he often wrote
down his chiddushim. He left behind numerous writings,
including hundreds of halachic responsa that recently began
to be prepared for publication.
In 5753 (1993) he started to serve as the rov of the Shomrei
Hachomos neighborhood in Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo. After the
Admor passed away he continued to visit his son, the Admor,
particularly on Shavuos, which he never missed.
HaRav Rubinstein also served on the Halacha Committee at the
Tzanz Medical Center and was among the leading members of the
Tzanz Rabbinical Committee. He would often captivate
audiences with his talks during Tzanz gatherings.
Just about one year ago he was named the gavad of
Antwerp after receiving the blessings of gedolei
Yisroel, including Maran HaRav Eliashiv shlita. In
Antwerp he soon won the esteem of all of the various
kehillos, which he managed to unite. He also made
several important takonos for the city's benefit. All
of Antwerp's rabbonim were amazed by his broad knowledge and
Several months ago his health began to decline, but he
gathered his strength to maintain his full daily schedule of
learning and teaching Torah. Even during a stay in the US to
receive medical treatment he would converse with his visitors
on matters of Torah and halochoh. When chiddushim
occurred to him he would often have his sons write them down
on the back of the doctors' reports. Despite his poor health
his thoughts never strayed from Toras Hashem.
On Shabbos Hagodol he delivered a droshoh in Antwerp
during which he mentioned the difficult financial state of
the community in the city, asking all of the well-to-do to
hire the city's Jews in their businesses. During the last
week of his life HaRav Rubinstein gave a shiur to
yeshiva students before their return to yeshivas in Eretz
Yisroel, engaging them in pilpul on Sefiras HaOmer.
He began to recover his strength but then suffered a relapse.
During his last trip to his physician in Antwerp he shared
with his escort, HaRav Shabsai Hoffman, a pilpul on
the Pesach Sheini sacrifice and his last words on Thursday
night, the night of Lag B'omer, were on parshas hashovua.
Commenting on Rashi's explanation of "Im bechukosai
teileichu"—"shetihiyu ameilim beTorah"—he
said it is decreed that man is destined to toil, as is
written, "Odom le'omol yulod" (Iyov 5:7). Therefore
one must devote all of his toil to Torah study. This was in
essence his final will and testament. Remarkably, during the
days preceding his petiroh he spoke several times
about his desire to be in Eretz Yisroel on Lag B'omer.
Despite the late-night hour, the bitter news traveled quickly
throughout Antwerp as rabbonim, dayonim and local
residents began to stream toward his home, where they recited
Tehillim beside the aron.
At 5:00 am the aron was brought to the large Machzikei
Hadas beis medrash where a large gathering had formed
and continued to grow from one hour to the next. At the
beis medrash words of parting and brief eulogies were
delivered by the city's rabbonim: HaRav Moshe Dovid
Lieberman, av beis din of Kehal Shomrei Hadas, HaRav
Eliyohu Sternbuch, dayan and moreh tzedek of
Kehal Machzikei Hadas, HaRav Avrohom Yehoshua Reich, rov of
Kehillas Tzanz, HaRav Amrom Honig, dayan and moreh
tzedek of Kehal Machzikei Hadas, and HaRav Aharon Schiff,
rov of Kehillas Alexander. The deceased's son, HaRav Chaim
Leib, also delivered poignant words of parting.
By 7:30 am the levaya had already set out, filling the
street with mourners who accompanied the aron to the
airport. Meanwhile all the arrangements were made to fly the
deceased to Eretz Yisroel as quickly as possible and to
receive the aron and the family members in Eretz
Yisroel as quickly as possible. At 5:40 p.m. the aron
arrived at Beis Medrash Tzeluso De'Avrohom in Ramat Shlomo,
where thousands of residents who had benefited from the light
he radiated were waiting to pay their final respects.
A short eulogy was delivered by HaRav Zalman Dovid Zuckerman,
the rov of Beis Knesses Prushim in Givat Shaul.
Thousands more were waiting at Kikar HaShabbat where a short
eulogy was given by HaRav Yitzchok Tuvioh Weiss, the
gavad of the Eida Chareidis. From there the procession
quickly made its way to Har Hamenuchos, where he was buried
in the rabbinical section near the grave of HaRav Chaim
Kreiswirth, the late gavad of Antwerp.