Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Cheshvan 5765 - November 10, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman Strengthens the Torah Community of the United States and Europe

By S. Bruchi and M Plaut

Following a grueling schedule that would be difficult for a person much younger than he, HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman spent two full weeks on the road, mostly in the United States but also including stops in Europe on the way home to Eretz Yisroel, where he arrived early Friday, erev Shabbos parshas Chayei Soroh. Wherever he went, HaRav Shteinman spent time with the local rabbonim, mechanchim, and regular Jews in a very successful attempt to give a boost to Torah life.

All the stops were demonstrations of kovod haTorah, as the ninety-year-old Torah sage was greeted with awe and admiration for what he represents: a long life dedicated to Torah and avodas Hashem. But this should not be taken as minimizing the immediate benefit that young and old enjoyed, in the personal advice and general words of chizuk that the Rosh Yeshiva gave out so generously.

The trip also served to strengthen the bonds between the Torah communities of Eretz Yisroel and chutz la'aretz, worlds that are far in space but close in spirit. The journey certainly underlined the fact that is constantly stressed by the gedolei hadoros, that the Jewish people is made one primarily by its shared Torah.

By Invitation

HaRav Shteinman undertook the trip after HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Philadelphia, and HaRav Aharon Feldman, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel in Baltimore, paid him a visit three months ago, bearing a letter signed by roshei yeshivos in the US asking him to come to strengthen the Torah and yeshiva world there.

HaRav Shteinman's first stop was Lakewood, where he spent two nights. Thousands of local residents lined the streets to receive one of the must illustrious guests the city has ever hosted. Estimates were that more than ten thousand greeted the Rosh Yeshiva.

Thousands of talmidim and avreichim took part in a reception held at the yeshiva's main beis medrash. The rosh yeshiva, HaRav Malkiel Kotler, delivered a brief welcome, and HaRav Shteinman gave the first of dozens of talks he would deliver in the following two-and- a-half weeks. He expressed his thanks to HaKodosh Boruch Hu for the zchus to come and strengthen the Torah world, particularly in a place like Lakewood, New Jersey, which has built the world's largest Torah fortress.

HaRav Shteinman then held a closed-door meeting with the yeshiva's rabbonim and roshei yeshiva in the home of Rebbetzin Kotler, the widow of HaRav Schneur Kotler. After the meeting HaRav Shteinman went to the home of HaRav Malkiel Kotler, where he stayed while in Lakewood.

The next morning over one thousand participants arrived for tefillas Shacharis berov am, after which HaRav Shteinman served as sandak at two brisos.

Following a visit with the mashgiach HaRav Mattisyohu Salomon, HaRav Shteinman returned to the beis medrash where he gave a shiur and a mussar talk on kvod Shomayim. Both the shiur and the talk were relayed live to large screens in other halls.

After Minchah he went to a gathering of all of the talmidim of the yeshivos ketanos. At a later assembly for educators and the heads of the city's Torah institutions, participants had an opportunity to ask their questions on chinuch.

Friday morning HaRav Shteinman set out for Monsey, stopping to visit the Admor of Square in the town of New Square in the morning and the Admor of Vizhnitz-Monsey in the afternoon.

He spent Shabbos Lech Lecho at the home of Rabbi Shimon Glick, one of the generation's leading backers of Torah and pillars of tzedokoh. Hundreds of town residents attended the Shabbos tefillos held in a specially erected tent at the home of the Glick Family. On Shabbos afternoon HaRav Shteinman gave a shiur on the parsha.

On motzei Shabbos thousands of Monsey residents participated in a chizuk gathering at the town's main hall. HaRav Don Ungarisher, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Beis Medrash Elyon, spoke, noting that HaRav Shteinman had the merit to be in the presence of maranan the Brisker Rov and the Chazon Ish, zechuson togen oleinu.

HaRav Eliyohu Ber Wachtfogel, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas South Fallsburgh also spoke as did HaRav Shteinman himself, who spoke about the obligation to strengthen Torah study by adding hours of toil in Torah.

Madison, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington

On Sunday morning 9 Cheshvan, HaRav Shteinman stopped in Madison, New Jersey to address Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yaakov Yosef (RJJ) on his way to Philadelphia.

As he approached Yeshivas Philadelphia, over a thousand bochurim, avreichim and local residents were on hand to greet him.

An enormous banner reading "Boruch shecholak meichochmoso liyerei'ov" hung in the yeshiva courtyard and hundreds of yeshiva students burst out in loud song. At the entrance to the beis medrash he was received by the roshei yeshiva, HaRav Elya Svei and HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky.

HaRav Shteinman then spoke to the yeshiva about the need to strengthen and improve Torah and middos, saying Torah cannot be sustained without middos tovos and he who does not work on his middos will be unable to achieve success in Torah study.

