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18 Teves 5762 - January 2, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth ztvk"l
by S. Bruchi and M. Plaut

European Jewry was rocked by the petiroh of HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth ztvk"l, the rov of Antwerp and leader of the Jewish community of the European continent. His influence and authority was felt throughout the European continent and beyond with respect to halachic matters and Jewish leadership. Despite the holiday period in Europe, thousands came from all over Europe on Monday to participate in the levaya of this great godol who served as the rov of the distinguished community of Antwerp for almost fifty years. He ensured the preservation of religious standards in general, and in the areas of kashrus and mikvo'os in particular. He set up Torah institutions and supervised their development and every detail of their administration.

HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth ztvk"l was niftar this past Sunday night (16 Teves) shortly before midnight. HaRav Kreiswirth was niftar at the age of 82, after suffering from an illness.

HaRav Kreiswirth, the son of Rav Avrohom Yosef, grew up in an outstanding home where his unique personality as an ish haTorah was crystallized. In his youth, he was well-known for his brilliance, his excellent character traits and his geniality.

Replete with Torah and yiras Shomayim, he plunged into his Torah studies, spending many years in the famous Torah centers of Poland and Lithuania,

When the young Chaim applied to the yeshiva Chachmei Lublin, its rosh yeshiva, HaRav Meir Shapira who tested him, was astounded by his vast knowledge in all aspects of Torah.

In time, letters written by the Dvar Avrohom and by the Minchas Boruch about him were made known. In these letters the remarkable illui, Rav Chaim, is praised, and his vast knowledge of Bavli and Yerushalmi is cited.

He stayed in Torah's tents all his life, remaining close to his illustrious mentors from whom he acquired all of the kinyonei haTorah.

He was very close with all of the gedolim of the previous generation, among them HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky, who was very fond of him and gave his sefer on Zevochim a warm recommendation. This manuscript was lost during the war.

HaRav Kreiswirth maintained strong links with all of the great Torah luminaries of Poland and Lithuania and became known as the Illui of Cracow. He spoke in learning with the Rogochover Gaon as well as with HaRav Elchonon Wassermann; the Imrei Emmes, and HaRav Menachem Ziemba.

His talmidim are full of stories about his immense gadlus in Torah. They point out that already in his youth after he was tested by HaRav Meir Shapira of Lublin when he was visiting Turna, Rav Shapira put him next to him and praised him highly in front of the kehilla. He was eventually sent to learn in Yeshivas Lublin, where he became close to the mashgiach HaRav Arye Zvi Frommer zt"l.

His close relationship with the Rogochover was well known. He first heard about his greatness when the Rogochover was on his way to an operation in Vienna and stopped over in Warsaw. Rav Chaim zt"l became attached to him and traveled with him to Vienna, talking in limud with him throughout the journey.

When he was still young he became a maggid shiur in the yeshiva of the Chovas Hatalmidim in Piaschana, where he looked after a blind talmid chochom. When several years later he was caught by the Germans and taken to be killed he asked Hakodosh Boruch Hu to save him in the zechus of have having taken care of the needs of that talmid chochom. His prayers were heard and, in response to his entreaties, the Nazi soldier told him that he would shoot into the air and then he should run away.

He married the daughter of HaRav Avrohom Grodzensky Hy"d, author of the Toras Avrohom. During the sheva brochos week he gave drosho after drosho citing gemoras in Bavli and Yerushalmi by heart.

When he arrived in Eretz Yisroel he was referred to as Ho'ari she'olo miBovel, a phrase expressing the esteem in which he was held due to his greatness in Torah. In 5701 (1941) he moved to Eretz Yisroel and became well-known among the geonim of Yerushalayim. He met the Brisker Rov and became close to the Chazon Ish, the Steipler, HaRav Shach and HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztvk"l and ylct"a to HaRav Eliashiv shlita.

In the early 50s, he served as a rosh yeshiva in Chicago. Even though he was relatively young and the yeshiva was mainly staffed by older talmidei chachomim from Lithuania, he had tremendous success. A group of his talmidim from Chicago remained close to him his whole life, and after he left they became the influential baalei batim of Chicago and served in key roles when the kehilla established itself. The talmidim of Chicago were also the ones involved in helping him establish Yeshivas Mercaz HaTorah in Yerushalayim.

In time, he was appointed Gavad of Antwerp. While serving in that capacity, his influence was far-reaching, and halachic questions were sent to him from all parts of the world. By the same token he played a crucial role in spreading Torah in Antwerp.

He also served as head of the Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur and actively fought the intrusion of goyim into Kerem Beis Yisroel through halachically unacceptable conversions.

After World War II he traveled to Poland at great personal risk, and miraculously escaped being arrested, in order to save Jewish children who were hidden by the Church during the war years and were withheld from Jewish authorities after the hostilities ceased.

His chesed with orphans and widows constituted a glowing chapter in his life. When referring to HaRav Chaim's acts of chessed, the Steipler Rov called him "a compassionate father with a pure heart." With the funds he raised in his community and from philanthropists all over the world, he assisted many broken and impoverished families.

He also bolstered the spirits of the brokenhearted in a warm, pleasant and unassuming manner. His genial and natural manner endeared him to all, and were the basis of the high esteem in which he was held.

