The Rivevos Ephraim, Rav Ephraim Greenblatt zt”l


efraim-greenblatt-3Please note that the following article was written by and for and has unfortunately since been republished elsewhere without permission and without proper attribution. Thank you.

It is with great sadness that reports the passing of Rav Ephraim Greenblatt zt”l, renowned senior posek and longtime rov of Memphis, Tennessee. He was 81 years old.

Rav Greenblatt was born in Yerushalayim in 1932 to his parents, Rav Avrohom Boruch and Aliza Greenblatt, the oldest of eleven children. Rav Avrohom Boruch was a tremendous masmid who learned in the yeshiva of the Imrei Moshe in Brisk. After moving to Eretz Yisroel, he lived with his wife and their eleven children in a one-bedroom apartment.

Rav Greenblatt studied at the Kletzk Yeshiva in Rechovot, where he was greatly influenced by Rav Elazar Shach zt”l. Rav Greenblatt, who quickly became recognized even as a bochur for his stature as a talmid chochom with a wide range of Torah knowledge, was encouraged by his grandfather, Rav Yitzchok Greenblatt, to travel to the United States in order to assume a rabbinic position to support his poverty-stricken family.

Rav Greenblatt made the journey at age nineteen, with not more than a dozen English words in his vocabulary. His ambition was to be hired as a rov of a shtiebel in New York and send the stipend back home. Instead, Rav Greenblatt became a talmid at Mesivta Tiferes Yerushalayim in New York City, where he formed a relationship with the rosh yeshiva and posek hador, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, who took Rav Greenblatt under his wing. That connection would have a significant – and magnificent – impact on his life, both personally and in his career in rabbonus. Rav Greenblatt received semichah from both Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer and Rav Moshe.

In 1952, Rav Moshe sent Rav Greenblatt to Memphis to assume the position as mara d’asra of the community there, a role he would go on to fill for 58 years, transforming the community into a burgeoning Torah center.

Rav Moshe, in explaining his request for Rav Greenblatt to relocate, related that he had gotten a call from a local Jew in Memphis who asked that he send a bochur to strengthen the kehillah.  Rav Moshe thought that Rav Greenblatt was suited for the job and suggested that he travel to see the kehillah.

Rav Greenblatt began in Memphis as a bochur and only returned to New York to get married. Rav Moshe was his mesader kiddushin, and in contrast to his habit of remaining at weddings for just a short time and then leaving, he stayed from the chupah through the seudah and only left after bentching.

After close to six decades of Torah leadership and halachic guidance in the United States, four years ago, Rav Greenblatt moved back to Eretz Yisroel. The reason for the move, though, was a sad and disturbing one. Rav Greenblatt had heard that Jews were depositing money with a wealthy individual who offered high returns and decided to do the same. That individual was Bernard Madoff. When Madoff’s scheme was exposed, Rav Greenblatt lost all his money, with nothing remaining. He was left penniless and chose to move to Eretz Yisroel to continue learning Torah with renewed vigor.

“I have no money to buy an apartment, so I rent,” Rav Greenblatt remarked a few years ago after his move. “Financially, I returned here the same way I left. Penniless. But Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer’s bracha that I would go to America and return was fulfilled.”

revivos-ephraim1Rav Greenblatt often mentioned that he greatly regretted that his Torah library in Memphis of 26,000 seforim – one of the largest private libraries of its kind in America – remained behind, because the shipping would have cost more than $100,000, in addition to the fact that his small apartment in Har Nof, Yerushalayim, was unable to accommodate the seforim.

During his lifetime, Rav Greenblatt authored the heralded ten-volume Shailos Uteshuvos Rivevos Ephraim, an encyclopedic work with thousands of teshuvos addressing virtually every topic in contemporary halacha. He also authored the two-volume Rivevos Ephraim Al Hatorah, the two-volume Rivevos V’Yovlos, and numerous teshuvos and articles published in Torah journals and other publications.

Even after moving to Eretz Yisroel, Rav Greenblatt continued to answer shailos from all over the United States and delivered regular shiurim by phone to his baalei batim back in America.

