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Sacred Sovereign, Faithful Father

Aryeh Ehrlich

Until his passing last week, he was considered one of the prime halachic arbiters of the Jewish world. But while his threshold was always open to international queries, he rarely flung open the door to his private life, doggedly staying out of public controversy although he lived through every social and political revolution of the last hundred years. Now Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner’s son and right-hand, Rav Yosef Tzvi, unlocks a century of memories.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner, he of the gentle countenance, pensive expression, and flowing gray beard, was the image of a rav taken from a watercolor shtetl scene. Rav Yosef Tzvi Wosner has the look of a seasoned businessman, his bearing and speech reflecting Brooklyn of 2015; but it’s in the eyes that you see the connection. Wise. Sensible. A layer of kindness and compassion. “We’ve been joined, hand in hand, for 76 years,” says the beloved son of the posek hador who passed away on Pesach at the age of 101. “I once told my father that I had never fulfilled the pasuk of ‘Therefore, a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife.’ My father looked at me bewildered, and I told him, ‘No matter how far away I am, I can never really leave the Tatte.’ ” During the recent period of Rav Wosner’s hospitalization, his devoted son was back and forth — at his father’s bedside all week, home to Boro Park for Shabbos. He has siblings; there were generations of Wosner progeny — grandchildren and great-grandchildren — and multitudes of talmidim vying for the opportunity to serve the ailing gaon, but Reb Yosef Tzvi was unable to keep away. When his father was well, the son from Brooklyn was intimately attached to him; so too in illness. Yet over the last month since Rav Wosner’s prolonged hospitalization, even Reb Yosef Tzvi developed a new appreciation for his father’s role on a national scale. “Great rabbanim came to visit, mekubalim, admorim. One of them burst into bitter tears and said, ‘If we lose him, who will protect us? We are frightened for our generation, for our well-being, if chas v’shalom he is taken from among us.’ ” 

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