HaRav Nissim Yagen, zt"l
by M. Samsonowitz
A few months ago, I bumped into a friend on the street who told me that Rav Nissim Yagen had returned from the States, and would be speaking that night in a shul in Ramot. Rav Nissim Yagen is speaking? I asked enthusiastically. "Pick me up -- I'm coming!" It was months since he had spoken in public because he had been undergoing treatment abroad.
The speech was called for 8:30 p.m., and we arrived at 8:45 p.m. What a mistake! The synagogue was packed so tightly that it was impossible to push in past the door. When a listener had to leave through that entrance, we seized the opportunity and pushed ourselves into the main hall and could now hear his booming voice. It was impossible to believe that here was a mortally sick man. (His son told me that for that lecture, he had taken the highest dosage of pain-killer available.)
It was vintage Rav Nissim. He denounced the appalling ignorance of Judaism among Israelis today. He talked about the Final Redemption and various supernatural phenomena that he had personally witnessed, and urged us to feel the clarion call to get into spiritual shape for the great events coming up. You could feel the tension surging through your body by the end of the shiur. End to complacency! Time to start putting things in order!
That was Rav Nissim. His style was blunt and demanding, yet calm. Earthy and pragmatic, but not complex. Invoking higher worlds and heavenly intervention, but no hocus-pocus.
Rav Nissim Yagen was born in 1940 in Jerusalem to Chacham Yaakov, one of the Torah scholars who frequented the beis hamedrash of the mekubal HaRav Mordechai Sharabi in Jerusalem. His grandfather was a noted scholar from Aleppo who merited gilui Eliyahu Hanovi, and his father too was a humble tzaddik of stature.
Although for his living he ran a soap and detergent store in the Machane Yehuda market, Chacham Yaakov was a regular at HaRav Mordechai Sharabi's beis hamedrash in the neighborhood. The store served him more as a conduit for kedusha and chesed than a source of parnossa. Not only did he spend considerable time in the store itself studying Torah, but a special Hashgocho Protis hung over the store.
Once, on the sixth day of Chanukah, a shop owner asked Chacham Yaakov if he would buy 25 menorahs from him that remained from his stock. Although it didn't seem likely there would be any takers for the menorahs this late on Chanukah, Reb Yaakov agreed to buy them. A few minutes later a teacher rushed into his store and asked breathlessly if he had 25 menorahs she could buy for a school performance the following day. He immediately handed over the 25 menorahs in the original sack, and eyed one of his sons who was looking on astonished, "Parnossa is from heaven, no?"
The Yagen home was suffused in spirituality and love for Torah and this passed down to all the children.
Nevertheless, the period was one of the most trying in Jewish history. Children of worthy, G-d-fearing Jews were abandoning Judaism in droves, attracted by the modernism, materialism and hedonism dangled in front of their eyes.
Rav Nissim was the oldest son in the family, and from his youth it was obvious that he had a special soul. He studied in a local cheder and yeshiva ketana, and then for a short period in Slobodke yeshiva in Bnei Brak. It was a battle to even make it through cheder, let alone more advanced Torah studies. On one hand, his impoverished family needed every extra person to help bring in parnossa, and on the other hand, many of his more modern relatives were saying that no future awaited him in yeshiva studies.
He was called a "shirker" and a "traitor." He had to constantly defend himself. The family's extreme poverty was unquestionable -- the family of 14 children lived in an apartment of one and a half rooms.
The battles got worse the older he got. When he graduated cheder and wanted to start learning in a yeshiva ketana, his family ganged up on him and refused to allow him to attend. He declared a hunger strike and said he wouldn't eat until they agreed. After a week the family broke and allowed him to attend.
By the time he reached yeshiva gedola, nothing could persuade him to give up his yeshiva studies. But that didn't stop the family from trying.
