(JNS) Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the Israeli city of Bnei Brak on Tuesday for the funeral of Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman, a spiritual leader of the haredi Jewish community, who passed away earlier in the day at age 104.
Shteinman was regarded by many Jews as the “gadol hador”—the leader of the generation—and was famous for his rabbinic scholarship and exceedingly modest lifestyle. He also served as the spiritual leader of the Degel Hatorah faction of Israel’s United Torah Judaism political party.
The rabbi died Tuesday of cardiac arrest in Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center after being hospitalized several weeks earlier.
“With the death of Rav Steinman, the Jewish people lost a central beacon of spirituality, heritage and ethics,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “His memory will forever remain in the pages of our nation’s heritage.”
Shteinman “carried on his shoulders the existential weight of the Jewish people,” said Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
Israel Radio reported that 600,000 mourners were expected to accompany the rabbi to his final resting place, but “10 people at my funeral would be enough,” Shteinman had written in his will, which was read aloud by one of his students at the funeral.