In addition to being a posek and talmid chochom of note, Rav Greenblatt was well-known for his kindness, generosity and sensitivity. So many mechabrim of seforim who approached him for letters of approbation received one with graciousness and warmth. He was a role model in hasmadah and gadlus in Torah, and was just as much a model in middos tovos and ahavas Yisroel.

In many ways, Rav Greenblatt’s passing marks the severing of a unique kesher that this generation had to a previous epoch, though his seforim and the people he inspired ensure that his legacy is perpetuated.

His wife, Miriam, passed away in 2002 following a car accident. Rav Greenblatt’s sister, Rebbetzin Leah, was the wife of Rav Shlomo Brevda zt”l, whose first yahrtzeit was this week.

Rav Greenblatt is survived by his children, Rabbi Yitzchok Greenblatt of Far Rockaway; Rabbi Menachem Greenblatt, rov of Agudas Yisroel of St. Louis; Mrs. Mashy Langsam, wife of Rav Elazar Langsam; Mrs. Goldie Koenigsberg of Lakewood; and Mrs. Sima of Yerushalayim.

The levaya will be held at Shamgar in Yerushalayim at 10:45 a.m.

Yehi zichro boruch.

{Noam Newscenter}


  1. In addition to everything that was stated above – a lesser known attribute of this Gadol, was that in addition to the writing, teaching, and various other duties of a Rav of such stature, he and his wife, spent countless hours preparing children for their Bar Mitzvahs, He personally sat with each child for hours teaching them how to read from the Torah & Haftorah. Many times he did this without payment for families who could not afford any other lessons. People around the world found it hard to believe that such a Gadol would teach Bar Mitzvah Lessons. Perhaps, his humility, helped him achieve such status. Forever Grateful!

  2. A tremendous loss to Klal Yisrael.
    All who learned his sefarim saw his Gadlus and humility.
    A warm available gadol who interacted with everyone in a pleasant manner.

  3. Young Bnei Torah myself included, would write Rav Greenblatt ztl shailos in various miktzaos of torah and would recieve a teshuva almost immediately filled with warmth and chizuk, and he would ask to keep writing back more!The Rivevos Ep hraim is packed with letters,psakim,and torah from many gedolei yisroel.Yhi zichro baruch.

  4. What I find most disturbing is that his Kehila that he served so devotedly for half a century would do everything in their power to make it possible for him to stay .also Here. Is a man Well know (and I quote )for his kindness generosity and sensitivite yet in his old age and time of need no one was their for him .I never heard of hin till today and yet I hurt and shed tears for him .
    And to his talmud , I find it very hard to believe that he would say that about his sforim to people like him his sforim are as precious as his children .
    I speak from experience both from my rosh hayisvah and from my son who is a grade 11 magic siur after 13 years in kollel. He stared liking and apreciatig sforim at a very young age .to date he has over 80000 and each and every one of them is a treasure to him .if he were g-d forbid lose them or have to leave them behind he would be heartbroken and devastated

  5. He was happy because he sold most of them to people learning in BMG. he told me that for months afterwards, many questions he had written for himself in the margins, would be answered by people calling him. Also, the article above isn’t totally accurate. He specifically told me that he chose not to bring them bec they would be ended up in storage. Not bec it cost to much.

  6. To #9 Nussi- If you are disturbed about something then you misunderstood. He was loved and supported by his community. His sefarim were left in good hands. In his “old age” he was surrounded by children, grandchildren & great grandchildren, all Bnei Torah. The only ones you should feel sorry for is klal yisroel for having lost a true link in the mesorah, who by virtue of the fact that he lived “out of town” all the years & was very much a part of it, he was not prone to all the “shtick” & chitzonius that permeates the frum community.