Gole Lemokom Torah
When Rav Nissim decided that he wanted to study in Lakewood, everyone who heard it was stupefied. The year was 1960 and traveling across the ocean to study in a yeshiva was not a common practice then -- certainly not from Israel to the U.S. But he had heard that Lakewood was the biggest yeshiva in the world, and HaRav Aaron Kotler was perhaps the world's most famous rosh yeshiva.
The rabbonim he greatly esteemed encouraged him. The Amshenover and the Lelever Rebbes told him to go, and a rosh yeshiva even offered to pay for his ticket.
He was 20 when he arrived in the U.S. and he remained until he was 24. He studied under R' Aaron for several years and later under Rav Shneur. He was close with the mashgiach HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel who, together with Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, he saw as his mentor in mussar. He studied diligently throughout the day, barely allowing himself a few hours of sleep at night. During the afternoon break, he had a special seder on the Maharal's works. He managed to finish all of the Maharal's seforim before he returned home.
He was well-liked by the other talmidim, and was known for his ability to chase away depression and misery with his cheerful personality. Privately, he was a profound oveid whose resolutions in avodas Hashem included watching to insure that he didn't waste a minute in bitul Torah, and preparing the proper kavonos for Krias Shema.
Back to Eretz Hakodesh
When he turned 24, it was time to return home. Reb Shneur tried to convince him to remain. "Why go back to Israel?" he told him, "Stay in America and you'll become one of the next gedolei hador!"
He was offered attractive shidduchim with the daughters of prominent rabbonim in the U.S. But Reb Nissim said, "What will be with my brothers and sisters? I have to go back and strengthen them."
Just to be sure, he did a Goral HaGra. When the posuk he received was, "And Bnei Yaakov traveled to Eretz Canaan," he packed his bags and headed home.
Back in Israel, he immediately got to work drawing Jews closer to their Father in Heaven. The first objects of his attention were his own family: He immediately enrolled all his younger brothers and sisters in first-rate yeshivas and seminaries.
Then he got to work on the relatives. Now it was he who was "terrorizing" the less religious relatives until they gave in and sent their children to more religious schools. His brothers all admit that it was due to Rav Nissim that they all ended up bnei Torah. He was soon consulted on any important family matter.
Reb Nissim married a year later and spent several years in various kollels in Jerusalem, including Rav Yitzchok Unterman's kollel. This kollel was known to be among the most prominent in Israel and it contained a select group of scholars. Here he obtained smicha and studied Choshen Mishpot and Even Haezer, passing examinations on a huge quantity of material with ease.
Although he was offered countless positions as a rav and dayan over the years, positions he could have capably filled, he refused them all, preferring to have his own kollel and yeshiva.
During this time, he regularly attended the mussar shmuessim of HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz and HaRav Sholom Schwadron, and began to give his own mussar lectures at home which were attended by Chevron yeshiva students.
While still a young avreich in kollel, he would see children whose parents didn't realize the importance of a religious education. He would convince the parents to send the children to learn in Bnei Brak dormitory schools and seminaries -- and sometimes paid for their tuition and pocket money despite barely having the money to live himself.
The director in one of the schools once inquired who was this rich man Nissim Yagen who was paying for so many children in the school? Rav Nissim ensured that hundreds of youths stayed religious.
He had convinced one girl to study in a religious school in Bnei Brak on condition that he buy her an expensive coat. When the coat was stolen, the girl called Rav Nissim up in tears and told him she wanted to leave. It was a scorching fast day, but to calm her down, he decided to travel to Bnei Brak. It was no simple feat in those days -- it involved travelling through Tel Aviv and switching buses. But it was the only way to convince her otherwise. He went out and bought her a new coat too.
His first appointment was as rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ohel Moed. His first foray in reaching out to the secular community was to organize a religious community in Givat Ada near Haifa on behalf of Yeshivas Ohr Somayach. He became the rav of the community which numbered 100 families.
When he returned to Jerusalem a few years later, he was appointed the mashgiach in Yeshivas Or Baruch in Bayit Vegan.
