Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Ephraim Fischel Herschkowitz ztz"l: Rav of Approbations and Rav with Authority

Eulogy given in the Yeshiva]

The elder Posek of America, Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Ephraim Fischel Herschkowitz ztz"l, has ascended on high.  Although not everyone knows of him, since he did seek publicity on account of his humility, anyone who is involved with Pesak Halachah knew him well.   
Rav Herschkowitz was born in the city of Munkatch in the year 5683 to a family of Spinka Chasidim.  He would accompany his father and grandfather to visit the Admor "Chakal Yitzchak" of Spinka on the holidays.  In his youth, he learned in the Talmud Torah in Munkatch, but when he reached the age to go and learn in Yeshiva, his father did not want him to learn in one of the large, Ashkenazi Yeshivot out of fear that he would lose his Chasidic fervor.  He therefore remained in Munkatch and learned with other young men in the Spinka Kloiz without a Rav and without a Rosh Yeshiva.  If he had a question, he would ask his uncle, Ha-Rav David Schlissel, Av Beit Din of the Beit Din of Admor "Minchat Eleazar" of Munkatch (see Shut Minchat Eleazar 4:64 that Rav David's great-grandfather was Rabbi Akiva Eiger).
Rav Herschkowitz had many positions as a Dayan and Posek during his lifetime and was therefore known by various titles.  After the Holocaust, he served as the Rabbi of Halein, Austria, and was therefore known as the Haleiner Rav.  He later moved to New York and was appointed by Ha-Admor of Sanz-Klausenberg, Rabbi Yekutiel Yehudah Halberstam, author of Shut Divrei Yetziv, to serve as a member of his Beit Din.  He was therefore also known as the Klausenberger Dayan, and he is thus being buried in the section of Klausenberg Chasidim in Netanya.  One may also see his importance in his approbations to hundreds of halachic books.  In merit of this, he was also known as the "Rav of Approbation".
Gedolei Yisrael greatly admired him.  For example, see Shut Mishneh Halachot (4:2) and the accolades given to Rav Herschkowitz by Ha-Rav Menashe Klein, the Ungvarer Rav.  
As a Posek and Dayan, he had interesting halachic positions.
As is known, today everyone learns Mishnah Berurah, but that was not always the case.  Ha-Rav Herschel Schachter, one of the Roshei Yeshiva of Yeshivat Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan, once related that when he originally learned in Yeshiva there was hardly one set of Mishnah Berurah, while today there are myriads of sets.  And he himself didn't even have a Mishnah Berurah until six years after he was married.  His wife bought him a set as a birthday gift since her father had one.  If someone had a question, he looked in the Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries.
But many Poskim decided that the Mishneh Berurah was the final arbiter of Halachah, including the Tchbiner Rav (Sar Ha-Torah, p. 298), Chazon Ish (Maaseh Rav Volume 1, p. 23.  Kovetz Igrot Volume 2 #41) and Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (Ha-Sod, pp. 124-125).  But Ha-Rav Herschkowitz would rule according to the many Chasidic Poskim, such as Shulchan Aruch Ha-Rav of Admor Ha-Zaken of Lubavitch and Shulchan Ha-Tahor - Kamarana.
Here are a few of his rulings: He ruled that one should limit the amount of time he wears Tefillin because of their holiness.  One should therefore remove them as quickly as possible after Davening, and it is preferable to take them off after the Shemoneh Esrei.  And he ruled that women are not obligated to Daven the entire Shemoneh Esrei, since this was the custom in the past generations (See our discussion in Shut She'eilat Shlomo 1:41.  Mishneh Berurah 106:4.  Piskei Teshuvot ibid.).
As said, Rav Herschkowitz was an important Dayan, and ruled in the most complex cases.  During the terror attack on the World Trade Center, a Belzer Chasid was killed.  He and his Beit Din investigated the details and freed the widow from being an Agunah.
One of the most important cases for Chabad Chasidim is what is known as "Didan Natzach".  The grandson of the Frierdiker Rebbe took Sefarim from the Chabad library in New York and sold them, claiming that as the only grandchild, he was the rightful inheritor.  The last Lubavitcher Rebbe, however, said that the books belong to the entire Chabad Chasidim.  After a lengthy legal battle, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was proven right.  The expression "Didan Natzach" means "we were victorious", since this episode also solidified the fact that the Rebbe was indeed the Rebbe of Chabad.  In the middle of this episode, the Lubavitcher Rebbe wanted to take counsel with a major Posek outside of Chabad, who was in way connected to the issue.  He turned to Rav Herschkowitz through a messenger.  Rav Herschkowitz responded that he is unable to render a ruling without hearing both sides of the story, but that it appears to him that the conduct of the grandson is not halachicly correct.    
And as is known, Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein wrote at great length against establishing an Eruv in Manhattan, Brooklyn and in other large cities in America (Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:139-140, 173. 5:96).  In the world of Halachah, it is generally stated that Ha-Rav Menashe Klein disagrees with him and established an Eruv in Brooklyn.  But Ha-Rav Herschkowitz also held this way and established an Eruv in Williamsburg, where he lived (the opinion of the Satmar Rebbe, who had also lived there, regarding this issue has been the subject of much discussion and several books).  Although some Satmar Chasidim harshly disagreed with this ruling and harassed him, Rav Herschkowitz did not fear anyone and held fast to his opinion.  
On account of his greatness in Torah, he had wide shoulders and the authority to rule about the most severe and complex issues.
During the 11th Siyum of Daf Yomi in 5765 in New York, Rav Herschkowitz was honored as the elder Posek in America to begin Masechet Berachot.  In the first Mishnah of Shas, Rabban Gamliel's sons ask their father how to act according to Halachah in a particular case.  We learn from there the incredible importance of asking questions of a Rabbi when there is a doubt and the incredible importance of a Posek to guide us.
In Rav Herschowitz merited a great halachic authority who illuminated the path for us with humility, self-sacrifice, Torah wisdom and fear of G-d.


May his soul be bound up in the bonds of the living with all of the great Tzadikim and Geonim.