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Personal Letters from the Hazon Ish, Legendary Leader of Ultra-Orthodox Jewry, Come to Jerusalem’s National Library of Israel

Fourteen letters penned in the 1940s by the legendary rabbi known as the ‘Hazon Ish’ have been donated to the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem by the family of their recipient, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda, one of the rabbi’s students.

The Hazon Ish (Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, 1878–1953), is considered to be one of the most influential rabbis of the 20th century. The letters to Yehuda reveal a very personal side to the revered spiritual leader.

In one instance, relating to Yehuda’s decision to join the army and enroll in secular studies, Karelitz responded,
“I am rich with love for others, particularly toward you, a young person armed with talents and with an understanding heart… But when I saw the sudden change in you recently… I had to wait and process my great pain.”

Born in what is now Belarus, in 1933 Karelitz moved to the Land of Israel, with the help of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Mandatory Palestine, and a formative figure in the modern religious Zionist movement. Countless visitors flocked to Karelitz’s humble home in Bnei Brak during the last two decades of his life, from simple devout Jews to the leaders of the secular Zionist movement, including David Ben-Gurion, despite the fact that Karelitz was an opponent of Zionism.

As a teacher and halakhist (expert in Jewish law), Karelitz left an indelible mark on modern ultra-Orthodox Jewish thought and culture, which endures until today.

The letters have been donated to the National Library of Israel by Rabbi Yehuda’s widow, Hassia Yehuda, and his children Rachel Yehuda, Talli Yehuda Rosenbaum, and Gil Yehuda.

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