Jewish Google

On an unusually very cold and cloudy day in March 2022, major roads in central Israel were closed for hours, while 1500 buses parked on the side of the freeways as an estimated over half a million men, all dressed in black jackets and black hats, swarmed through a suburb of Tel Aviv, to accompany a deceased great Torah scholar on his last journey to burial. 

Rabbi Chaim Kaviensky was considered to be one of the greatest rabbis who presided over the Lithuanian Orthodox community in Israel, a community renowned for their grappling with Halacha, and often at odds with the Hasidim, whose emphasis is finding HaShem through joy. 

Yet this was a day when all Israel joined together to mourn. Young and old, Hasidim and Haredim, secular and religious, all paid tribute to a man, who although sometimes controversial, served as an inspiration and a light to so many Jews no matter their background or level of religious observance. 

In each generation, every great rabbi issues certain rulings on Halacha which even today influence how issues are dealt with in the State of Israel. Rabbi Kaviensky was one such man. One of his most controversial rulings, that albeit brought a sigh of common sense to many Israelis, is that he ruled in the even of a terror attack, Orthodox paramedics should on no account treat the terrorists before the victims. If the terrorist is more seriously injured, it is permissible to let the terrorist to die. Many a secular Israeli also applauded his decision. 

Like all Jews, Rabbi Kaviensky also yearned for the Messiah. With the birth of the Arab Spring in 2011, he believed that events were so ground-breaking that the Messiah might be ready to appear. Thus he urged many Jews who lived in the diaspora to come home to Israel for the big event – the coming of Messiah! A large number of French Jews took heed to his warnings, packed their bags and although they have not yet witnessed the coming of the Messiah, at least they made Aliya. 

All rabbis make mistakes, but Rabbi Kaviensky will not be remembered for his over enthusiasm concerning the timing of Israel’s redemption. Instead, he will be remembered for being a great Torah scholar with a photographic memory that stored thousands of pages of Halacha. 

When a certain Rabbi Hartman once asked him where it is written that the resurrection of the dead will begin at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, the Torah scholar continued walking with him, staring blankly ahead while murmuring to himself recalling all the pages of Halacha he had stored up in his mind. It was as if he was a Jewish Google. Without having any books in front of him, he could visually bring up the pages, and in doing so could scan thousands of years of written Jewish codes. Thus 94-year old Rabbi Kanievsky became known as “a walking Torah scroll.” 

His esteemed knowledge he acquired by studying for over 14 hours a day and sleeping no more than 4 hours a night. But he was esteemed equally for his humility. Rabbi Kanievsky made it his business to have appointed daily hours where anyone could come and visit and ask for his advice, or tell him their troubles so he could pray for them. This great man who will be missed by all of Israel, has served as an inspiration for many to study and be versed in the Torah, just as he was.