  7. My wife is from Memphis, and we were married there. Rav Ephraim was the best friend of my father-in-law, Marvin Posner, who was also niftar this past year. One of my favorite pictures from the wedding is of Rav Ephraim sitting at the chassan’s tish.
    Over the years I had the chance to speak in learning with him many times. And a year and a half ago, my wife, my sons, and I had the great zechus to spend around 90 minutes with him in Har Nof.
    What a gentle, special man he was! (What will probably not be mentioned is that he also was a Zionist and a member of the Irgun!He was imprisoned by the British, but because of his very small stature was able to slip through the bars. He must have been fifteen years old at the time). We weep with his family and we pray that they be comforted b’soch sh’ar aveilei Tzion virushalayim. Avi Goldstein, Far Rockaway

  8. Would love to hear stories about and Torah from Rav Moshe when he spent his youth at MTJ. Did he write anything like that down somewhere? Raboisai, help me out on this one!

  9. A Reb. Moshe story he told me was:

    It was after a levya in Iyur and he hadn’t said Berchas Ylanot yet and asked Reb. Moshe could he say it now. Reb. Moshe told him the while it is best to say it in Nisson it can still be said thru Iyur

  10. This week we have lost not only the Posek Hador but a man whos tzidkus was not matched. I am a talmid of rebbi and if you need to confirm look at Revivos Ephriam chelek shmini:Kuf Daled. no where else in revives ephriam does he give status of talmid but there.

    I want to just any readers of this post to have confirmation that what I am about to write is emes.

    when I first started learning under him I was young.. I would ask him questions that rashi would explain but he would always first reply “that is a very good question, I will look it up.” his door remained open from dawn to dusk, following Pirkei Avos 1;5 “yehi beisecha pasuach larvacha” – let your house be open wide.
    In the morning he would have us put away a stack of seforim 4-5..after asking him why he always has them out on his table? he responded “people send me their seforim for approval, I finished those last night.”

    I read someone wanted a good R’ Moshe story.. One time close to purim R’Ephriam was going to visit his rebbi.. on the way he stopped in one of the small southern towns and bought a liquor only sold down south called “moonshine” which is extremely potent.. Rav Moshe said ” you shouldn’t have spent money on me on this..” rabbi Ephriam leaned over and said well if rebbi says so…and reached to grab them..Rav Moshe jumped forward and wrapped his aarms around them and said “well, once you already did…”

    Our Rebbi was my rock and my strength. He came all the way from Memphis for my Bar Mitzvah in Baltimore.. when my father asked why he came all the way up:? He understood its very hard for Rebbi to leave his Kehilla for a whole thurs-sunday! Rebbi told my father “one day Arnon will give berachos so I had to come.”

    for people that want to understand Rebbi, please get the sefer Revivos Ephriam al hatorah..he wrote it in Hebrew but wrote it in the easiet form of hebrew he could so most could learn it. Every Parsha he stresses our need to help and dedicate as much energy and effort into being mekarev all our brothers and sisters who are rachok mitorah uumitzvos. It is a guidline to unify ourselves through the torach and deal with everyone besever panim yafos and learn every day bikivius.

    Rebbi heard meepee Rav Shach tz”l “Rak Meshuga Ein Emunah!”

    OUR rebbi gave me a siddur “minchas yosef kol bo hashalem” that I use everyday.. in the index he wrote in pencil “asher yatzar otchem bedin, vezan otchem bedin, vekalkal etchem bedin, veasid lehachoschem bedin, velehakuchem bedin. B”A”H Mechayei Hamasim.”
    I cry writing this and chills run down my spine. because I never understood why until now.

    Rarely when Rebbi opened a sefer did he need to turn a page to get to the right page. if he did it was one and rarely two. When Rebbi got a phone call and it was a shayla.. he ALWAYS grabbed a sefer and im sure there were times he needed it but 995 of the time he knew.. read Revivos Ephriam and you will see he knew..and why? the person wasn’t there.. he wasn’t doing it to make the person feel good about his question.. it was because Rebbi was an anuv. he was a tremendous anuv.

