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A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Iyar 5766 - May 3, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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HaRav Moshe Halberstam zt"l

By Betzalel Kahn

A pallor of mourning descended on chareidi Jewry with the news of the sudden histalkus of HaRav Moshe Halberstam, a member of the Eida Chareidis Beis Din and rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Tshakawe. One of the great Torah figures of our generation, he passed away last Wednesday afternoon, 26 Nisan, at the age of 74.

An enormous crowd including Maran HaRav Eliashiv shlita, roshei yeshivos, rabbonim, dayonim and admorim accompanied the aron from his home in Meah Shearim via Zupnik Square to Har Hazeisim.

Moshe Halberstam was born on 8 Nisan 5692 (1932) in the town of Tshakawe, Galicia to HaRav Yaakov Halberstam, av beis din of Tshakawe. He was the great-great-great grandson of the Divrei Chaim of Sanz and the great-great grandson of HaRav Boruch of Gorlitz. He moved to Eretz Yisroel with his father at the age of three, a few years before the war broke out in Europe.

As a child he was tutored and edified by the Admor HaRav M. C. of Slonim and later studied at Yeshivas Beis Avrohom Slonim under the Nesivos Sholom of Slonim, together with the Admor of Bobov HaRav Naftoli Tzvi, and ylct"a HaRav Yaakov Meir Shechter, who had very close ties with him.

Later he went to Bnei Brak to study at the yeshiva of HaRav Shmuel Halevi Wosner, forming close bonds with him. On Shabbos he would daven with the Chazon Ish, who often honored him with an aliyoh, saying that he was destined for gadlus in Torah.

He also had a special bond with the Tchebiner Rov. For years they had a regular time set aside to discuss halachic matters. He was also close to the Admor HaRav Aharon of Belz, who gave him the honor of reciting Bircas Hamozone while he was still a bochur. He was very close to his grandfather, the Admor of Shatz, who offered him guidance after he lost his mother and later willed him the menorah he used on Chanukah.

In 5712 (1952) he married the daughter of HaRav Hillel Schlesinger in Jerusalem. Together they built a home of Torah and chessed that was open day and night to anyone with halachic questions. Meanwhile he kept learning with tremendous shekeidoh. He received semichoh from HaRav Pinchos Epstein zt"l and in 5727 (1967) was admitted as a moreh horo'oh (motz) of the Eida HaChareidis. In 5757 (1997) he was appointed a member of the Badatz, while continuing to serve as a marbitz Torah in various fields.

HaRav Halberstam published a collection of responsa called Divrei Moshe and just two days before his petiroh he discussed with his grandson plans to publish his book on Yoreh Deah, examining the manuscript, making a number of corrections and engaging his grandson in pilpul on several halachic points.

Numerous people would come to his home and the nearby beis horo'oh, including many doctors and others with halachic questions related to medicine. Healthcare professionals were often astounded by his profound understanding of medical matters.

He treated every Jew with great respect and made special efforts to gladden people by attending their simchas, despite his full schedule.

He carefully adhered to the finest details of halochoh, never consenting to compromise or stray in the least from the Shulchan Oruch. Prominent halochoh authorities relied on his rulings and he was known for his close ties with gedolei Yisroel and gedolei haposkim. He used to be a neighbor of ylct"a Maran HaRav Eliashiv shlita, maintaining a friendship and regularly conversing with Maran ever since then. When his first grandson reached the age of bar mitzvah HaRav Halberstam took him to Bnei Brak to ask for a brochoh from Maran HaRav Shach zt"l, with whom he delved into divrei Torah at length.

HaRav Halberstam worked to promote various tzedokoh and chessed organizations, including four decades at the head of the R' Meir Baal Haness Foundation, dedicating hours of his time to help the poor of Eretz Yisroel. He also served as nosi of Hatzoloh Yisroel, constantly guiding the directors of the organization in halachic matters. Just a few weeks ago he worked with HaRav Yehoshua Neuwirth, author of Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchoso, to clarify a series of questions Hatzoloh volunteers often face on Shabbos.

