Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Adar 5762 - March 6, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman on Chizuk Visit to France
by Arnon Yaffeh, Paris and Yated Ne'eman Staff

On Sunday 19 Adar, HaRav Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman arrived in France in order to strengthen the Torah institutions in Paris and Aix-les-Bains, and especially to encourage families to send their children to yeshiva ketanos. Though he remained in France for just over a day, his visit had a great impact.

HaRav Pinchas Weiss, who accompanied HaRav Shteinman on the trip, said: "The purpose of this trip to France is to encourage parents to send their sons to yeshivos ketanos instead of to universities. As HaRav Shteinman says: `Even if we save two souls, our efforts will have been worthwhile.' "

Despite the massive teshuva trend in France and the opening of yeshivos and botei medrash, even parents who live chareidi lifestyles send their children to universities instead of to yeshivos. In all France, there are only approximately two hundred students in yeshivos ketanos.

The flight from Eretz Yisroel left at 7 a.m. HaRav Shteinman and the entourage davened vosikin at the airport. The staff of the airport was very accomodating and the departure took place in an atmosphere of kovod haTorah.

At the Orly airport, HaRav Shteinman was met by HaRav Yitzchok Katz, the rosh yeshiva and head of the institutions of Yad Mordechai, and by HaRav Yehuda Toledano, the head of the Chazon Baruch yeshiva and institutions of Rancee.

As soon as HaRav Shteinman arrived at Pave Street where the Yad Mordechai institutions are located, the students of the cheder and mesivta of greeted him with flags. The ramim and the mashgiach of the Nishmas Yisroel yeshiva greeted him with sifrei Torah.

Hundreds of bnei yeshiva and avreichim filled the yeshiva's chotzeir, in honor of the completion of a sefer Torah by HaRav Shteinman. This sefer Torah was then ushered into the Avi Ezri yeshiva ketana, where the beis medrash was dedicated and mezuzas were affixed.


One of the highlights of the visit was a very large kenes on Sunday that included thousands of bnei Torah, avreichim, yeshiva students and Torah Jews from all over France who assembled at the Louvre Palace hall in the heart of Paris in honor of the visit. The hall, which holds more than 5000, was filled to capacity by Jews from chareidi communities from Paris and its suburbs, as well as from Marseilles and from all Europe. Delegations from the yeshivos and chareidi communities of England and a delegation from the Agudas Yisroel of Antwerp also participated in the gathering, as did roshei yeshiva and community heads from France and Europe.

"We have gathered here (in order to stress the importance of) chinuch for Torah and yiras Shomayim, an issue whose great importance we do not fathom," said HaRav Shteinman, at his speech at the gathering.

In his speech, HaRav Shteinman said that the foundations of chinuch for kedushah must be laid when one's sons are still young, by sending them to yeshivos ketanos.

HaRav Shteinman called to those parents to begin the chinuch for Torah when their children are still young. He said: "Everyone should make efforts to first instill his children with Torah. A person cannot rely on first sending his children to study matters that are not essential, and then go to the study the ikkar. That isn't the derech."

HaRav Yosef Efrati opened the stirring event by reading Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv's letter of blessing to the gathering:

"To the honorable participants in the rally in Paris for the strengthening of Torah and those who study it, a rally headed by the rabbonim hageonim:

"Greetings of sholom to all.

"My illustrious friend, the gaon hagodol HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman has arrived in your city with mesiras nefesh, in order to arouse parents about their sacred obligation to educate their children to Torah and to enroll them in "Ohalei Shem," the yeshivos hakedoshos.

"I also join the osei mitzvah, and I call upon the esteemed parents to be attentive to our plea, especially at this time when darkness covers the earth, and to enlist their children in the legion of the King, so that they shall included among those who study in yeshivos kedoshos, and who are equated to the members of the tribe of Levi, who place the desires of this world behind, and desire only Torah study.

"On the merit of educating your children to Torah, may you be blessed from the Source of blessings, with beni, chayei umezonei, [children] who study Torah. [May this blessing materialize] out of nachas and peace of mind.

With the Torah's blessing,

Yosef Sholom Eliashiv

HaRav Efrati then added his own words of brochoh and chizuk.

Afterwards, the brochos of HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz and HaRav Nissim Karelitz were read. In these brochos they also called upon France's Jews to send their sons to yeshivos kedoshos.

Thousands of Jews listened attentively as HaRav Shteinman said: "HaKodosh Boruch Hu gives one a son as a gift. The father doesn't know this and thinks that he can do whatever he pleases with this gift. HaKodosh Boruch Hu took a soul from under the Kisei Hakovod and brought it down to the world, so that it would serve Hashem in this world and not return empty. If one only eats, drinks and sleeps -- when he leaves this world what has he done? Did HaKodosh Boruch Hu bring a soul from under the Kisei Hakovod to this world so that if should eat and sleep and work? HaKodosh Boruch Hu wants the neshomoh to act in a way which will merit its bearer to partake of the Source of Good. But one can achieve this only by serving Him through Torah and mitzvos. Eating and sleeping is not a tachlis."

HaRav Shteinman then discussed the dispute in the gemora regarding who is greater, a tzaddik who hasn't sinned or a baal teshuva who sinned and did teshuva. He noted that the Rambam rules that a baal teshuva is greater but this surely doesn't mean that a person should educate his son to do aveiros and then to do teshuva when he is older. Obviously, that isn't shayach. First of all a Jew must do good. He must study the ikkar, which is Torah and yiras Shomayim. The father must instill his child with the belief in the Ribono shel Olom, and teach him that the ikkar in life is Torah and mitzvos. "The Baalei Tosafos lived in France. The Meiri states that there were thousands of talmidei chachomim in France's yeshivos. However, these yeshivos were abolished a few hundred years ago and no Jews remain of them. They vanished and assimilated among the non- Jews. Klal Yisroel, no longer remained (perhaps just a few). This occurred because there were no yeshivos."


