Baruch Dayan Haemes: Petirah of Harav Yosef Weiss, zt”l

(Gili Yaari/Flash90)
(Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Harav Yosef Weiss, zt”l, revered talmid chacham and posek, who disseminated Torah for over 75 years in America, was niftar on Sunday, 8 Teves. He was 95 years old. His broad knowledge in all areas of Torah, phenomenal diligence in learning, and gift for clear explanation made him a rebbi and mentor par excellence for several generations, both at Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan (RIETS), where he delivered shiurim for decades, as well as on the Upper West Side where he was one of the community’s leading halachic authorities.

Rav Weiss was born in 1920 in the Hungarian town of Nanash. His parents were Reb Chaim Shia, z”l, and Mindel, a”h. The family were descendants of the Bnei Yissaschar and ardent Chassidim of Harav Shalom Lazer Halberstam of Ratzfert, Hy”d.

Although he left the world of the shtetl at a very young age, its unique atmosphere of kedushah and yiras Shamayim made a lasting impression. After nearly three-quarters of a century in America, in the midst of the cosmopolitan worlds of Yeshivah University and the West Side, Rav Weiss remained in many ways more rooted in prewar Hungary than on these shores.

The Weisses immigrated to America while their son was still a child. Young Yosef studied first under Harav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zt”l, at Yeshivah Torah Vodaath. He later joined Yeshivas Rebbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan, where he distinguished himself with his brilliance and hasmadah, becoming one of the foremost talmidim of Harav Moshe Soloveitchik, zt”l.

In 1939, while still very young and yet unmarried, Rav Weiss began delivering shiurim. This was the start of a lifetime of harbotzas haTorah.

In the early 1940s, Rav Weiss married Miriam Moller, the daughter of renowned leader Dr. Raphael Moller, z”l, of the Khal Adas Yeshurun (Breuer’s) community in Washington Heights.

In the mid-1960s, Rav Weiss took the helm of Kehillas Moriah on the Upper West Side and quickly became one of the community’s leading poskim. For decades, he was both the maggid shiur and “bochen” for members of RIETS’s semichah program. His shiurim demonstrated not only his encyclopedic knowledge, but exceptional clarity and powers of explanation.

The niftar personified the ideal of a talmid chacham whose whole existence is defined by his passion for learning and teaching Torah. With his sincere and pure ahavas Torah, he was able to bridge disparate worlds and inspire countless talmidim.

Rav Weiss was predeceased by his daughter Rebbetzin Esther Alster, a”h.

He is survived by his wife, Rebbetzin Miriam Weiss; sons Harav Hershel, Harav Chaim Yeshayah and Harav Shamshon; daughters Rebbetzin Rivka Taub and Rebbetzin Rochel Gottesman; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Yehi zichro baruch.