Jerusalem – Hundreds of people made their way to Alon Shevut this afternoon to say a final goodbye to Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, founder and director of the Zomet Institute, who died early this morning at age 76 after suffering a series of strokes over the last few months.
The founder of the Israel Conversion Authority, a conversion judge for the Gush Etzion beis din, a former member of the presidium of the Knesset’s Bayit Yehudi party and a prolific author who wrote biblical commentaries, numerous seforim and one of the earliest weekly columns on the parsha, Rabbi Rosen was best known for his work at Zomet whose synthesis of Torah and technology forever altered the landscape of contemporary Judaism.
Rabbi Rosen attended the Yishuv Hachadash high school in Tel Aviv and then went on to study in Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh’s hesder program. After serving in the Six Day War, Rabbi Rosen spent the next ten years of his life in kollel before moving on to Machon Lev in Jerusalem where he studied electrical engineering.
Drawing on his own skills as both a student of halacha and an engineer, Rabbi Rosen founded Zomet in 1976, merging his two areas of expertise to create what would become a game changer for Orthodox Jews worldwide. Despite having spent many years immersed in the intricate world of Jewish law, Rabbi Rosen insisted that Zomet’s inventions be approved by well known poskim, including Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.
“It was a sign of both his competency and his modesty that things that were going to impact am yisrael so strongly should have a shtempel on them not from Yisrael Rosen, but also from Rav Shlomo Zalman,” Ezra Rosenfeld, former executive director of Zomet, told VIN News.
Working within the framework of Orthodox Jewish law to prevent the desecration of Shabbos, Zomet’s dozens of innovations run the gamut, from hand held metal detectors that can be used by security guards, to phones and pens that can be used under certain guidelines by members of the military and those in the medical field, to motorized scooters and wheelchairs that give the physically challenged the ability to go to shul on Shabbos.
While Rabbi Rosen’s work benefitted the quality of life of tens of thousands of Jews all across the globe, he was also inspired by another factor.
“His crusade was to take the halachic tools that exist in the Mishna and in the Gemara and are brought down by the rishonim and use them to take Torah and halacha into the 21st century,” said Rosenfeld. “He felt that if after 2000 years we were finally blessed with a state, the challenge was to make it into a state that operates according to Torah values.”
Rosenfeld, who first met Rabbi Rosen 45 years ago when the two were studying at Machon Lev, described Rabbi Rosen as a special individual who had a strong love of Torah and an unparalleled love of his fellow Jew. He had a particular fondness for converts to the faith, prompting him to create the Israel Conversion Authority in order to streamline the process which had previously been bogged down by bureaucracy.
“For years you could go to his house on Shabbos and there would be any number of geirim: a girl from Morocco, a guy from Sweden, another one from Ethiopia,” said Rosenfeld. “There were tens of them that came to the house that the Rosens unofficially adopted as family members.”
As outspoken as he was brilliant, Rabbi Rosen was never afraid to speak his mind. Ynet (http://bit.ly/2yo4Sc9) reported that he resigned his prestigious position with Bayit Yehudi after the party appointed a lesbian speaker, noting her lifestyle was inconsistent with “a party that purports to represent religious Zionism.”
More than 400 people turned out today for the funeral which took place this afternoon in Alon Shevut where Rabbi Rosen had lived for decades. Among those in attendance were Israel’s chief rabbi, Rabbi David Lau, former chief rabbi of Ramat Gan Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, and numerous roshei yeshiva and political figures.
Rabbi Rosen’s brother, Rabbi Yigal Rosen, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohr Yisroel, was one of several who spoke at the funeral. He noted that Rabbi Rosen had been much more than just a Torah scholar, as reported by Arutz Sheva (http://bit.ly/2ypq81y).
“He knew how to solve technological problems in accordance with halacha and not the opposite,” said Rabbi Yigal Rosen. “He wanted to protect religion from technology. There is no hospital or public institution which does not contain solutions from the Zomet Institute. Thousands of Shabbat desecrations were prevented by him.”
Shuli Moalem Rafaeli, head of the Bayit Yehudi party described Rabbi Rosen as a passionate advocate for religion.
“Rabbi Yisrael Rosen represents for me the perfect combination of the Torah of life, where he was full of life and full of Torah,” said Rafaeli.
Rabbi Rosen leaves behind his wife Shlomit and five adult children.