Health of Haredi Leader Rabbi Elyashiv Deteriorates to 'Very Grave'

Four months after Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv was hospitalized for organ failure, family is called to his side.

The health of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv has deteriorated to a "very grave" condition, four months after the revered ultra-Orthodox leader was hospitalized for organ failure.

Family members were called to his side at Shaare Zedek Medical Center on Tuesday morning, according to an Army Radio report.

Elyashiv, who is nearly 102 years old, was admitted to the intensive care unit in Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center four months ago. He had undergone coronary artery bypass surgery several months earlier.

Prayer sessions for the rabbi's recovery were held in all of Israel's ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods following his hospitalization. The leaders of the Lithuanian-Haredi community halted all study sessions and called on their students to join the prayers. Ultra-Orthodox radio stations broadcast news of the rabbi's condition continuously.

Senior rabbis, ultra-Orthodox Knesset members from United Torah Judaism, and many of the rabbi's followers visited the hospital when he was first admitted, to await news of his condition. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly called MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) to ask about Elyashiv's condition.

Elyashiv is unofficially the paramount leader of the Lithuanian-Haredi community, both in Israel and abroad. Many Ashkenazi Jews regard him as the contemporary leading halakhic authority.

Elyashiv makes all major halakhic decisions and decides on issues such as who is considered a Jew and questions of organ donations. By endorsing certain nominees, the rabbi also determines who the ultra-Orthodox community will support for appointments to top positions such as Jerusalem mayor and the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel.

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv in 2006.
Haaretz Archive