It was during the 1973 Yom Kippur War that Rav Nissim resolved to dedicate his life to helping Jews return to Judaism. During the war he worked in the army in the numbing task of identifying the dead. Hundreds of dead passed through his hands during those days and he was in constant pain to see the young lives cut short. At that time he prayed to Hashem, "Hakodesh Boruch Hu! I know why you took these Yiddishe neshomos -- they didn't keep Shabbos and other mitzvos! So let's make a deal! Let them live and I'll work to bring them back to you!"
Shortly after, he founded Arachim with a few others. He was the one who gave the name "Arachim" to the organization. For years he gave seminars and lectures to the non-religious in Israel and all over the world. Often at the end of his lectures, he would lead the audience in spontaneous, joyous dancing and singing of songs of emunah and ahavas Hashem.
Many participants accepted upon themselves the yoke of Torah and mitzvos after just a few hours in his presence. He frequently stayed up until the early hours of the morning answering questions to attendees, and for months afterwards spent countless hours on the phone and in private meetings to strengthen and encourage new shomrei mitzvos. He may truly be considered among the founding fathers of the Teshuva Movement.
In 1979 he founded Kehilas Yaakov Kollel on Yosef Ben Matityahu street for baalei tshuva which he continued to run until the end of his life. The heavy financial burden to support the members of the kollel rested primarily on his shoulders, but he undertook it with a sense of mission to enable the kollel scholars to grow to their potential.
He was wont to say, "Mashiv haru'ach umorid hageshem -- if we foster the spirit and do everything we can to maintain Torah study, then Hakodosh Boruch Hu will send down the `geshem' -- gashmiyus to support us."
Many of Rav Nissim's shiurim over the years were taped and distributed to a wide audience. His tapes, which covered every conceivable topic, had a powerful impact on listeners.
About three years ago he was asked to give a lecture in Yeshivat Mikdash Melech, a yeshiva for English-speaking boys of Sephardic extraction. Rav Nissim came, spoke and left. One of the youths present at the shiur was a young American bochur who wanted to remain studying in yeshiva, but his parents had adamantly refused to let him remain more than one year. He taped Rav Nissim's lecture and, after he returned home, enjoyed replaying it in his car's tape recorder whenever he travelled.
One day his mother took the car and found herself stuck in a major traffic jam. To help pass the time, she decided to listen to the tape of Rav Nissim's lecture.
By the time she reached her destination, she had heard the tape twice. When she came home that night, she called aside her son and said, "You wanted to remain in yeshiva and I insisted you leave? I changed my mind. You can go."
An avreich who lives in Kiryat Sefer used to get up daily for the vosikin minyan. One morning he was very tired after a sleepless night when the clock began to ring for him to get up. That day he decided to shut off the clock, and stay in bed. Just before he turned over he turned on his radio. Suddenly the voice of Rav Nissim came roaring out of the radio -- "Get up! Don't be lazy! Get up early! If something is important to you, you're not going to sleep through it!" At this message from heaven, the avreich got up.
A man in Bnei Brak who loved to listen to Rav Nissim's tapes, bought a new car and left several tapes in it. One Friday night, to his grief, he noticed that someone had stolen his car. To his amazement, he found the car back in its place on Shabbos morning! On the front window was attached a scrap of paper on which was written, "I stole the car, I heard the tape, and I decided to return it."
"Coincidentally," the tape in the car's player was about theft and what a terrible sin it is. When the thief drove off, the tape automatically went on and he heard Rav Nissim's exhortations against stealing. The impact of Rav Nissim's words were so powerful that he returned the car.
Rav Attias, Rav Nissim Cohen and an avreich went to collect money in Australia for the kollel, a place they had never gone before. Rav Nissim told them to take along a set of tapes to give to anyone who would be willing to set up a gemach. They completely forgot about the tapes until their last day there. They decided to give the collection to the first man they met in the shul.