From Yeshivas Philadelphia, HaRav Shteinman traveled to Baltimore, where thousands of local residents lined the streets for a whole mile, peering from balconies and roof tops to catch a glimpse of Kvod haTorah. As soon as HaRav Shteinman arrived, a gathering of local rabbonim and educators was held focusing primarily on topics related to girls' education.

HaRav Shteinman spoke powerfully about the obligation incumbent on the Jewish mother to fully dedicate herself to her children's education in Torah, stressing how in past generations Jewish mothers derived honor from staying home to educate yaldei Yisroel in holiness and purity. The goal of bnos Yisroel is not to be highly educated in secular studies, he said, and even if advanced studies in a certain area are needed, certainly one should strive to limit them as much as possible.

During the educators' meeting thousands of Baltimore residents streamed into the main beis medrash of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, which was packed from wall to wall, with people overflowing into the adjacent rooms. The gathering opened with a talk by HaRav Aharon Feldman, the rosh yeshiva and a member of Moetzes Gedolei Yisroel of the US, who spoke about how the merit of tzaddikim sustains the world. "And we have the merit to host, at Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, HaGaon Hagodol HaRav Yehuda Leib Shteinman, shlita, who has totally dedicated himself to Klal Yisroel."

Taking the podium HaRav Shteinman called on his listeners to devote themselves to Torah alone, saying that every bochur should avoid turning his thoughts to any other matter, for only through dedication to Torah study can one achieve a kinyon in Torah. Following Ma'ariv, HaRav Shteinman retired to the Rosh Yeshiva's home for the night.

On Monday morning, hundreds of boys bearing signs reading, "Moshe kibeil Torah miSinai umesoroh leYehoshu viYehoshua lezekeinim," were waiting at the gates of Talmud Torah Shearis Hapleitoh-Kochav MiYaakov when HaRav Shteinman arrived for a visit. Addressing the talmidim, HaRav Shteinman spoke of their obligation as tinokos shel beis rabbon to study Torah in purity since the world is sustained bezechus hevel pihem.

Later he went to Baltimore's Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim (TA), headed by HaRav Tzvi Teichman, and Beis Medrash Umesivto DeBaltimore, headed by HaRav Shlanger.

Before heading back to New York, HaRav Shteinman visited the growing chareidi kehilloh surrounding Washington D.C.'s Yeshiva of Greater Washington , headed by HaRav Aharon Shraga Lopiansky. Today the kehilloh has become quite large, and includes many government workers who drew closer to Yiddishkeit thanks to the Torah institutions set up in the city.

Speaking before the talmidim and kehilloh members, HaRav Shteinman said, "The Torah exists through HaKadosh Boruch Hu's promise, `Shelo sishokach mipi zar'o,' and we are witnesses to the Torah revolution in this place through one individual who carries out the task of, `filling the world with knowledge of Hashem.' And you, the members of the yeshiva and of the kehilloh, are full partners in this revolution."

New York City

From Washington, HaRav Shteinman flew to New York City, where he visited Yeshivas Shaarei Tzion in Queens, headed by HaRav Shmuel Elishayov, Yeshivas Shaarei Torah-Grodna, also in Queens, headed by HaRav Zelig Epstein, and Yeshivas Telz in Riverdale, headed by HaRav Avrohom Osband.

A large tzibbur was on hand when he arrived at the main beis knesses in Manhattan's Washington Heights for Ma'ariv. Addressing the kehilloh HaRav Shteinman spoke about the importance of preserving our forefather's heritage according to tradition, with the knowledge that each and every tribe in Am Yisroel had its own unique attributes.

On Tuesday a large reception was held in Boro Park, where a special meeting of Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah was conducted in the home of the Admor of Novominsk.

Wednesday night 12 Cheshvan, a large gathering was held at Yeshivas Torah Vodaas in Flatbush, Brooklyn, in which hundreds of prominent Torah educators from the greater New York area took part. The gathering was opened by HaRav Ehrenreich, a son-in-law of HaRav Schneur Kotler, who applied to the Rosh Yeshiva the verse from the haftorah of Parshas Lech Lecho, "Vekovei Hashem yachalifu ko'ach, ya'alu eiver kaneshorim, yorutzu velo yigo'u yeilchu velo yi'ofu." He said that the visit by the Rosh Yeshiva HaGaon Hagodol R' Aharon Leib Shteinman shlita teaches us, "to what extent man is obligated to work for the sake of kvod Shomayim. `Yorutzu velo yigo'u, yeilchu velo yi'ofu.' To act and do until one's power is spent. And this is what we must learn about increasing kovod Shomayim."

HaRav Yosef Rosenbloom spoke about the obligation of the educator in our generation.

