Charedi leader Rabbi Elyashiv dies in Jerusalem

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the influential strictly Orthodox leader, died this afternoon in Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem aged 102.

Regarded by many in the yeshivah world as posek hador – the leading authority on Jewish law of his day – he was head of Israel's Lithuanian community whose guidance was sought by rabbis from across the world.

Tens of thousands are expected at his funeral later this evening when he will be buried at the Har Menuchot cemetery.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "the nation of Israel has lost a great rabbi".

President Shimon Peres said that "an outstanding and distinguished leader, an expert in halachah, a great man among his people, a Torah genius who left his mark on the Jewish world and contributed to bridging the different streams in Judaism has gone to his final resting place".

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said: "We deeply mourn the passing of one of the greatest talmudic and halachic authorities of our age, a man widely admired for his wisdom and erudition, and consulted by Jewish communities throughout the world. He was a Torah giant of our time."

Born in 1910, Rav Elyashiv came with his family to Israel at the age of 14 from Belarus, and became a critical figure in the growth of strict Orthodoxy in the country.

Unlike some of the luminaries of Mea Shearim who shunned the state, he was prepared to support religious political parties whose role was to safeguard Torah interests and became a spiritual leader of the Degel Hatorah party.

Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger told Arutz Sheva news in Israel that Rav Elyashiv was "one of the most outstanding figures I have ever met, above all the rabbis all over the world, and I’ve met hundreds of rabbis.He knew the entire Torah by heart."

His house has "only two rooms," Rabbi Metzger recalled. "So many people wanted to support him and give him a new house and he said that to him that is meaningless. Give him a holy book, this was his entire world."

Last updated: 8:49pm, July 18 2012