They met an Israeli and asked him if he would be willing to found a tape gemach in his home. The man told them sadly, "I unfortunately can't do it. My wife is anti- religious and she hates rabbonim and anything to do with Judaism. Tomorrow we're meeting at the beis din to get divorced! She wants nothing to do with Judaism."
Under pressure of time, the rabbonim urged the man to take the tapes anyway.
The man looked at the set hopelessly, but agreed to take them. "I suppose I have nothing to lose," he shrugged his shoulders. The next day he was supposed to meet his wife at the beis din, but on a lark he decided to knock at her door in the morning and present her with one of the tapes. He hoped she wouldn't chase him out.
In the meantime, the man's wife was having second thoughts. The entire night she couldn't sleep. Thoughts kept racing around her head: "Here I'm breaking apart our home. I'm destroying my children's life. I'm giving up a good husband. And why? Because I dislike religion so much? Is it really worth it?"
After deep contemplation, she decided to try to talk to G-d. Since this was a very fateful conversation, she decided to dress in her best clothes. Once she was ready, she stood up in the living room and, after a long, sincere talk in which she expressed her indecision and asked for direction, she fell asleep out of exhaustion.
She was still sleeping when she heard knocking at the door that woke her up. When she opened the door, she was surprised to see her husband. He was surprised to see her so well-dressed so early in the morning. But he just meekly asked if she would be willing to listen to a tape by a great rabbi? She said right away that she was willing. The tape exchanged hands and both said good-by -- astonished and uncomprehending the strange turn of events. She listened to the tape right away. At noon she phoned her husband and asked if she could have another tape. Would he mind cancelling the appointment by the beis din, she also wanted to know. In the end, it took only a short while before the woman decided to commit herself to Judaism. The couple wrote a letter to Reb Nissim expressing their gratitude for the tapes having saved their marriage.
A strange woman appeared at Rav Nissim's funeral weeping bitterly. Since no one recognized her, they asked who she was and why she had come. The woman, who was from the south of Israel, explained that she had once been bitterly anti- religious. Then a tape of Reb Nissim's had fallen into her hands. It had taken just one tape for her to decide to become religious. How could she not cry that such a unique person was gone?
His love for Torah and its students prompted him to travel the world to support his Kehilas Yaakov kollel. At first the kollel was for baalei teshuva but afterwards it took in avreichim from yeshivos. He disliked the frequent trips he had to make abroad to support his kollel, but mentioned that when he thought of the students who were studying in his kollel and the tremendous knowledge they were gaining, he didn't care how many months he had to be abroad.
He was close to gedolim in both the Litvish and Sephardic camp. He was wont to consult particularly with the Steipler Rov, who once said about him that he was "among the only machzirim betshuva who is working lesheim Shomayim." When the Steipler was alive, he visited Bnei Brak at least once a month to consult with him and didn't make a move without his advice. On his recommendation, Rav Nissim decided not to take funds from the government despite the fact that it significantly increased his burden.
He refused to align himself with any political party or group. He explained his attitude by means of a parable which he heard from the Klausenberger Rebbe: "A hungry lion walked around the forest and came across a small lamb. `How is my breath?' he demanded from the quaking lamb. `Terrible,' said the lamb. `How dare you talk that way to the king of all beasts!' roared the lion. He pounced on the lamb and finished it in a few bites.
"A few days later he was again hungry, and this time he found a cow. `How is my breath?' he asked the cow. `Your breath smells lovely,' replied the cow, hoping to avoid the mistake of the lamb. But the lion replied, `How dare you lie!' and pounced on the cow.
"A few days later, he set out again to quiet his rumbling stomach and this time found a fox. When he posed his question to the fox, the latter sneezed several times and replied apologetically, `My master the king, yesterday I caught a cold and I can't smell a thing.'"
The lesson he wanted to impart was that in many matters, a person is better off keeping silent. Matters which are not urgent for one's personal spiritual growth should be placed in a corner and ignored.
