Born: April 10, 1910; Died: July 18, 2012.
Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who has died aged 102, was revered by Jews worldwide as the top rabbinic authority of this generation for his scholarship and rulings on complex elements of Jewish law. He devoted his life to Torah study and credited his longevity to never getting angry. He rejected worldly possessions and chose instead to live modestly in a tiny Jerusalem apartment, where people lined up seeking advice, blessings and rulings on religious issues.
He was the leader of the Lithuanian sect of ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews who adhere to a strict religious lifestyle and ideology renowned for its analytical form of studying complex Jewish holy texts. He also served as the spiritual leader of a small ultra-Orthodox party in the Israeli parliament, Degel Hatorah, which later merged into the influential United Torah Judaism that consists of various small religious parties.
Party members conferred with Mr Elyashiv on all matters – political, religious and personal – and a few words uttered by the elderly rabbi could sway Israeli policy or affect daily life for devout Jews. For his hundreds of thousands of followers around the world, he was considered a sage and a respected arbitrator of the intricacies of Jewish religious law and practices.
Mr Elyashiv was considered a kingmaker who worked behind the scenes to approve the appointment of Israel's chief Ashkenazi rabbis as well as Jerusalem's first ultra-Orthodox mayor, Uri Lupolianski, in 2003.
He was unique in that his rulings transcended the divide among the different Jewish sects. His authority was accepted by all but the most fringe groups, Prof Friedman said.
Yosef Elyashiv was born to a rabbinical family in Lithuania. He moved at a young age to Jerusalem, where he grew up in the insular ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood of Mea Shearim. He served as a judge in the sensitive position of the rabbinical appeals court until 1974, when he retired. The rabbi then devoted his time to Talmudic scholarship, mainly in an otherwise abandoned building in Jerusalem, so he could study alone without interruption.
He ruled on a wide range of issues. He condemned a directive by a group of radical Israeli rabbis in 2010 forbidding renting or selling property to non-Jews. Mr Elyashiv said those who supported the ruling should "have their pens taken away". Mr Elyashiv's opinion prompted several rabbis who signed the edict to retract their signatures.
Mr Elyashiv spoke out against Jews visiting the Jerusalem shrine they know as the Temple Mount, which was home to the Jewish temples in biblical times until destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. He said Jews are not ritually pure enough to set foot on the sacred ground today, and that visits by Jews could lead to bloodshed, because the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third-holiest site, stands there now.
Mr Elyashiv also made several proclamations that drew the ire of the mostly secular Israeli public. He vehemently opposed ultra-Orthodox Jews serving in the Israeli military and opposed secular studies for his community, fearing outside influences could change their traditional way of life.
He forbade Jews from wearing Crocs shoes on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, because he said they were too comfortable for the sombre atmosphere of the day of fasting and repentance.
The rabbi had 12 children. One of them, a little girl, was killed in Jordanian shelling in 1948 during the battle for Jerusalem that followed Israel's creation, and another died at a young age from typhus.
The other 10 children had large families who in turn had many children of their own, putting the number of the rabbi's survivors at close to a thousand.
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