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24 Adar I 5760 - March 1, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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HaRav Alexander Sender Feurstein, zt"l

by Betzalel Kahn

This past motzei Shabbos (21 Adar I), a huge throng of Jerusalem's residents accompanied HaRav Alexander Sender Halevi Feurstein zt"l on his last earthly journey. He was one of London's and Eretz Yisroel's most prominent talmidei chachomim and marbitzei Torah.

HaRav Feurstein was born in Nisan 5685 (1925) in Dissburg, Germany. His parents arrived there from Galicia and were neighbors of the rav of the city, the Chelkas Yoav, whose beis medrash was situated in their home. R' Alexander's Sender's father, R' Yaakov, served as a baal tefillah in the beis medrash of the Chelkas Yoav on the Yomim Noraim. He was killed al kiddush Hashem towards the end of the war. R' Alexander Sender's mother, Rochel, was niftar two weeks before Kristalnacht.

Immediately after Kristalnacht, R' Alexander was smuggled into Holland and from there, miraculously, he reached England. He studied in the famous Toras Emes yeshiva and was an outstanding student of the founder of its rosh yeshiva and founder, HaRav Moshe Schneider, who was very fond of him. In Toras Emes he scaled the heights of Torah veyirah to which he dedicated all of his strength. He said of himself that the spirit of the yeshiva accompanied him his entire life, and those who knew him said that he was a shining example of all that HaRav Schneider tried to produce in his talmidim.

He married the daughter of HaRav Moshe Halevi Cohen, one of London's prominent rabbonim. She was a loyal helpmate to him his entire life and especially during his final illness, when she cared for him with boundless dedication.

For forty years he headed the Yesodei Hatorah institutions in London, where he produced thousands of talmidim infused with ahavas Torah and pure yiras Shomayim. Even in the intersession periods he did not relax and preferred to use his time to spread Torah. For many years he served as the head of the yarchei kallah in Gateshead. He also served with distinction as rov of the Zeirei Agudas Yisroel in London.

His love of Torah was great and he fulfilled the words Dovid Hamelech, "kol hayom hi sichosi," in their fullest sense. Whenever one met him, he overflowed with chiddushim in halocho or aggada. Even during his meals, he would pore over a sefer in front of him.

When he came heard or made a chiddush, his face would light up and he would repeat it many times out of his love for Torah. He was amazingly well-versed in Shas, halocho and aggada, and many seforim in his home contain his comments and illuminations in their margins. Many said: "Now his seforim are orphaned."

Even during his illness when he suffered greatly, he dedicated himself to Torah study ceaselessly, to the point that even while he slept he would murmur words of Torah, demonstrating thereby that Torah was the source of his life.

He fulfilled Chazal's maxim: "Greet all men pleasantly," to its utmost, and with his warmth and pleasant speech he drew them closer to Torah. He also encouraged the depressed and the broken hearted.

He was a sterling example of sharing his fellow's burdens, and his ayin tova was especially manifest. He participated in others' simchas as if they was his own and shared the sorrows as if they were his own as well. He grieved for the pains of the klal as if they were his private pains, and would devise ways to benefit others. He was meticulous in his observance of all of the mitzvos, kalo kechamura, even when he suffered greatly. He recited brochos with tremendous intent and in a loud voice, in order to enable others to merit the mitzvah of answering omein.

With his aliya to Eretz Yisroel, on rosh chodesh Shevat 5751 just before the outbreak of the Gulf War, a new chapter in his life began. Filled with faith in the words of the gedolei Yisroel that there was no reason to fear living in Eretz Yisroel at such a time, he settled in Jerusalem despite the threats, where he continued to study Torah and to spread it. During that period, he firmly resolved never refuse a request to act on behalf of Yiddishkeit.

He was very active among Russian immigrants, taking care of their spiritual needs and delivered in-depth shiurim in the Shavei Golah yeshiva while guiding his students along the paths of Torah study. He also taught in the Lilmod Ulelameid organization for adult Russian immigrants. With his fervent words, which emanated from his pure heart, he drew many closer to Yiddishkeit. He did all this without any monetary remuneration. Nonetheless, he constantly felt that he wasn't doing enough.

A number of years ago, he fell ill, yet despite his weakness he continued teaching with great dedication. Recently, his situation worsened and he was deeply pained over his inability to continue teaching Torah. "The soul wants, but the body doesn't let," he said.

He would weep and plead with Hashem to give him to strength to continue studying and serving Him, at least like a regular Jew. His many visitors would leave his home awed by his deep emunah and bitochon, and by his acceptance of his suffering with love.

On Shabbos night, parshas Ki Siso, he returned his pure soul to its Maker. His levaya took place on motzei Shabbos. Hespedim were delivered by HaRav Abish Eisen, the rav of the Unsdorf neighborhood, who spoke about HaRav Alexander Sender's great influence on the entire neighborhood. He noted HaRav Alexander Sender's amazing diligence, saying that he had completed Shas six times, in depth.

A hesped was also delivered by HaRav Yosef Tzvi Dunner, the raavad of Hisachdus Kehillos Hachareidim of England, whose own sons had been the niftar's students. HaRav Dunner described HaRav Alexander Sender's many activities on behalf of Torah in London and his dedication to his students.

HaRav Alexander Sender's friend from his yeshiva days, HaRav Moshe Sternbuch, also delivered a hesped in which he stressed that HaRav Alexander Sender had displayed signs of greatness even as a youth. He mentioned the comment of HaRav Moshe Schneider zt'l, the niftar's rosh yeshiva, that it would have been worthwhile to maintain the entire yeshiva only for HaRav Alexander's sake.

HaRav Alexander Sender's nephew, HaRav Binyomin Finkel, spoke about his uncle's deep yearning to continue in his avodas hakodesh. He also described the great loss to the family.

HaRav Michoel Chen, the rosh yeshiva of Shavei Golah described the niftar's great dedication to the students even under the most difficult circumstances.

A heartfelt hesped was delivered by HaRav Yitzchok Kalmanowitz, who had studied with him bechavrusa in the past year. HaRav Kalmanowitz described the niftar's dedication every moment to Torah study. He also related how during his illness, HaRav Alexander Sender studied the Rambam on the obligation of a talmid chochom to study even if he is poor or is suffering, and asked whether he fulfills it by studying alone or he must also continue to teach. In the end he decided to overcome his suffering and to go to the yeshiva in order to deliver shiurim, which were in essence a source of his vitality.

His son HaRav Yaakov then wept the great loss, describing the great kiddush shem Shomayim made by his father in all his ways.

He is survived by sons and sons-in-law all of whom are deeply immersed in Torah. His sons are HaRav Yaakov, a ram in the Belzer yeshiva in Beis Chilkia and HaRav Dovid Yosef. His sons-in-law are HaRav Menachem Mendel Nussbaum, HaRav Michoel Halberstam and HaRav Yoezer Harstein.

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