    Rebbi once told my father.. “anyone can be Rav Moshe”.. my father asked him what? How cfan everyone be Rav Moshe??? Rebbi responded “rav Moshe fulfilled his potential in life.. he wasn’t a genius like Einstien but he plugged away at every available moment and never wasted any time.. he focused with all his capability on every line and every word.. he fulfilled his potential. an autistic child has very little capabilities and therefore his potential level is very low but if he hits that potential he is doing all he can and can be like Rav Moshe and fulfill his potential”

    My father was sitting down to shabbbos sueda with Rebbi while the rebetzin ola BESHALOM WAS IN A COMA. Rebbi balled up a napkin into a ball and started placing it from a very short distance into a plastic cup. After a minute or so of doing this, he looked up at my father and said “7 foot people are being payed millions of dollars and spend there whole lives doing this!” Haha.

    My father is a doctor and when my mother was pregnant with my youngest brother Eliezer..the ultra sounds came back and results were not good. the radiologist said the baby is going to have mental health issues based on the sounds. being a doctor at the Trauma unit at the University of Tennessee my father made apppointments with one of the world reknown radiologist in Utah and he said the same.. start purchasing certain equipment for the child. He went to one more big shot in Florida.. same result.
    next day my father took the picture of the ultra sound to Rebbi. My father explained the entire story and the professionals who have all concluded the same diagnosis. Rebbi asked my father if he can get the ultra sound? my father said “I have it with me” handed it to Rebbi. Moreinu removed his glasses and held the ultrasound xray an inch from his face. My father said 5 min went by, 10,20,30 and 45 min later Rebbi put his glasses back on handed the ultrasound back and said “the baby is turned at an angle, hes perfectly fine and do NOT buy any special equipment. Two long stressful months went by and ELI- “ribono shel olam” EZER- “helped” was born with no birth defects baruch haashem and is learning and a masmid in yeshiva BH.

    Our family was instructed to move to Baltimore so we could get more Talmud torah from yeshivos like Yeshivas Chafetz Chaim and Ner yisroel. BH all are shteiging full time or working and learning but our Rebbi made this family into a beis torah and I loved him like a father. We spoke once a week and loved him more and more every week.

    please get a sefer revives Ephraim al hatorah so you can understand how the torah is our sorce of love that makes us brothers and the answer to the galus. Rebbi was niftar Parshas Bo and Bo is the mentioning the “choshech”. Mori VeGaon Haztadick Rav Ephraim Greenblatt TZ”L was our Or in this galus of our generation. It may not be dark literally but there is a war for the nishamos of klal yisroel and the yetzer hara and life filled by chasing the yetzer hara is a life of choshech. Rebbi Hakadosh was our “Ohr Chadash Al Tzion Tair , Venikeh kulanu meheira Leoroh” He dedicated his entire being to leading yidin to the Ohr of torah. Through our actions bein adam lechaveiro and helping every yid in need, and that’s by giving him the biggest gift…the gift of torah..may hakadosh baruch huu show us his middas harachamim and give every yid the zechus of the oroh shel torah.. this was Rebbis mission… please take on something a little extra to get closer to each other as an “am eched lev echad”..and we can start our journey to eretz yisroel and along the way find our true foundation..achdus

    Rebbi is right near the kisei hacavod as we speak ..use this time to get closer because there is a special gate open for our tefillos thru his zechus .amen K”YR BDE I love you Rebbi!

  11. To a close talmid:
    Rav Ephraim made no secret of how he worked in the underground to help found the state. Let us not be revisionists!

  12. I had the honor of being a student of both Rav Efraim and Mrs. Greenblatt from the time that I was little. Mrs. Greenblatt taught me how to read Hebrew when I was in the first grade. And Rav Efraim taught me in the third grade. They both prepared me for my bar mitzvah and I also had the honor of many one-on-one sessions with Rav Efraim on Sunday mornings in his study. He never judged. All he wanted to do was make us better people. I left Memphis many years ago but I always looked forward to seeing Rav Efraim when I would visit. He would always show general concern for my well-being and Was always happy to hear about what was going on in my life. The Greenblatt’s always had a special place in my heart and I will miss them both.