His efforts on behalf of Torah in Eretz Hakodesh were numerous. He founded and supported the Mercaz HaTorah yeshiva in Talpiyot where hundreds of bnei yeshiva from all over the world study. On his visits to Yerushalayim he would deliver shiurim which ranged over the entire Shas to the students of the yeshiva. These shiurim were also attended by many gedolei Yerushalayim. It wasn't in vain that the Kehillos Yaakov, in a letter, called him: "HaGaon Hagodol, moro dekulei Talmud, maoz umigdol, otzar haTorah veyiras Hashem tehoroh, hanitzmad bekiros levovi . . . "

He was very close to the gedolei Yisroel of Eretz Hakodesh, especially to Maran HaRav Elozor Menachem Shach ztvk"l, and yibodel lechayim tovim ve'arukim, Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv.

He was an outstanding orator, who stirred his audience with his heartfelt words. At the fifth and sixth Kneissios Gedolos of Agudas Yisroel he delivered the main speech, which was raptly listened to by thousands, led by maranan verabonon the gedolei Yisroel.

Recently he fell ill and his condition worsened from day to day. On Sunday afternoon his condition deteriorated, and prayers were said on his behalf in all the botei midroshim in Eretz Yisroel, including the beis medrash of Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv shlita who personally participated in the Tehillim. In Torah centers and yeshivos throughout the world many prayers for his recovery were recited. Sunday night (16 Teves) at 11:30 p.m. Israeli time, he returned his pure soul to its Maker.

The levaya started Monday at 4 p.m. Belgian time. Thousands gathered at the central Machzikei Hadass Shul in Ostelei Street, Antwerp where he had served as rov. The large shul and adjoining courtyard became a sea of black. The maspidim included his son HaRav Dov from Lakewood, Dayan Tuvia Weiss and Dayan Elya Sternbuch of Antwerp, the rosh yeshiva of Antwerp HaRav Yehudah Trager, his son-in-law HaRav Pinchos Zelivansky, and the Rosh Hakahal R' Zalman Lehrer.

All the maspidim bewailed the great tragedy that had befallen European Jewry in general and Antwerp Jewry in particular, which had lost its pride and glory. They dwelt upon his greatness in Torah and that the gedolim of the previous generation already testified about him that despite his young age (then) he was a remnant of the gedolim of Poland from previous generations. He knew Shas Yerushalmi and Bavli by heart.

He had a beautiful personality, a spiritual giant and man of deeds who, in addition to his Torah and halachic rulings, was the spiritual and material father of hundreds of orphans, widows and families in distress, whose needs he took care of over the last few years. With his petiroh world Jewry has lost one of its geonim and tzadikim, a pillar of Torah and chesed, who was close to the gedolim of the previous generation and who had transmitted the traditions to this generation.

The levaya continued from the shul to the Yesodei HaTorah school, and then to the Bais Yaakov. From there it went to Eretz Yisroel on a special chartered flight, accompanied by family members and members of the kehilla. The kehilla paid the considerable expense of the flight, allowing the aron to travel inside with the passengers, which greatly enhanced the kovod hameis.

The aron arrived in Eretz Yisroel around 2 a.m. and was taken to HaRav Kreiswirth's shul in Har Nof where Tehillim were recited. From there it was taken to the beis medrash of Yeshivas Mercaz HaTorah according to the instructions of the gedolei haposkim, where Tehillim were said by talmidim for the rest of the night. There were hespedim at the yeshiva in the morning.

The main levaya in Yerushalayim was in the Beis Knesses Ahavas Torah in Kiryat Zanz which the niftar recently established and for which he served as nosi. Many, many talmidim came from America for the levaya, including talmidim from Chicago and many who had learned in Mercaz HaTorah over the years.

It began at about 11 a.m. with the saying of Tehillim. The first maspid was HaRav Shmuel Wosner of Bnei Brak, a "childhood friend" of the niftar, as he said in his remarks. HaRav Wosner said that the niftar was a true talmid chochom and a true godol and was also kabir hama'as. He quoted the posuk (Tehillim 55,19), Podoh vesholom nafshi, explaining that the soul is in captivity in This World, and that a talmid chochom and an oveid Hashem understands that with Torah he can redeem the soul of This World. The rest of the posuk refers to gemilas chassodim (mikrov li) and tefillah betzibbur (ki berabbim . . . ) since excellence in these areas indicates a ben Olom Habo. HaRav Wosner said that if the shem tov extends to the final clod of earth over the grave, the zibula basraiso, then it is truly a shem tov.

HaRav Yisroel Yaakov Fisher, the ravad of the Eida HaChareidis, said that he recalled the niftar sitting together with his own rosh yeshiva, HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer zt"l, and saying over shtiklach Yerushalmi by heart. He was a true Sar Torah.

HaRav Boruch Rosenberg, rosh yeshivas Slobodka, said that like the children of Eli Hacohen, he says two hespeidim: one for the Aron Elokim, the talmid chochom and leader of Klal Yisroel, and the other for a brother-in-law.

The other maspidim were HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir, HaRav Dov Kreiswirth of Lakewood, the niftar's son, HaRav Don Segal, HaRav Chaim Sarna and his son-in-law HaRav Pinchos Zelivansky. The maspidim all stressed his gadlus in Torah and his considerable achievements in gemilas chesed. HaRav Chaim himself used to say that he will take his chassodim along to the Olom Ho'emes.

The levaya proceeded on foot to Har Hamenuchos where he was buried in a new section.

He is survived by his wife tichye, by his son HaRav Dov of Lakewood, and his daughter, the wife of HaRav Pinchos Zelivansky, as well as by grandchildren and great-grandchildren all of whom are pursuing Torah's path. His brothers-in-law, ylct"a are: the Mashgiach HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, HaRav Boruch Rosenberg and HaRav Yitzchok Grodzensky.


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