His Derech in Chessed
Rav Nissim's trademark was his tremendous love for every Jew, his consideration for his fellow man's needs and the countless deeds of kindness which he excelled at. His many acts of chesed were accomplished with subtle finesse. The assistance he gave encompassed both the physical and spiritual. Time and again, one hears from hundreds of people, "He made us feel like we were his only child." "Rav Nissim will take care of it for me." "He made me feel like he had all the time in the world for me."
He had a particular finesse in how he performed kindnesses. If he saw that the jacket of an avreich was dirty, he wouldn't tell him openly "Your jacket is dirty" and certainly said nothing which could sound the slightest like a rebuke, such as "How can you go around like that?" Instead, he might ask the avreich if he could lend him his jacket because he wanted to show someone the color, or some other concocted excuse, and then he would have it dry cleaned right away.
He once noticed one of the avreichim in his kollel had come to learn wearing torn shoes. Rav Nissim asked him, "Do you have Shabbos shoes?" When the avreich confirmed this, Rav Yagen told him to bring him the Shabbos shoes the next day. In his office, Rav Nissim made him put on the Shabbos shoes, and leave the regular shoes with him. Before the avreich left for home that day, he had in his hand a pair of weekday shoes which had been repaired and put into decent condition. He did this with the avreichim's suits too.
His son once woke in the middle of the night and saw his father washing his hands, dressing himself, going over to the shtender in the corner of the salon and beginning to pray earnestly.
"What happened?" the son asked, surprised.
Rav Nissim replied that someone had just phoned from the maternity ward to say that his wife was having a difficult birth, and asked him to pray for her. That alarm was sufficient to get Rav Nissim out of bed and sacrifice his few daily hours of sleep to pray for this woman in need.
"But do you know who it is?" the son persisted.
"No," replied Rav Nissim, "but it makes no difference. When a Jew is in trouble, one must help him and pray for him no matter who he is."
Many couples came to him with their domestic harmony problems. He had a natural instinct to immediately understand the problem and to know just the right thing to say. In one case when a couple came, Rav Nissim suddenly asked the man if he regularly studied Torah and if he had a chavrusa. The surprised man stuttered, "No" and Rav Nissim immediately arranged a regular Torah seder for the husband -- when the couple left, they were unsure exactly what Rav Nissim had in mind. But when the man began studying regularly, his esteem rose in his wife's eyes and this contributed greatly to the return of sholom bayis.
His interest in helping promote domestic harmony wasn't just for others; his own domestic harmony was no less important. Sometimes his wife would wake up early in the morning to find the sinks completely clean and the floor newly-washed -- and she knew that she had retired the night before with the sinks filled with the supper dishes.
His gabbai, Rav Moshe Roesh, mentions that at times he even washed the dishes in his yeshiva, and swept the floor in the beis hamedrash. "His mercy is over all of his creatures," he would quote to explain why he was lightening the load of the cleaning lady.
At the bris mila of his grandson in the month of Tishrei, he had just returned from painful treatments abroad, and his sick body was wasted and worn out. But he stood during most of the event, serving the guests and exchanging friendly talk with them as if he were feeling fine.
He worked patiently with numerous people, helping them take each additional step to a full Jewish life. When a man expressed willingness to finally give up using a razor, Reb Nissim travelled out to Bnei Brak to present him with a shaver just a few hours before Shabbos.
He traveled to Beit Shean to bring a woman a head-covering when she finally decided to accept it upon herself. He provided countless sets of tefillin and talleisim to Jews who had undertaken to pray and fulfill these mitzvos. "Once a person has made his decision, you must help him right away to keep it," he would say.