Following his talk, HaRav Shteinman answered questions posed by the educators. In his concluding words, he spoke about the terrible danger of treif studies, including university studies, saying that this trend must be combated. He also spoke out against the ambition to educate youth for "tachlis." He said, "I've met rich people. They hadn't studied much and they did not study towards `tachlis.' Rather they merited siyata deShmaya."

On Thursday HaRav Shteinman visited Yeshivas Passaic, headed by HaRav Meir Stern. At first he held a long conversation in the Rosh Yeshiva's home on matters regarding Klal Yisroel and the responsibility to help care for the klal. At the end of the meeting they went into the beis medrash, where HaRav Shteinman delivered divrei chizuk and his'orerus to the talmidim.

On Friday he visited Yeshivas Zichron Moshe in South Fallsburgh, where he spoke with HaRav Eliyohu Ber Wachtfogel, the rosh yeshiva, in his home. After visiting the local cheder, HaRav Shteinman entered the yeshiva, where HaRav Yaakov Schneidman and HaRav Abba Gorelick spoke.

He spent Shabbos parshas Vayeiro in Monsey at the home of philanthropist R' Shimon Glick. An enormous tent with 500 seats was erected in the yard of the Glick home to allow Monsey residents to join their illustrious guest for the Shabbos tefillos.

On Motzei Shabbos a gathering for teachers and other educators from Monsey and the surrounding area was attended by hundreds of educators and maggidei shiurim.

Boro Park

An estimated 10,000 Brooklyn residents took part in a gathering to strengthen Torah learning held in an enormous tent erected on 18 Avenue in Boro Park on Sunday, 16 Cheshvan. In the tent were 6,000 seats not including chairs placed in the aisles. The event was also screened at four locations nearby.

The speeches given by the Admor of Novominsk, HaRav Shteinman and HaRav Mattisyohu Salomon all focused on the obligation to strengthen Torah and yiras Shomayim and to devote more time to Torah study.

The gathering was preceded by another gathering organized by Agudas Yisroel of America at the Brooklyn Marriot, which drew over one hundred well-known rabbonei kehillos, who had an opportunity to ask HaRav Shteinman various questions on kehilloh matters. He dealt with the questions at length and warned the rabbonim not to cooperate with any of those who seek to uproot religion.

On Monday morning HaRav Shteinman went to tefillas vosikin at Yeshivas Long Beach followed by a talk to the yeshiva members. Then the hundreds of yeshiva members accompanied HaRav Shteinman and Rosh Yeshiva HaRav Yosef Yitzchok Feigelstock to a meeting in the Rosh Yeshiva's home.

From there HaRav Shteinman traveled to Yeshivas Darchei Torah in Parkway, headed by HaRav Yaakov Bender. A crowd of thousands—the yeshiva members, their parents, alumni and area residents — was on hand when he arrived. After delivering a long talk he went to the airport to catch a flight to Chicago.

Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Cleveland

Upon his arrival he spoke to approximately 1,000 cheder boys. After tefillas Minchah berov am, Chicago educators gathered for a question-and-answer session with HaRav Shteinman.

That evening, at a large gathering for all of Chicago's chareidi population, the speakers included HaRav Shteinman, HaRav Avrohom Chaim Levine, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Telz- Chicago, and HaRav Osher Weiss, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Chasam Sofer and the rov of Kehillas Tshechenov in Ramot, Yerushalayim. The next morning HaRav Shteinman addressed the talmidim of Yeshivas Telz-Chicago.

Afterwards he flew to Toronto, where he stayed at the home of HaRav Shlomo Miller, rosh kollel of Kollel Toronto and one of North America's leading poskim. A large reception was held, followed by a gathering for educators and another gathering for yeshiva ketanoh talmidim.

At a general gathering held at the central Agudas Yisroel shul in Montreal, both HaRav Miller and HaRav Weiss spoke before HaRav Shteinman took the podium.

Flying into Cleveland the next day he was received at Yeshivas Telz-Cleveland by hundreds of bnei Torah, many of whom traveled there from Pittsburgh and Detroit. After delivering a talk HaRav Shteinman went to the home of HaRav Chaim Stein, where he met at length with the yeshiva administration to discuss matters affecting the yeshiva.

The Long Way Back to Eretz Yisroel: Paris,

Before returning to Eretz Yisroel, HaRav Shteinman stopped in Paris for a brief visit. HaRav Yitzchok Katz, rosh yeshiva and head of Yad Mordechai Institutions, received HaRav Shteinman upon his arrival in the early morning and escorted him to Yeshivas Nishmas Yisroel. Police motorcycles cleared a lane for the entourage through the morning traffic and the packed beis medrash waited eagerly for his arrival for tefillas Shacharis.

