Tefillos Around the Globe for Rav Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz

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michel-yehudah-lefkowitz-11[Video and photos below.] The Olam Hatorah has grown concerned and has been focused on tefillah and limud haTorah since learning that Rav Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ponovezh L’tzeirim and one of the senior gedolei Torah in Eretz Yisroel, is in critical condition after collapsing shortly before the conclusion of Shabbos.

At about 8 p.m. last night, a call was received by Hatzolah from a residence on Rechov Yad Mordechai in the Katamon neighborhood of Yerushalayim, where the rosh yeshiva was staying. Rav Michel Yehudah had been in the middle of seudah shlishis when he appeared to have fainted and stopped breathing.

Eli Cohen, a Hatzolah volunteer, arrived at the scene and began performing CPR on Rav Lefkowitz.

After about 45 minutes, Rav Lefkowitz’s pulse returned and he was taken in critical condition to the trauma center at Shaare Tzedek Medical Center.

Rav Lefkowitz, who resides in Bnei Brak, had been in Katamon since the beginning of week. On Friday, the 97-year-old rosh yeshiva attended the levaya of Reb Boruch Gutfarb zt”l. Toward the end of Shabbos, he collapsed.

Last night, large atzeres tefillah gatherings were held in the yeshivos of Ponovezh, Slabodka, Chevron, Knesses Yitzchok and Tifrach, among others. Signs quickly went up in yeshivos across the globe, from Yeshiva Mir-Yerushalayim, to the Mirrer Yeshiva and Yeshiva Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn, to Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood.

The largest atzeres tefillah was held last night at 11 p.m. at Yeshivas Ponovezh in Bnei Brak. At Yeshivas Mir-Yerushalayim, Tehillim was said with the participation of the rosh yeshiva, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel.

An atzeres tefillah at the Kosel was held at about 11:30 p.m.

Rav Yaakov Edelstein, rov of Ramat Hasharon, who had spent Shabbos up north, went to the kever of Rav Shimon bar Yochai to daven for the welfare of Rav Lefkowitz.

Among those at Shaare Tzedek Medical Center  last night with the family members were MK Yaakov Litzman, MK Uri Maklev and MK Meir Porush.

All are asked to daven and learn as a zechus for Rav Michel Yehudah ben Chaya.

Two summers ago, Rav Lefkowitz stopped giving shiurim at Yeshivas Ponovezh L’Tzeirim after 50 years of doing so.

Over the course of 5 decades, hundreds of talmidim passed through the doors of Yeshivas Ponovezh L’Tzeirim and learned under Rav Lefkowitz. Among the alumni of the yeshiva are roshei yeshivos and rabbonim who gained immeasurably from Rav Michel Yehudah, his shiurim, and his erudition. Together with Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, who used to be part of the faculty, Rav Michel Yehudah taught and guided countless bnei Torah, infusing them with a love of Torah and  avodas Hashem, and enlightening them with his insightful and penetrating shiurim.

Rav Michel Yehudah, a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Degel HaTorah, is a talmid of the Chazon Ish and one of the most prominent talmidim of Rav Shlomo Heiman. In fact, it was Rav Michel Yehudah who released the two-volume Chiddushei Rav Shlomo, the Torah of his rebbi, Rav Shlomo Heiman.

The following is one of many inspiring stories that depict what a treasure our generation has in Rav Lefkowitz:

As the nosi of Acheinu, Rav Lefkowitz always makes himself available to offer daas Torah for the kiruv queries asked of him.

Yaakov, a bochur from an irreligious, somewhat traditional family, was a boy with exemplary middos and yiras Shomayim. Unfortunately, he was academically very weak and learning was difficult.

His avreich, Betzalel, wanting to be mechazek him, took him to visit Rav Lefkowitz. Yaakov told Rav Michel Yehudah about his difficulty learning, “I try, but I simply can’t understand,” he said.

Rav Michel Yehudah asked him his father’s occupation.