He fulfilled this with mesiras nefesh five months ago. Years before, Rav Nissim had pioneered a "Wipe Out the TV" campaign and promised to give sets of Yalkut Mei'am Lo'ez, tapes and other religious articles to whoever agreed to throw out his TV. When the religious radio channels announced a campaign to rid the house of TVs five months ago, a certain athlete who had recently become religious was heard saying that if Rav Nissim comes to his house, he will finally get rid of his TV. This man kept the TV in his house just to see the sports games that he loved so much. As soon as Rav Nissim heard this, despite the fact that he hardly left his sickbed at that point, he ordered his driver to take him to the sports star. All the protests of his family and secretary didn't help. His secretary helped him climb the formidable three flights of stairs to the athlete's home, and then he spoke with the man at length on the importance of having a clean environment at home and about the deleterious effect of a TV. Rav Nissim left only after procuring the man's promise to throw out his TV.
His brother-in-law, Rav Nisan Cohen, once noticed that every few days Rav Nissim changed his kippa. He didn't understand why until he saw him influencing a Jew to become religious, and then giving him his own kippa to wear. Rav Nissim knew that the Jew would feel honored to wear the rav's kippa, and it would help solidify his resolve.
Although his acts of kindness encompassed every form of gemilus chesed, he excelled in all the facets of hachnosas kallah -- making shidduchim, finding funds to wed poor couples, and making the wedding itself a supremely joyous event. His devotion to helping found Jewish homes led him to conclude a shidduch for his own son just days before he passed away.
It is hard to say which facet of Rav Nissim was more prominent: his honesty, his fearlessness at saying what had to be said, his industry at accomplishing everything he set out to do, his alacrity, or his special charisma. His personality was a formidable combination that drew everyone towards him and changed so many lives.
His Name was Meaningful
Rav Nissim was also famous for effecting numerous yeshuos. Stories abound of cures he effected despite the dire predictions of doctors.
In one case, the wife of one of the avreichim in his kollel phoned the rav to relate that her mother in France was in critical condition and the doctors were giving her no more than a few days to live. The woman wanted to know if the doctors could disconnect her mother from life- support machines so the family could sit shiva and still have enough time to prepare for the upcoming holiday of Pesach. Rav Nissim told the woman that this was forbidden and, to her surprise, he added that her mother would be home with her for the Seder night.
A few days later the woman phoned and asked her question again. Rav Nissim reassured her, "Your mother will be home with you for the Seder night!"
The mother's health continued to deteriorate but Rav Nissim was unperturbed.
Then the mother made a sudden recovery, and the astonished daughter and son-in-law were able to bring her home for Pesach, exactly as Rav Nissim had predicted. The sick woman explained, "Don't think the doctors weren't right! My soul went up to heaven, but they told me that they can't take me because of a rav in Jerusalem who won't let them . . . and they returned my soul to my body."
One time a woman came to his office. She kept mitzvos but didn't cover her hair. She was married 13 years and hadn't been blessed with children. She was in despair.
When she explained what she wanted, Rav Nissim told her, "Are you willing to make a deal?"
"Not in mitzvos!" she exclaimed.
"Why not?" Rav Nissim queried her.
"I'm religious enough," she said stubbornly.
"You're asking from Hashem a child -- can't He ask something from you?" Rav Nissim chided her, and then he said, "He wants you to cover your hair."
But the lady was skeptical. "After all the medical tests they said I have no chance. Are you sure I can have children?"
Rav Nissim assured her, "You're doing something hard for Hashem -- I'll ask Hashem to do something hard for you -- to give you a child." But she was still skeptical. Finally Rav Nissim told her, "You know what? Don't cover your hair now. On the day you hear you're pregnant, promise you'll cover your hair." The woman signed.
Then she thought a minute and asked him, "How long do I have to wait?" Rav Nissim told her a month.
She answered, "OK! This deal is good for a month!"
Within the month she phoned him to tell him the good news.
This may sound like an amazing story, but it was just one of hundreds of such stories. There are hundreds of children alive today as a result of his blessings.
It was impossible to believe that a man as active as Reb Nissim was not well for many years. When he was still a young man he began suffering from heart problems.
