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Guardian of the Holy Day

Eliezer Shulman and Shimon Breitkopf

Each person among the thousands who accompanied Rav Yehoshua Yeshaya Neuwirth ztz”l, on his final journey last week, came with his own private sorrow, his own private memories of the man who made it his mission to ensure every Jew knows how to keep Shabbos, who saved thousands of families from financial collapse, and who made sure every bochur had a yeshivah.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Rav NeuwirthRav Neuwirth ztz”l (in Israel they pronounce it “Noivirt”) headed three yeshivos, established the largest moneylending gemach in the chareidi community, authored the monumental work Shemirath Shabbath, and was widely regarded as an expert on technology and halachah and Jewish medical ethics. His opinion was frequently cited on issues such as genetic screening, brain death, and euthanasia.

And despite all that, he was not a charismatic charmer, nor a man of many words. But his talmidim will always remember their master and teacher as a visionary who displayed true Jewish self-sacrifice in the midst of a raging sea of self-interest, a man who was committed to observing mitzvos properly, down to the smallest detail, and who wished to make sure that even a person who was not capable of learning halachah from the sources could still act impeccably.

“Rav Neuwirth was always running,” one rosh kollel and neighbor remarked about him. Indeed, as long as he had the strength, Rav Neuwirth used to run from one place to another. After all, it would be a shame to waste time when something else could still be accomplished. A visit to his mechutanim, for instance, was exactly two minutes long; he would warmly wish them Gut Shabbos and then continue on his way. Resting was for another time.…

Last week, Rav Neuwirth was finally able to rest. And his seforim — which have become staples of every Jewish bookshelf and are considered the prototype halachah l’maaseh work for an entire generation — along with the thousands of students he taught, are the greatest reward he could possibly have wished for himself.


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