Personal letters from rabbi known as “Hazon Ish” arrive at the National Library of Israel

The National Library of Israel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – Fourteen letters written in the 1940s by the legendary rabbi known as “Hazon Ish” were donated to the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem by the family of their recipient, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda, one of the students of the rabbi.

The “Hazon Ish” (Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, 1878-1953) is considered one of the most influential rabbis of the twentieth century. The letters reveal a very personal side to the revered spiritual leader.

In an example relating to Yehuda’s decision to enlist in the military and enroll in secular studies, Karelitz replied: “I am rich in love for others, especially for you, a young man armed with talents and an understanding heart. … But when I saw the sudden change in you recently… I had to wait and deal with my great pain.

Born in present-day Belarus, Karelitz moved in 1933 to what was then British Mandate Palestine with the help of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi and formative figure of the modern Zionist religious movement.

Countless visitors have flocked to Karelitz’s humble home in Bnei Brak over the last two decades of his life, from simple pious Jews to leaders of the secular Zionist movement, including Israel’s founding father and first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, despite the fact that Karelitz was an opponent of Zionism.

Professor and expert in Jewish law (halakhist), he left a lasting mark on ultra-Orthodox Jewish thought and culture.

The letters were donated to the National Library by Yehuda’s widow, Hassia, and their children: Rachel Yehuda, Talli Yehuda Rosenbaum, and Gil Yehuda.

A free online event The collection’s arrival celebration will take place on October 17 at 8:00 p.m. Israel time and 1:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, hosted by Rabbi Zvi Yehuda’s daughter, Vice President Professor Rachel Yehuda of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.


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