Tens of thousands of bereaved talmidim, led by many Gedolei Yisrael, shlita, attended the levayah of Hagaon Harav Aryeh Finkel, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah, Yeshivas Mir-Brachfeld.
The levayah began Wednesday morning in the Mir Yeshivah in Brachfeld, and then continued to Yerushalayim.
The first speaker at the levayah in Brachfeld was the Rosh Yeshivah, Harav Noam Alon. “Avi avi rechev Yisrael uparashav. Avi, my father in ruchniyus and my mother in gashmiyus. The Rosh Yeshivah worried and cared about us literally like a father and mother. He was a pillar of Torah and he toiled in Torah and he was the pillar of mussar. The passing of tzaddikim is harder than the churban of the Beis Hamikdash. We felt like there is a chariot for the Shechinah here in the Beis Medrash.
“Sometimes, the passing of a tzaddik is the essence of uba hashemesh vezarach hashemesh, the sun sets and the sun rises. But sometimes, there’s the type of tzaddik that is irreplaceable. There is no one that can replace him and he belongs to a previous generation.”
The Rav of Modi’in Illit, Harav Meir Kessler spoke next: “When a tzaddik departs from a place it leaves an impression. We are accompanying a tzaddik who is leaving the holy yeshivah and the city. Panah zivah panah hadarah. We have to also introspect, even if we live in a superficial way, and to realize that the city with the tzaddik and without the tzaddik is something else. It is incumbent upon us, the residents of the city, to look at the impression this is supposed to leave on us. How much yiras Shamayim was on his face. Where else do we have a role model for the weekday tefillah with such copious tears? How he treated others. He glowed from Torah wisdom, the Divine wisdom that he had.”
The Sanzer Rebbe, shlita, who came from Netanyah to the levayah, said that “the passing of tzaddikim is considered like the burning of the Beis Hamikdash. On the other hand, it says in the Midrash that the passing of tzaddikim is greater than the churban of the Beis Hamikdash.
“Perhaps there is no contradiction here. When Rabi Yochanan met Titus, he asked to spare Yavneh and its scholars. Yerushalayim and the Beis Hamikdash were in danger, Rabi Yochanan Ben Zakkai could have asked for anything and he didn’t ask for the Beis Mamikdash. Why? The Gemara says in maseches Shabbos that Dovid Hamelech wanted to build the Beis Hamikdash and Hashem told him one day that you are learning Torah and that is more beloved to me than building the Beis Hamikdash. Although the Beis Hamikdash brought about purity, repentance and atonement, the nachas ruach to Hashem and the joy in Heaven is greater from Torah learning.
“Such a tzaddik like we had who was marbitz Torah to others, and drew close people from far and was moser nefesh for it all, his level was above the Beis Hamikdash. It is these tzaddikim upon whom it is said that their passing is harder than the burning of the Beis Hamikdash. It is pain for everyone; it is not the individual grief of one person but for a city and for all of Klal Yisrael.
“We had the zechus to see his glowing countenance. Of the Rosh Yeshivah it can be said that the ziv haTorah has been taken from us. The holiness on his face… the purity that he influenced all those around him with.”
Other maspidim at the levayah in Modi’in Ilit were Harav Avraham Yitzchak Barzel, a Rosh Yeshivah in Mir, and Harav Tzvi Partzovitz, a Rosh Yeshivah in Mir.
From there, the levayah traveled to Yerushalayim.
The hespedim continued in Yeshivas Mir, Yerushalayim, with the first maspid the Rosh Yeshivah, Hagaon Harav Eliezer Yehudah Finkel, shlita.
“How the mighty have fallen, venishbah aron hakodesh. The sun has set in midday, and the light of our eyes has been taken from us. The pillar of Torah and of yiras Shamayim … Woe to us for we have sinned.
“He was such an alive person; every movement was vibrant. He was full of love of Hashem and yiras Shamayim and now, he is no longer with us. During every sichas mussar he lived the Gan Eden and the Gehinom.
“What a Tishah B’Av has been added to us. When he would say Eli Tzion V’arehah, during the Kinnos on Tishah B’Av, we saw the Churban clearly … all the hearts melted when he began to daven.
“Oy,” cried Rav Eliezer Yehudah, “you were perfect in the three pillars of the world, Torah, avodah and gemilus chessed. A lion in Torah and tefillah and a pillar of chessed with warmth and kindness. The heart of the yeshivah … it is harder than the burning of the Beis Hamikdash…
“Holy zeides, please awaken and daven on High that Hashem should have mercy on the bnei hayeshivah and on Klal Yisrael.”
Rosh Yeshivas Ponevezh and chavrusa of the niftar in their yeshivah years, Hagaon Harav Baruch Dov Povarsky, shlita, spoke next: “Keli Keli lamah azavtani. I have been left alone. About Aharon Hakohen it says that when Miriam got tzaraas, “vayochal chatzi besaro.” Rashi says it was not a sister and brother, but one flesh.
“The whole day I thought about you and you thought about me. A bond of many years. And now this has been extinguished.
“Reb Aryeh was a Rosh Yeshivah, of course. He delivered shiurim. But was he only a Rosh Yeshivah? He was a pure person. Yiras Shamayim. Perfection. Reb Aryeh needed nothing for himself.”
Rav Povarsky ended his emotional hesped with a request from the niftar: “Reb Aryeh – please don’t forget about us, those left on this world. Continue to daven for us. That we may attain something of your lofty ways.”
The other maspidim in Yerushalayim were the brothers-in-law of the niftar, Harav Aharon Chodosh and Harav Avigdor Nevenzhal, as a son of the niftar, Harav Binyamin Finkel.
From there the levayah set out, by foot, to Har Hamenuchos.