Jerusalem – Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager, the fifth Vishinitzer Rebbe in Bnei Brak and president of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah of Agudath Israel, passed away this evening just three months shy of his 96th birthday.
R’ Hager was the oldest son of the previous Vishnitzer Rebbe, R’ Chaim Meir Hager, also known as the Imrei Chaim, and succeeded his father upon his death in 1972. The Rebbe’s health had been failing over recent years with the exception of holidays and the occasional tish, the Rebbe rarely appeared in public.
R’ Hager was born in Romania in 1916 and was appointed by his father to serve as the Rov of the Hungarian town of Vilchovitz at the age of eighteen. When World War II spread into Hungary in 1944, the Hager family, with the help of local residents and askanim, made the arduous six month trek by foot, rail and boat from Hungary to Israel, where they were welcomed by joyous Vishnitzer chasidim in Haifa.
Upon arriving in Eretz Yisroel, R’ Hager was appointed by his uncle, R’ Eliezer Hager, also known as the Damesek Eliezer, to be the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Beis Yisroel V’Damesek Eliezer. The yeshiva was originally located in Tel Aviv but later moved to Bnei Brak after the establishment of Kiryas Vishnitz and, in fact, R’ Hager was known to be his father’s proverbial right hand and was instrumental in establishing the Vishnitz community and its mosdos in Bnei Brak.
R’ Hager was also named by his father as the Rov and Av Beis Din of Kiryas Vishnitz, where he created the “Tzirei Vishnitz” youth movement in both elementary and high schools, to keep young Hungarian and Romanian Vishnitzer refugees close to the chasidus of their families. R’ Hager served in these positions until the death of his father, whereupon he took over his father’s position as the Admor of Vishnitz. His brother, R’ Mordechai Hager, was named the Admor of Vishnitz in Monsey at that time.
R’ Hager was renowned for both his great skills as a lamdan and his extreme vigilance in shemiras eynayim and was instrumental in the establishment of Mehadrin bus lines in Eretz Yisroel. As president of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah of Agudath Israel, R’ Hager established many Vishnitzer schools serving over 10,000 children. Both his davening and his legendary tishes, which were held until R’ Hager’s health began failing, were known to be events of great enthusiasm and joy and were attended by thousands.
A massive celebration was held last year on Rosh Chodesh Nissan in Binyanei Hauma in Yerushalayim to commemorate the R’ Hager’s creation of the Vishnitzer yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel seventy years ago. R’ Hager is credited for stressing the importance of serious learning and proper education among thousands of the Vishnitzer sect, second only in size to the Gerrer chasidim.
R’ Hager, who suffered from Alzheimers, had been in poor health for the last several years and had been in extremely serious condition for the last several months. Last week, R’ Hager developed an infection in his leg which spread throughout his body causing his kidneys to shut down and calls had gone out to Jews worldwide to daven for R’ Hager’s recovery.
R’ Hager was niftar in his home on Rechov Ahavat Shalom in Kiryat Vishnitz just after midnight amid cries of “Shema Yisroel” from his sons, grandsons and gabbaim who were present at the time of his petira.
R’ Hager is survived by his second wife, Sheindel, his sons, R’ Yisroel and R’ Menachem Mendel and his four daughters, Rebbetzin Chana Chaya Twersky, wife of the Skverer Rebbe, Rebbetzin Sosha Teitelbaum, wife of R’ Aaron Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe, Rebbetzin Sara Rokeach, wife of R’ Yisochor Dov Rokeach, the Belzer Rebbe of Yerushalayim and Rebbetzin Hinda Ernster, Rosh Yeshiva of the Vishnitzer Yeshiva in Bnei Brak and thousands of loyal followers consider themselves to be orphaned as well. The paroches was removed from the Aron Kodesh in the large Vishnitz Beis Medrash and hundreds of people have congregated outside R’ Hager’s home in Kiryat Vishnitz.
Thousands are expected to attend the levaya, which will take place tomorrow from the large Beis Medrash Ahavas Yisroel in Bnei Brak’s Kiryat Vishnitz and the kevura will take place in the Zichron Meir Beis Hachaim, where R’ Hager will be laid to rest near his father. The Israeli police, Bnei Brak city officials, Magen David Adom and other agencies will be working together to close down sections of the area as needed and announcements will be made banning all work during the levaya.