“He is a carpenter.”

“Is he shomer Torah umitzvos?”

“Not really.”

“Are any siblings in yeshiva?”


“Are your sisters in frum schools?”


Rav Michel Yehudah then asked, “Do you know what kind of responsibility rests on your shoulders? You are only one! You must carry the entire family.”

Yaakov replied brokenheartedly, “But I just can’t learn! I try, but it is so very hard!”

The nonagenarian Rav Michel Yehudah became very emotional and began to cry. Seeing the tears coursing down the rosh yeshiva‘s face, Yaakov also began to cry. Rav Michel Yehudah finally composed himself and lovingly told Yaakov, “I want to tell you something. I am rosh yeshiva of Ponovezh Yeshiva Ketana for many decades. In all my years, experience has shown me that it is not the brilliant boys who succeed. it is the masmidim who keep at it who succeed. My advice is that you learn during the yeshiva‘s sedarim. Don’t learn late at night and don’t skip meals. Sleep during sleeping times, eat during eating times and learn during learning times. Just keep at it and you will see that the gates of learning will suddenly open and you will understand. You will see such success, such great light, that you will forget the darkness which currently clouds your existence.”

Rav Michel Yehudah concluded, “Anytime it is hard for you and you feel discouraged, please come back to me and we will talk. I am always here, available and wanting to speak to you.”

See below for photos of the atzeres tefillah gatherings at Yeshivas Ponovezh in Bnei Brak and at the Kosel in Yerushalayim:

Click below for a video of Rav Michel Yehudah being visited by a group of English-speaking students:

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{Yair Alpert-Matzav.com Israel/Shmiel Gellman-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. I’m not quite sure if it’s in my place to say the following. I just wanted to express my own personal feelings & intuition about the following. This past month a noted magazine chose to designate one of their lengthy articles to cover ground of the 6 most prominent gedolim in our times, who are at or about 100 years old, who continue to guide klal yisroel…. Not too many days after the release of this article, did we learn of R’ Koppelman’s petira. And not too many days later, did we hear of R’ Elyashiv’s delicate surgery… And not too many days later & there are signs hanging in all the batei midrashim to be mispallel for R’ Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, who was pronounced in critical condition on Friday. I am not here to say that highliting these gedolim in their old age had any affect on their health r”l. I just wanted to express my own feelings of “ein habracha shruya ela baduvur hasesuma min haayin” & maybe we should reconsider not putting these gedolim in the spotlight…

  2. #2 i WAS THINKING THE EXACT SAME THING. I believe Merov devarim lo yechdal Pesha. These weekly’s need to fill their pages every week, and unfourtunately they will do anythig to do that. They will place articles with questionble content and then there is “Plain sheer silly articles”…. This one that we are referring to was the latter. Stupid and disrespectful to highlight a Gadol’s advanced age!

  3. May the tefillos of Klal Yisroel intercede and HKB’H should watch over our precious gedolim ad bias goel tzedek!!

  4. Glad to see I’m not the only one that was upset about the article. Although I didn’t dream this would happen, and I don’t want to blame them in any way – I believe they meant well, I just thought it was inappropriate, and disrespectful to write about their advanced age. I hope this serves as an awareness to all other news agencies (ie: Matzav who wrote in this article how old he is.) to please give us info that we need to know and not info that is not our business!

  5. We must be one of many who feel this way. We said it when the paper came out, even before R’ Koppelman passed away. I understand that Jews are trying to make money off of these papers and I respect their right to do so, but in so many ways they have placed sensationalism (translate: profit)above ethics. We have seen time and time again that following a huge publicity in a paper, tragedy strikes our gedolim. Please, let us hear their biographies posthumously.

  6. Well, Rav Koppelman was 106, and was a choleh mesukan before any recent articles. Rav Elyashiv is BH on his way to s full recovery.

    Bahadi kavshi d’Rachmana lama lach!!


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