Rabbi Rafael Halperin z”l: From Pro-Wrestler to Businessman to Mechaber Seforim


rafael-halperinRabbi Rafael Halperin passed away on Shabbos at age 87. He died at home following a lengthy struggle with cancer, and was buried in his hometown of Bnei Brak on Motzoei Shabbos.

Rabbi Halperin was a colorful figure whose many accomplishments included pro wrestling awards, publishing an encyclopedia and a successful Shabbos-observant business empire along with Torah learning and increasing Jewish observance.

Born in Vienna in 1924, he was an adolescent when his parents decided to move to British Mandate Palestine. Though given a religious education, the young Rafael, unlike his peers at school, was always interested in athletics and bodybuilding.

His interest in bodybuilding may have been sparked by an anti-Semitic incident during his childhood that begot a need to prove that Jews were not the nebbishes depicted in cartoons and comic strips but could hold their own in a fight.

Rafael became a champion weightlifter and the national karate champion. He also did well as a boxer before turning to wrestling.

After fighting in the War of Independence, Rafael went to America to seek his fortune.

Upon arriving, he antagonized some of the corrupt elements in the professional wrestling business because he refused to take a fall. A man of integrity, he was in the ring to win. Legend has it that he won 159 consecutive matches.

After wrestling as “Mr. Israel” for Vince McMahon Sr.’s Capitol Wrestling in the United States and Canada, Rafael returned to Israel, determined to popularize professional wrestling as a sport and to make Israelis more fitness conscious.

He opened a chain of bodybuilding fitness centers named Shimshon, and he promoted healthy eating. He placed a great deal of emphasis on good nutrition.

He also tried his hand at coffee shops, restaurants and jewelry enterprises. He was also a skilled diamond cutter.

Once he was back in Israel, Rafael, despite his athletic pursuits, which in those days did not go hand in glove with a Torah education, went back to studying Torah. He earned semicha and wrote many seforim, including an encyclopedia.

Rafael went back to the army as a reservist during the Yom Kippur War. Because of his many contacts he was able to arrange for perks for his fellow soldiers.

Strongly guided by religious values, he opened a chain of optical stores, in which he sold eyeglasses at affordable prices, that grew to more than 120 stores.

As time passed, Rafael became increasingly observant, and became an outspoken opponent against business of any kind being conducted on Shabbos.

He is survived by his wife, Bertie, sons Yaakov, Moshe, Shmuel, David and Yehuda, and daughters Chaya and Ettie, as well as more than 50 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

{JPost/Arutz Sheva/Matzav.com Israel}


  1. Good man and excellent role model for many growing up in Bnei Brak. A walking kiddush hashem in whatever he did, tried and accomplished.

  2. yes its known fact in israel that he opened his glasses store(andkeept it that way)to provide glass to the chardi public for really almost pennys not to make bussiness but more to help the public…

  3. No one opens a business not to make money He was a smart business man and charge cheap prices in order to corner the market.
    This man had a keen business sense was a talmid chacham and zadik.