Two years ago he discovered he was afflicted with a mortal illness. He spent many months undergoing painful treatments both in Israel and abroad, accepting it all with love. He said he yearned to remain alive so he could complete the nation's return to Judaism in which he had played so prominent a role. The only complaint that people heard from his lips was that since he was a child, he had never felt such hester ponim as he did now. He suffered more from this hester ponim than he did from the disease.
Two months before his death, a prominent rosh yeshiva came to visit him. Reb Nissim sighed and asked him, "Isn't there anyone today like the Chazon Ish who can pull me out of this disease?"
The rosh yeshiva, surprised at the strange request, told him, "No, there is no one today who can do such things."
Reb Nissim commented with a sigh, "I myself pulled several people out of their disease when they had accepted upon themselves to do tshuva."
"Truly?" the rosh yeshiva asked him in amazement. "I know of a 5 year old child in a hospital who is in a coma right now."
Rav Nissim responded, "Today he will open his eyes at 5 o'clock."
The astonished rav phoned the family that afternoon to report, "The child opened his eyes at 5!"
Forty days before his death, Reb Nissim's demeanor changed radically. He no longer spoke of the hester ponim that afflicted him and instead spoke about being a sacrifice for Klal Yisroel. His family didn't know what to make of it.
During the difficult last weeks, when his body was paralyzed, he was meticulous that his hands be washed when he woke up, since he was aware that he was frequently saying pesukim.
The Thursday before he passed away, he was slipping in and out of consciousness. Ever so often he opened his eyes and it was clear that he was seeing beyond the space in front of him. He told his son during one such moment, "How much a person must be careful not to hurt another!" He repeated it again and then closed his eyes.
That night his son became engaged, a happy occasion which Rav Nissim had urged. Although he couldn't attend the event, he gave it his blessing. The family celebrated the engagement party together that Shabbos, leaving only a son-in-law with Rav Nissim. The doctors had informed them that he still had a few days to live.
But that Shabbos he took a sudden turn for the worse. From four in the morning, his body began to lose its vital functions. The non-Jewish doctor who was attending him offered to travel out to his family to let them know of developments, but Rav Nissim forbade him to do so because he didn't want to cause them anguish on Shabbos.
The last words he told his son-in-law were, "Those who bring the public to righteousness are like stars forever." Then at 11:00 a.m., his eyes closed forever while those gathered around his bed recited Shema. They held their emotions until the end of Shabbos, when the family gathered together and their weeping and sobs filled the hospital ward. He had passed away on Shabbos, 14 Sivan, at the age of 59.
The large levaya was held on Sunday noon near his kollel on Yosef ben Matityahu street, attended by many thousands.
During the shiva, one of his close talmidim revealed an awesome event which had transpired 40 days before Rav Nissim's death.
Rav Nissim had called aside this talmid and told him that he wanted to tell him something which he couldn't confide to the family, lest they become sick with worry. Reb Nissim had been told by heaven that he could choose: he could recover and continuing bringing Jews back to tshuva as he had done till now -- but a million Jews would die; or he would die now and save a million Jews. For one who loved his fellow Jews as intensely as Rav Nissim, the answer was obvious. He chose to give up his life and save the lives of others.
He departed from his talmid, "Don't worry, just as I worried for you here, I'll worry even more for you from above."
When they heard the talmid's words, the family understood the meaning of Rav Nissim's mysterious words, and the acceptance and peace which had wreathed his last weeks.
The family is also preparing to publish Rav Nissim's chiddushim in Chumash, Mishlei, Tehillim and Iyov and a biography. Anyone who has material to contribute is invited to send it to: Kehilas Yaakov Yeshiva, POB 5640, Jerusalem, or Telefax: 972-7-5383715.
Rav Nissim left behind him a kollel for excellent Torah scholars, 400 cassettes of his speeches, a large selection of literary poems and songs of love of Hashem, and extensive mussar writings. His lips are still moving in his grave.