Prominent ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv died Wednesday at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, a day after his health took a turn for the worse. Doctors had worked to stabilize the 102-year-old rabbi after a sudden drop in his blood pressure Tuesday.
The rabbi’s family was called to the Jerusalem hospital on Wednesday afternoon because of his deteriorating condition. They asked the public to pray on his behalf. Elyashiv had been hospitalized since February. He was considered one of the senior rabbis of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community.
Elyashiv was regarded by hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel and worldwide to be the most respected living expert on Jewish law and religious practice.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed great sorrow at the rabbi’s passing. “Through his his halachik decisions, Rabbi Elyashiv left a deep imprint on the Haredi world and the entire Jewish people,” he said. ”The rabbi’s ways were ways of love for Torah and love for man, modesty and the preservation of of the sanctity of life. The Jewish people today lost a great rabbi, a clear and sharp halachick authority, an exceedingly wise man, a a public servant who trustfully represented the values of Torah, who cared for the other.”
President Shimon Peres praised Rabbi Elyashiv as a great leader and great halachist, “who left an imprint on Judaism, and contributed to bridging the different shades of the Jewish people. He was modest and far-sighted, and a scholar.”
Inside the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox world, Elyashiv represented a hardline faction opposed to almost any encroaching of modernity into the insular community. This faction is identified with the city of Jerusalem, while its rivals, relative pragmatists, are largely grouped in Israel’s second ultra-Orthodox center in the city of Bnei Brak.
It was not immediately clear who would succeed Elyashiv or how his death would affect the ultra-Orthodox, an estimated 10 percent of the country’s 8 million people.
Elyashiv was to be laid to rest at 10 p.m. on Wednesday in Jerusalem.