The Torah and yeshivah world, as well as the kiruv community, were plunged into mourning over the passing of one of the eminent marbitzei Torah and baalei machshavah of our day, Harav Moshe Shapiro, zt”l, who disseminated Torah to thousands of talmidim for more than 50 years. Rav Shapiro passed away in Yerushalayim after a serious illness at the age of 81.
Rav Moshe Shapiro was born in Petach Tikva in Iyar 5695/1935 to Rav Yitzchak Meir, zt”l, and Rachel, a”h. His father was one of the gaonim of the town of Skotzvyl in Lithuania and the nephew of the Alter of Kelm, zt”l. Rav Yitzchak Meir spent much of his childhood in the proximity of the Alter because, orphaned at a young age, he was raised by the Alter’s son, Rav Nachum Zev.
In 1925, Rav Yitzchak Meir came to Eretz Yisrael to learn under the Alter of Slabodka, and continued to Yeshivas Chevron. After his marriage he lived in Petach Tivka and was one of the founders of the well-known kollel Toras Eretz Yisrael. He later became the Menahel Ruchani of Yeshivas Nachalas Dovid.
As a child, Rav Moshe attended cheder in Petach Tikva. Already at the age of 11 he began learning in the Ohr Yisrael yeshivah ketanah, where he made great strides under Harav Yaakov Neiman, zt”l, and Harav Yosef Rozovksy, zt”l. His many talents and his determination in limud haTorah amazed those who saw him; at a very young age he displayed remarkable wisdom and had mastered tremendous amounts of knowledge.
After his bar mitzvah he began learning in Yeshivas Ponovez, despite his very young age. He was esteemed by the Roshei Yeshivah, who appreciated his unique abilities. The Mashgiach, Harav Eliyahu Dessler, zt”l, who discovered that he was related to the Alter of Kelm, took Rav Moshe under his wing and began teaching him profound concepts. Rav Moshe would later say that his Roshei Yeshivah infused him with the traditions that set him on the path to teach Torah for the rest of his life.
He became close to the Chazon Ish, zt”l, and, on his advice, began learning in Yeshivas Knesses Yisrael Chevron in Yerushalayim in 1953. There, he became close to the Roshei Yeshivah and was one of the yeshivah’s outstanding talmidim.
While in Yerushalayim, RavMoshe also became close to the Brisker Rav, zy”a.
In 1958, a group of bachurim, Rav Moshe among them, went to learn in Yeshivas Beis Yehudah, under Harav Yechiel Michel Feinstein, zt”l.
In 1960 Rav Moshe married his Rebbetzin, Tziporah, the daughter of Harav Aharon Bialystotzky, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivas Ohel Torah in Yerushalayim. Rav Aharon also established the renowned kollel in the city where many of the eminent scholars of the time learned, among them Harav Elyashiv and Harav Wosner, zecher tzaddikim livrachah. While Rav Moshe was a chassan, a group of erudite bnei aliyah was formed in Yeshivas Kaminetz, and Rav Moshe was included.
He later learned in the Mir, where he became close to the Rosh Yeshivah, Harav Eliezer Yehudah Finkel, zt”l.
His harbatzas haTorah, which he continued for the rest of his life, began in Yeshivas Tifrach, which was first opened in Kfar Maimon by Harav Yaakov Friedman, shlita. Rav Moshe taught at the yeshivah, and took a personal interest in the growth of each one of his talmidim.
In 1968, Rav Moshe joined Harav Dov Schwartzman, zt”l, in establishing Yeshivas Bais Hatalmud in Bayit Vegan, where Rav Moshe lived at the time. The yeshivah was originally called Bais Hatalmud Gur Aryeh. Harav Yitzchak Hutner, zt”l, was very involved with the mossad, and Rav Moshe developed a close relationship with him as well.
In 1976 he was invited to establish Yeshivas Bais Binyamin in Stamford, Connecticut, together with Harav Simcha Schustal, zt”l, where he remained for two years.
Rav Shapiro returned to Eretz Yisrael in 1979and began delivering numerous shiurim, while also becoming involved in outreach and the baal teshuvah community.
With his exceptional clarity and gift of oratory, he succeeded in forging pathways to the heart of each person that he met, no matter where they were up to in life.
He was instrumental in establishing Ohr Somayach for Israeli baalei teshuvah and delivered a Thursday night parashah shiur there for more than 20 years. The shiur was so well attended that it had to be moved to the Chanichei Hayeshivos shul in Sanhedria because there was no room. It later moved to the Mishkan Moshe shul in Ramat Shlomo.
In all he delivered some 30 shiurim a week on topics of machshavah, Gemara and more.
In 5760/2000, Rav Moshe established the first kollel that was supported by Reb Zev Wolfson, z”l. The kollel instituted a program to train avreichim to become kehillah Rabbanim.
In addition to his extensive efforts in the teshuvah movement in Eretz Yisrael, he was similarly active in outreach abroad. He established the Mesilot Aliyah organization, with the goal of locating Jews from the Former Soviet Union interested in learning more about Torah and Judaism. Throughout the years of the existence of Yeshivas Toras Chaim in Russia, he was one of its mainstays, frequently delivering shiurim there.
In 2001 he established Yeshivas Shev Shmaatsa, in memory of his daughter, Shulamis Shapiro, a”h, who passed away at a young age. (The initials of the yeshivah are the same as her initials.) He also headed Yeshivas Pischei Olam in Yerushalayim for baalei teshuvah.
Rav Moshe was unique in that, besides his prolific teaching of Toras Hanigleh, such as Shas and Poskim, he devoted much time to Toras Hanistar. He was proficient in sifrei Kabbalah, sifrei Maharal and sifrei Chassidus, including Sfas Emes and the sefarim of Harav Tzadok Hakohen of Lublin. His shiurim in machshavah were renowned, and drew audiences from across the spectrum.
He was known for his phenomenal memory, citing passages in Tanach and Gemara by heart during his shiurim. He delivered shiurim in Hebrew, English and Yiddish, based on the audience. Many of the shiurim were delivered as a series, and sometimes lasted for years. Among them was a series on Pirkei Avos, which numbered some 400 shiurim and lasted nearly 20 years. His series on tefillah was comprised of 60 shiurim, and there was also a series on the 13 Principles of Faith. He also spoke about current events through the lens of Jewish hashkafah.
Rav Moshe lived a very lofty life, and rejected any interference from the outside world. He avoided honor and material trappings; he was busy with a deep, internal world.
When his daughter passed away at a young age, he strengthened all those around him with his fiery emunah.
In recent years, Rav Moshe suffered from a severe illness, yet he tried throughout to continue with his teaching with great mesirus nefesh.
He passed away this past Shabbos. The levayah took place in Yerushalayim on Sunday, and kevurah was on Har Hazeisim.
He is survived by his Rebbetzin, shetichyeh, who supported him in all his endeavors with great mesirus nefesh; his sons, Harav Avraham Shapiro of Yerushalayim, Harav Shmuel Shapiro, a Rosh Kollel in Romema, and Harav Shlomo Shapiro; and his daughter, Mrs. Ruth Feldman; and grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are continuing in his path.
Yehi zichro baruch.
Updated Sunday, January 8, 2017 at 6:09 pm