Afterwards a crowd gathering in the courtyard surrounded by the Yad Mordechai Institutions on Rue Pave — the school, the mesivto, the yeshiva ketanoh, Yeshivas Avi Ezri, and the yeshiva gedoloh, Yeshivas Nishmas Yisroel — where giant screens were set up. Welcome banners hung from the walls around Rue Pave. Small boys waved miniature flags and bochurim greeted HaRav Shteinman with song as he appeared.

A Jew who learns Torah anywhere, said HaRav Shteinman, sanctifies Sheim Shomayim in a place about which Odom Horishon decreed it would be a place where Sheim Shomayim would be sanctified through Torah learning and acts of chessed.

"The gemora says that Odom Horishon decreed that there would be a place of settlement in various places and later a settlement emerged in each place. Why did Odom Horishon care whether or not there was a dwelling place in that location? He knew that he would not live to see them. The answer is that he wanted to sanctify Sheim Shomayim. Odom Horishon had just one sin. But to repair the damage he went around designating places of settlement in which even one Jewish tzaddik would pray and learn Torah.

"In the Rambam it says that [the dust for] Odom Horishon's head came from the site of the Altar and the rest of his body came out of the entire world. Therefore, parts of Odom Horishon came from every part of the world. Since he sinned, and his whole body and head participated in the transgression, he wanted to do a tikkun in all of the places from which [the dust was taken when] he was created so that Sheim Shomayim would be sanctified.

"There are places where a Jew passed through only once. For example there could be a huge castle that was built but it was never used for a holy purpose. Then a Jew came along and benefited from its shade. It was worth building the entire castle, for that sanctification of Sheim Shomayim by that Jew.

"In this place in Paris, as well, Sheim Shomayim is sanctified. There are Torah institutions and chessed institutions. Here Jews learn Torah. There are yeshivas and a cheder. May HaKodosh Boruch Hu help them be blessed and sanctify Sheim Shomayim in ruchniyus and gashmiyus."

Since HaRav Shteinman rarely visits France, rabbonim and roshei yeshivos arrived from around the country, including HaRav Yehuda Toledano, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Rance, HaRav Yitzchok Levy, rosh yeshivas Epinet, HaRav Reuven Meir, rosh yeshiva of yeshivas St. Louis, and HaRav Schlesinger of Strasbourg. Also on hand were ramim from Yeshivas Nishmas Yisroel HaRav Ze'ev Kokis, HaRav Yehoshua Salomon, HaRav Efraim Sternbuch, HaRav Yitzchok Simpoliansky and the mashgiach HaRav Aryeh Leib Shapira.

After the talk he gave a second talk to the talmidim of the mesivto at Yeshivas Avi Ezri. Since his visit two- and-a-half years ago, the yeshiva has grown to over 60 bochurim as Torah study spreads to Jews in the area who were previously severed from Jewish tradition. In his talk HaRav Shteinman encouraged parents to send their sons to yeshiva ketanoh from the age of bar mitzvah in order to save them from being indoctrinated by French society.

HaRav Shteinman tested the bochurim from the yeshiva ketanoh, who are studying maseches Kiddushin, and spoke about the importance of starting Torah studies at a young age. "When a child reaches the age of three his father begins to teach him in kedushoh and taharoh. Children begin learning sefer Vayikra since it says that the pure should come and engage in matters of purity. Therefore even though the child is very small and does not understand yet, one begins to teach him about purity. The reason is that the souls of children are pure and without sin and the foundation must be purity. One must begin learning Torah early in life. Other matters are nonsense. He who wants his son to learn Torah must begin to teach his son in kedushoh and taharoh . . .

"Boruch Hashem, here the children learn in kedushoh and taharoh. May HaKadosh Boruch Hu help all the children learning here to grow in Torah and yiras Shomayim. May HaKadosh Boruch Hu help everyone—the rabbonim, the bochurim and the children."

Parting with the children he said, "May all of you be lomdei Torah and true servants of Hashem." According to HaRav Yitzchok Levinstein, HaRav Shteinman said he could see that his previous visit had borne fruit.


Afterwards he traveled to Geneva to visit the kollel and schools set up and managed by Rabbi Refoel Harari. Talmidim from the yeshiva ketanoh at Aix-les- Bains—started one year ago following HaRav Shteinman's visit there—arrived at the kollel with their roshei yeshiva, HaRav Yitzchok Weil and HaRav Tzvi Chaikin.

HaRav Shteinman then took a night-flight back to Eretz Hakodesh, landing at Ben Gurion Airport at 2:00 a.m. Friday morning, erev Shabbos Chayei Soroh.

This wrapped up a two-week long visit in the U.S., Canada, France and Switzerland, where he strengthened Torah and left impressions that will not soon be forgotten by the many thousands who participated at one point or another.


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