Led by roshei yeshivos, dayonim and rabbonim, thousands of Ofakim and Jerusalem residents and Yeshivas Ofakim alumni took part in the levaya last week for HaRav Yaakov Horowitz zt"l, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ofakim and one of the leading marbitzei Torah of our generation, who passed away at the age of 66 following a difficult illness.
Yaakov Horowitz was born in Tammuz 5704 (1944) to R' Menachem Manish, who instilled in his son ahavas Torah and an appreciation for tzorchei tzibbur. As a boy he studied at a cheder in Tel Aviv and later at Kfar Haroeh under HaRav Yissochor Meir, who took all the young men in his grade level and started Yeshivas HaNegev in Netivot.
As a bochur at Kfar Haroeh, Yaakov rallied his classmates to dedicate all of their spare time to Torah study. "In the post-Holocaust generation we have an obligation to take part in the spiritual building of the Torah world," he told them.
Following the yeshiva's founding, initially at Kfar Haroeh, he cleaved to HaRav Yissochor Meir. He become known for his hasmodoh and made the Torah the central focus of his life. Noting his strength in learning and his outstanding middos, the young man's rabbonim marked him for greatness.
He married Esther Klein-Kattan of Strasbourg, whose family was influential in building a strong Torah-true community in France. The couple set up their new home in Netivot. After a few years of learning at the yeshiva, HaRav Meir asked him to join the staff of ramim. At first he refused, but agreed based on instructions from the Steipler.
In 5735 (1975) he went to the US for medical treatment and there he formed a bond with HaRav Yitzchok Hutner, who left a strong imprint on him for years to come.
On his return to Eretz Yisroel, HaRav Yosef Goldental shlita asked him to come head the new yeshiva in Ofakim which was aimed at graduates of yeshiva tichoniyot. At the advice of the Steipler he accepted the position, and from 5737 until his final day he served as the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ofakim.
At the yeshiva his entire focus was directed toward serving Hashem wholeheartedly and elevating kovod Shomayim. He showed great fondness for all of his talmidim, guiding them in their spiritual growth, even after they married.
His seforim, Doleh Umashkeh, demonstrate a deep understanding of Chazal's teachings and proper avodas Hashem during notable times on the Jewish calendar, based on teachings passed on to him by HaRav Hutner.
He urged his talmidim to start kollelim and other Torah institutions, lending them support during their initial years. His efforts enabled the founding of many Torah institutions throughout Eretz Yisroel, particularly in the Negev Region.
HaRav Horowitz provided guidance for almost every spiritual endeavor in Ofakim, carrying a heavy burden on his shoulders.
Five years ago he grew very ill and had to undergo difficult treatments. In Adar 5765 (2005) a seudas hodo'oh was held to mark his recovery. The day after the seudah HaRav Chaim Kamil passed away, leaving HaRav Horowitz to head the yeshiva alone. He gathered all his strength to tackle the holy task to the best of his ability, delivering shiurim despite his frail state of health.
In recent months he fell into remission and despite treatment by top doctors, contracted pneumonia early last week, returning his soul to his Maker early Wednesday morning.
The mittoh was placed in the beis medrash at the yeshiva where he had given shiurim for 33 years.
Hespeidim were delivered by HaRav Aviezer Piltz, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Tifrach, HaRav Eliezer Einhorn, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ofakim, HaRav Yosef Goldental, the founder and manager of the yeshiva, HaRav Yaakov Friedman, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Tifrach, the mashgiach HaRav Elchonon Farbstein, his cherished talmid HaRav Yehuda Moyel, the seminary principal HaRav Yehuda Aryeh Cohen, HaRav Aryeh Levy, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas HaNegev, HaRav Yehuda Chesner, a moreh horo'oh in Ofakim, HaRav Yisroel Yaakov Pincus, the moro d'asro, the niftar's brother-in-law, HaRav Dovid Gottlieb, and HaRav Dov Lev.
When the levaya resumed at Shamgar Beis Halvayos in Jerusalem, HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, HaRav Shmuel Auerbach and other gedolei Yisroel were on hand. Eulogies were given by HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, HaRav Dovid Cohen, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Chevron, HaRav Yitzchok Pinchos Goldwasser, the mashgiach at Yeshivas Or Yisroel and a close friend of the niftar since their yeshiva days, and HaRav Ephraim Greenbaum, the mashgiach at Yeshivas Be'er HaTorah in Jerusalem and one of the niftar's first talmidim.
After the hespeidim the procession made its way to Har Tamir in Givat Shaul, where he was buried in a plot he had purchased alongside a dear talmid muvhok he considered like a son who had passed away at a young age.
HaRav Yaakov Horowitz zt"l is survived by his wife, who cared for him with great dedication, his sister Tzipporoh Shapiz and thousands of talmidim mourning the loss of their esteemed rov and teacher.