In the afternoon, a reception was held for HaRav Shteinman in the synagogue of the Agudas Hakehillos Hachareidios. At that reception, HaRav Shteinman was greeted by HaRav Mordechai Rottenberg, the moro de'asra, as well as by HaRav Moshe Mordechai Karp, the av beis din of the Agudas Hakehillos, and by the president of the community, the honorable, Reb Doniel Altman.

Mincha was held in the old and luxurious shul was which filled to capacity. At the end of the davening, HaRav Shteinman blessed the moro de'asra with success.

On Monday morning, the police were forced to close the street in front of the Nishmas Yisroel yeshiva to traffic. Shacharis was held in a hall which was filled to capacity. After shacharis, HaRav Shteinman blessed the community and the institutions.

In his words of brochoh, he cited the gemora in Taanis, which describes a parable of a hungry, tired and thirsty desert traveler found a tree whose fruits were sweet which had water flowing underneath it. He ate the fruits of the tree, drank the its waters and sat in its shade. When he was ready to leave, he asked: "How shall I bless you. You are blessed with everything. May it be Hashem's will that all of the plantings which stem from you will be like you.

"It is possible to say the same here too. Boruch Hashem this is a mokom Torah which is blessed. May it be Hashem's will of may that this kehilla shall serve as an example. May there bnei Torah who are yirei Shomayim and who will be like you and even better."

Later that morning, HaRav Shteinman visited the Chazon Baruch yeshiva and educational institutions in the city of Rancee, a suburb of Paris.

Many yeshiva students were in the beis medrash of the school during HaRav Shteinman's visit. They were led by the rosh yeshiva and the head of the institutions, HaRav Yehuda Toledano, son of HaRav Yaakov Toledano zt"l who founded the school and a yeshiva ketana and kollel in order to save North Africa's Jews from assimilation. Today the complex is made up of a number of modern buildings set among gardens in a quiet Jewish neighborhood.

HaRav Shteinman spoke about the importance of chareidi chinuch in the chareidi communities in France. He also called to the children in the chadorim and to the yeshiva students in France to reveal the Torah's worth by immersing themselves in Torah study. "You the children are being educated in Torah and don't realize the value of your own deeds. If you knew how one can grow from Torah study, you would immerse yourselves totally in Torah study. If you do that, you will grow and fulfill the wishes of the HaKodosh Boruch Hu."

HaRav Shteinman also told the students: "Even great people do not always properly evaluate the importance of their deeds or to the extent of the influence of their words and activities, as was the case with Reuven and Boaz. Had Reuven known that his deeds would be described in the Torah, he would have borne Yosef on his shoulders to his father, and Boaz would have given Ruth fattened geese to eat."

MK Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz then described how HaRav Yaakov Toledano, who was a student of Maran HaRav Elozor Menachem Man Shach zt"l and the scion of an illustrious rabbinical dynasty from Morocco, decided to return to France to save North African Jewry after seeing its destruction in Eretz Yisroel. "Then, forty-five years ago," related Rabbi Ravitz, "HaRav Toledano felt that it was still possible to save Moroccan Jews living in France. In Eretz Yisroel there was nothing to be done. Jews planned in advance to discard their Jewish identity. HaRav Shteinman's remarks that children will study Torah in France al taharas hakodesh and that a child in France can become like one of the baalei Hatosafos may seem perplexing. His words, though, constitute an appeal and a call to every parent and child to aim for the worthy goal of achieving Torah and yiras Shomayim."

HaRav Yehuda Toledano thanked HaRav Shteinman for his visit and said that the yeshiva had recently moved from the old building dedicated by his father to its new building. "We didn't know who would dedicate it. But Hashem sent us the great gaon HaRav Shteinman to inject neshomoh and ruach into the new building, so that Torah, studied in kedusha and taharoh will emerge from it."

After this visit, HaRav Shteinman returned to Paris for a reception in the chareidi school headed by HaRav Mordechai Rottenberg, whose father HaRav Chaim Yaakov Rottenberg established the chareidi community in Paris, including the kashrus system and the Yad Mordechai yeshiva, from scratch.

The school is located in an old building. Children of all ages greeted HaRav Shteinman with song, along with their teachers and the community's av beis din HaRav Moshe Karp of Kiryat Sefer, and the kehilla's president, Reb Doniel Altman.

At this event HaRav Shteinman said that one studies properly, with yiras Shomayim and ahavas Torah during his childhood, he will receive the strength to continue along derech Hashem and his soul will not be tainted by sin. "You have the opportunity to instill these children with yiras Shomayim and Torah, and that is the ultimate and only purpose."

HaRav Mordechai Rottenberg then said: "On Monday before an audience of thousands HaRav Shteinman explained what is the ikkar and what is tofel. We are very happy to have merited to host him in the Cheder Hachareidi."

The group then left for the train ride to Aix-les-Bains. On Monday night, a large throng headed by rabbonim and by rosh yeshiva HaRav Yitzchok Weil greeted HaRav Shteinman Aix-les- Bains. Thousands came from surrounding communities such as Lyons, Geneva, Grennoble, despite the distance.

The community in Aix-les-Bains was established after the war around the first yeshiva in France known as Yeshivas Chachmei Tsorfas. For many years it was headed by HaRav Chaim Chaiken, zt"l, a talmid of the Chofetz Chaim. For a long time it was the only yeshiva in France, and children from all over North Africa and France went there to study.

After a visit to Strasbourg on Tuesday, where a gathering was also scheduled, HaRav Shteinman was to return to Eretz Yisroel.


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