Rabbi Yehoshua Neuwirth, expert in Shabbat law, dies

Author of comprehensive book on Sabbath and holiday observance was 85

A noted rabbi who authored of one of the most definitive books on Jewish observance of Shabbat and Jewish holidays died in Jerusalem early Tuesday morning at the age of 85.

Rabbi Yehoshua Yeshaya Neuwirth was admitted to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center last Wednesday. He was buried on the Mount of Olives late Tuesday morning.

He was supposed to serve as the godfather Tuesday morning at the ritual circumcision ceremony of his great-grandson. That ceremony was postponed until after the funeral.

Neuwirth penned the authoritative “Shmirat Shabbat Kehilchata” (“Sabbath Observance According to Jewish Law) in 1965. About 20 years after the book was published, Neuwirth published a second edition in which he amended some of his earlier, more lenient rulings.

Rabbi Yehoshua Yeshaya Neuwirth (photo credit: CC BY-SA 3.0, by Shmuelxq, Wikimedia Commons)
Rabbi Yehoshua Yeshaya Neuwirth (photo credit: CC BY-SA 3.0, by Shmuelxq, Wikimedia Commons)

The book is widely regarded in religious circles as the most user-friendly and practical guide to Jewish observance to have been published in the last century. An English edition of the book was first published in 1984.

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, a former Ashkenazic chief rabbi, told news site Israel National News on Tuesday that Neuwirth was “a great teacher, devoted friend, a modest man and, what is less known… an extremely charitable man,” who ran many charity organizations. Lau called Neuwirth the “the greatest arbiter of laws of the Shabbat in this generation.”

Neuwirth was born in Germany in 1927. After the outbreak of World War II, his family escaped to Holland, where they stayed hidden for three years before making their way to Mandatory Palestine. He was a student of the late halachic authority Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and the head of the Pri Shmuel yeshiva for high school-aged boys and the Chochmat Shlomo yeshiva for men.

In addition to his stature as a Shabbat authority, Neuwirth was also highly regarded as an expert in medical ethics, and he was a consultant for the Tzomet Institute, which designs electronic appliances that meet the guidelines of Jewish law.

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