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Rabbi Rafael Halperin. 'He was very modest'
Rabbi Rafael Halperin, ex-wrestler, dies
Former world champion in free wrestling, founder of optical centers succumbs to illness at 87 in Bnei Brak. His last years dedicated to battle for Shabbat
Rabbi Rafael Halperin died at his home in the central city of Bnei Brak on Saturday afternoon, following a serious illness. Halperin, 87, was a former professional wrestler and the founder of a chain of optical centers in Israel.

 

He was survived by 12 children (five from his first wife, who he divorced, and seven from his second wife), more than 50 grandchildren and great grandchildren and a colorful and rich life story.

 

Halperin was born to a religious family in Vienna in 1924. As a young man in Israel, he engaged in body building and gained international fame when he won the world championship in free wrestling.

 

His son says he was a great source of pride, "after all the Jewish refugees arrived from Europe after the Holocaust and saw him fight – and win – a German wrestler, while wearing pants with a Star of David on them."

 

From world championship to world of Torah

Thirty-five years ago, Halperin took a change of direction and resumed his Torah studies. "He would sit for 13 hours a day, and wouldn't get up from his chair," his son says.

 

"At the time he sold all his businesses. About 15 years ago he opened an eyewear business for charity in Bnei Brak, and because it was for benevolent purposes, it expanded to 128 stores. Father was thus responsible for the drop in the prices of eyeglasses in Israel."

 

In the past few years, Halperin dedicated his life to Torah research and published several books, including a study on the different aspects of Rashi, the author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud.

 

The Halperin family says he managed to fill up the Yad Eliyahu Stadium three times in his life: Once when he fought a Jordanian in free wrestling, then when he pressured the Israeli government to secure the release of (former Prisoner of Zion Natan) Sharansky during US President Ronald Reagan's term, and finally with his battle for Shabbat, when he established an association calling on Jews to observe Shabbat.

 

"Father donated to people whose homes were burnt, and would renovate them and buy them new clothes and furniture. He also renovated ritual baths and synagogues and was very modest."

 

Rabbi Halperin was laid to rest Saturday night.

 

 

 

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