JERUSALEM — A whole bunch of 1000’s of Israelis gathered on Sunday on the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a non secular chief in ultra-Orthodox Judaism, in one of many largest public gatherings in Israeli historical past. Rabbi Kanievsky died on Friday, aged 94.
Estimates instructed that 400,000 to 750,000 mourners attended the funeral or stuffed close by streets, balconies and rooftops, hoping to get as shut as attainable to the rabbi’s bier. The crowds shut down not solely Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox enclave on the jap fringe of Tel Aviv the place the rabbi lived, but additionally giant components of central Israel, the place lots of of colleges stayed closed on Sunday, the primary day of the Israeli workweek, to stop college students from being caught in site visitors jams.
The estimated crowd numbers had been nonetheless in need of the 850,000 who had been stated to have attended the funeral of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, one other ultra-Orthodox chief, who died in 2013.
However the measurement of Rabbi Kanievsky’s funeral on Sunday however mirrored the veneration with which he was held by Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jews — or Haredim, because the neighborhood’s members want to be recognized.
Rabbi Kanievsky had no formal position, however he was extensively thought-about a pacesetter of the so-called Lithuanian Jews, a non-Hasidic stream of ultra-Orthodox Jewry that has roots in Jap Europe. Lithuanian Jews type roughly a 3rd of the 1.1 million Haredim in Israel.
Because the authorities tried to reduce the danger of a stampede on Sunday, Israeli army rescue groups had been positioned on standby at a close-by stadium. Earlier than the funeral, commentators and officers feared a repeat of a disaster at a spiritual competition in northern Israel final March, when 45 Haredi worshipers had been crushed to demise.
A quiet man with a wispy white beard and wrinkled pores and skin, Rabbi Kanievsky was revered for his encyclopedic information of Jewish regulation and scripture. His household stated he had learn spiritual texts for as much as 17 hours a day because the Thirties.
That relentless scholarship established his repute as a serious sage, main lots of of 1000’s of individuals to look to him for normal non secular recommendation on each the profound and the banal. Daily lots of of individuals would line up exterior Rabbi Kanievsky’s home to hunt his steering on issues like pressing medical and political points and even what family home equipment they need to purchase.
Born in 1928 in what’s now Belarus, Rabbi Kanievsky moved to what grew to become Israel earlier than World Conflict II — making him one of many final bridges between the European Haredi communities that had been decimated through the Holocaust and the brand new Haredi world that emerged in Israel after the institution of the state.
Rabbi Kanievsky’s illustrious household heritage additionally added to his status: His father and uncle had been thought-about venerable spiritual sages, recognized respectively because the Steipler and the Chazon Ish, lengthy earlier than he rose to prominence himself.
The Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, paid tribute to the rabbi in a press release earlier than a cupboard assembly on Sunday. “The title of Rabbi Kanievsky can be remembered as an vital a part of the Torah historical past of the individuals of Israel,” Mr. Bennett stated. “The son of the Steipler and the nephew of the Chazon Ish, he continued of their path, after the Holocaust, within the Land of Israel, preserving the Torah world of the destroyed communities of Europe.”
In later life, Rabbi Kanievsky was thought-about to carry vital affect over an Israeli political celebration, Degel HaTorah, which represents components of the Haredi neighborhood within the Israeli Parliament and has performed a key position in a number of Israeli governments over the previous three a long time.
Through the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, the rabbi grew to become a villain to many secular Israelis when he ordered his followers to not shut their faculties, at the same time as an infection charges rose disproportionately among the many Haredim. That call helped set off one of many largest showdowns in Israeli historical past between secular and non secular Jews.
However Rabbi Kanievsky later reversed his stance and issued a number of statements encouraging his followers to stick to coronavirus restrictions and to be vaccinated.
Rabbi Kanievsky’s insular and ascetic life led to frequent questions from secular Israelis in regards to the extent to which he understood the world on which he pronounced.
His household stated he was so centered on Talmudic examine that he didn’t know how you can brew tea or the title of Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Rabbi Kanievsky’s grandson and gatekeeper, Yaakov Kanievsky, stated that the rabbi was solely accountable for his pronouncements and worldview.
However the rabbi’s information of breaking information was however largely filtered by way of his grandson, who would shout transient bursts of data into Rabbi Kanievsky’s ear earlier than rigorously posing the inquiries to which he gave his fateful solutions. Mr. Kanievsky was additionally tasked with decoding the rabbi’s typically inaudible responses, giving him affect over each what the rabbi knew of the world, and likewise how he responded to it.
Throughout a short encounter with a New York Instances reporter final 12 months, Rabbi Kanievsky registered the journalist’s presence solely after his grandson spoke loudly in his ear. Then the rabbi shortly returned to his spiritual texts.
The demise of any Haredi chief normally prompts a debate a few successor. However in Rabbi Kanievsky’s case, the query is much less urgent as a result of he’s survived by one other main Lithuanian cleric, Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, 98, who was already thought-about to carry equal weight within the Haredi world.
Myra Noveck contributed reporting.