HaRav Halberstam also served as the spiritual authority at Bikur Cholim Hospital, standing by the hospital during hard times. He would take part in various hospital events and provide staff physicians with an attentive ear. Prof. Shmuel Gottlieb, director of the intensive care unit and HaRav Halberstam's personal physician, was one of the last people to speak with him before his petiroh at 8 in the morning.

Two hours later he felt weak. Shortly after he had left his home, Hatzoloh Yisroel Chairman R' Dovid Greenwald was called back and he ordered him transported by ambulance to Bikur Cholim Hospital immediately. He arrived in the emergency room semiconscious and soon lost consciousness and stopped breathing. A team of senior physicians summoned to his bedside performed resuscitation immediately, managing to stabilize him. Shortly after being transferred to the cardiac intensive care ward, his condition deteriorated severely. After prolonged attempts to resuscitate him, HaRav Halberstam's pure soul left him with family members, talmidim and acquaintances at his bedside saying Shema Yisroel and reciting Tehillim tearfully.

Shortly after the petiroh the mittoh was brought to the Tshakawe beis medrash on Rechov Yonah, where Tehillim were recited mournfully and short words of parting were said. Then the mittoh was taken to the beis horo'oh on Rechov Hoshei'a and to his apartment on Rechov Yoel.

The hespeidim got underway at 3:30 p.m. at Zupnik Square on Rechov Yeshayohu. The first of the eulogizers were HaRav Halberstam's two brothers, the Admor of Tshakawe-Bnei Brak and the Admor of Tshakawe, who lamented his loss.

HaRav Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss, Gavad of the Eida Chareidis of Jerusalem, said HaRav Halberstam often made use of his vast Torah knowledge to make peace bein odom lechavero.

HaRav Shmuel Halevi Wosner shlita, Gavad of Zichron Meir, said the deceased was an emblem of unity among all of the various facets of chareidi Jewry. He recalled that for over 50 years his talmid would call him every Friday afternoon to wish him a "gut Shabbos" and then the two would converse on halachic matters.

HaRav Moshe Shternbuch, ravad of the Eida Chareidis, said Yerushalayim without Rav Moshe wouldn't be the same.

Eida Chareidis Beis Din member HaRav Meir Bransdorfer, speaking from the US via satellite connection, recalled how in his youth HaRav Halberstam would learn up to 10 hours without interruption. Only through this tremendous hasmodoh, said HaRav Bransdorfer, did he achieve gadlus in Torah.

HaRav Yaakov Blau, also a member of the Eida Chareidis Beis Din, noted the niftar was involved in every problem and misfortune that came to Jerusalem and the rest of Eretz Yisroel. Not just his home was open to all, he added, but his heart as well.

Other maspidim included HaRav Shlomo Zalman Ulman, also a member of the Eida Chareidis Beis Din, the deceased's son HaRav Zalman, a dayan in Williamsburg who spoke by live broadcast, his son-in-law HaRav Mattisyohu Deutsch, a rov and moreh tzedek in Ramat Shlomo, his son HaRav Yaakov Dovid Halberstam, rosh kollel of Kollel Toldos Elozor in Jerusalem, and his son HaRav Shimon Shmuel Halberstam, a rosh kollel of Kollel Choshen Mishpat in Jerusalem.

Maran HaRav Eliashiv shlita joined the procession when it reached the end of Rechov Meah Shearim.

HaRav Moshe Halberstam zt"l is survived by his sons, HaRav Zalman, HaRav Yaakov Dovid and HaRav Shimon Shmuel; his sons-in-law, HaRav Mattisyohu Deutsch, HaRav Yosef Panet, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Shaarei Chochmoh in Jerusalem, HaRav Dovid Goldring, rov of Beis Knesses Heichal Aharon in Jerusalem, and HaRav Chaim Tzvi Davidovitz, a ram at Kollel Shomrei Hachomos; grandchildren and great- grandchildren, all following in his path of Torah and halochoh.


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