It's hard to know exactly how many people filled the streets of Kiryat Moshe today to mourn the passing of Rabbi Avraham Shapira zt"l, the 94 year-old Religious Zionist rabbinic leader. Surrounded by a sea of mourners - white kippah and black hat alike - Rav Shapira was eulogized with tears and the cry of hearts broken at the loss of a spiritual giant of our age. I felt honored to be among what felt like 100,000+ Children of Israel, saying goodbye to the last link to the lineage of Rav Avraham Yitzak HaKohen Kook zt"l of blessed memory, father of Religious Zionism.
Yeshiva boys hung by the dozen from sagging balconies of dormatories, families filled the streets, quiet and still despite the mid-morning sun on what began as a cloudless Friday. Black velvet and white knitted kippot side by side with the occasional fur streimel, n'na'nah'nachman beanie, black felt hats of every conceivable dent bowed their heads together as our nations Rabbis eulogized him over loadspeakers, which caught every heartbroken sob and gasp of grief such as that of an orphan, left alone in this world without shelter and guidance.
The sound of all those people - some say there were 100,000, some say 20,000 - however many were there - the sound of all those people saying the Shema together, my own voice joined to the sound of the assembled Clal Yisrael - was the most powerful sound I've ever heard in my life, descending into the very DNA of my soul and fundamentally altering something I can neither describe nor understand, only feel.
Psalm 116:15 - "Dear in the eyes of HaShem is the death of His devout ones"
The Jerusalem Post reports: Former Chief Rabbi Avraham Elkana Shapira, the 94-year-old spiritual giant of religious Zionism, was laid to rest Friday after passing away Thursday morning following a sudden deterioration in his medical condition.
The funeral procession, leaving Merkaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem at 10:30 a.m., reached the Mount of Olives where the rabbi was buried. Reportedly, thousands (by some accounts, tens of thousands) attended the funeral procession and the funeral.
Shapira is known principally for his uncompromising opposition to any territorial compromises, even within the context of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. He called on soldiers to refuse orders to aid in the dismantling of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and in northern Samaria during the 2005 disengagement.
Religious Zionist rabbis who opposed Shapira on military insubordination were severely criticized for rebelling against the man they had crowned as "the greatest halachic authority of the generation."
Known by his students as "Rav Avrum," in 1982 Shapira was appointed head of religious Zionism's flagship Mercaz Harav Yeshiva after the death of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, son of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook.