Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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24 Tammuz 5769 - July 16, 2009 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Mrs. Sheina Meiselman o"h

By Yechiel Sever

Mrs. Sheina Meiselman o"h, a granddaughter of Maran HaRav Chaim Soloveitchik (the Brisker Rov) and the last living person who spent time in his presence, departed for the World to Come on Sunday, 13 Tammuz, at the age of 97.

She was born during Chanukah of 5672 (1913) in Raseiniai, Lithuania to HaRav Moshe Halevi Soloveitchik zt"l and her mother Pesheh.

HaRav Moshe, the second son of the Brisker Rov, was born in Teves of 5639 (1879-80) in Volozhin, where he grew up in the midst of constant Torah learning, in part because Reb Chaim's home was located in the basement of Yeshivas Eitz Chaim of Volozhin.

When Yeshivas Volozhin completed Seder Nezikin in 5645 (1885) the Netziv decided to skip Seder Kodshim, so Reb Chaim held an evening Kodshim shiur with select talmidim. When Moshe started learning regularly with his father the boy insisted that they start learning Seder Kodshim, since that was the subject matter the elite students at the yeshiva were engaged in. Reb Chaim gave his consent, ruling that one can only learn successfully when engaged in subject matter that speaks to one's heart (based on Chazal's dictum, "Ein odom lomed elo bemokom shelibo chofetz"). Over the years Seder Kodshim became a staple for Reb Chaim and his sons.

Two weeks after his bar mitzvah, Yeshivas Volozhin closed down and Maran and his family were expelled from the city. They moved to Brisk (Brest, Belarus) where they could be close to the Beis Halevi zt"l.

In Iyar 5653 (1893) the Beis Halevi passed away and Reb Chaim assumed his post as the rov of Brisk, and continued teaching talmidim. It was during these years that Moshe began to shine under his father's close guidance.

In 5655 (1895) Moshe met with HaRav Itzeleh of Ponovezh, who wrote about the 16-year-old boy to HaRav Zalman Sender: "I was very favorably impressed by him; he has clear thinking, upright conduct and a good heart."

In Sivan 5661 (1901) he married the daughter of HaRav Eliyohu Feinstein of Pruzhana, a leading rabbinical authority of his age and the author of Halichos Eliyohu. At the age of six, Reb Yossel of Slutsk, who later became his rov muvhok, predicted he would go on to become godol hador.

Following his wedding he remained under the support of his father-in-law, devoting his studies to Kodshim and Taharos and passing on his teachings to many talmidim. His chidushim from this period were later printed as Chidushei HaGRaM Halevi. In 5666 (1906) he wrote emendations on Dvar Avrohom and sent them to the author, who in his reply addressed Reb Moshe with extraordinary titles that he rarely used (see Vol. II, 24).

In 5669 (1909) he was asked to become rov of Raseiniai in place of HaRav Alexander Moshe Lapidot, one of the leading disciples of Maran HaRav Yisroel Salanter zt"l, who served in the Raseiniai rabbinate for 40 years. He passed away in 5666 (1906) but for three years no replacement could be found.

In Raseiniai Reb Moshe gathered a group of scholars and the Alter of Slobodka sent him a minyan of select students from Yeshivas Slobodka, and he started teaching Noshim and Nezikin. Throughout his lifetime Reb Moshe toiled in Torah. In addition to his profound ability to delve into topic in depth like his father, an ability the Griz often cited in his shiurim, Reb Moshe had a strong command of the Tur and Beis Yosef, that including most of the Shas and Rishonim.

After Reb Moshe's petiroh his brother the Griz said he was a true gaon and tzaddik.

As a girl, Sheina was constantly exposed to her prodigious grandfathers. In 5678 (1918) she spent a month in Minsk close to Reb Chaim, and later she lived with her grandfather Reb Eliyohu of Pruzhana until his passing in 5689 (1929). Meanwhile she remained very close to her father, Reb Moshe, cleaving to him throughout his lifetime and constantly helping and accompanying him until his petiroh in 5701 (1941), when he was serving as the rosh yeshiva of Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon Yeshiva (of Yeshiva University) in New York City. He was succeeded in this position by his son, Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik.

In 5698 (1938) she married Rav Tzvi Meiselman, a grandson of HaRav Avrohom Elchonon, one of the rabbonim of Yassei, Romania. While living in the US she was dedicated to youth outreach at a time when the state of Yiddishkeit and Jewish education was at a low ebb there.

In the midst of this spiritual wasteland she dedicated her efforts to showing Jews the light of Torah handed down to us from generation to generation. Later she played a central role at Torah Umesorah, which focused on building Torah-true Jewish schools throughout the US.

Her levaya set out from Yeshivas Toras Moshe, named after her father zt"l, on Rechov Shmuel Hanovi in Jerusalem. She was eulogized by her son, HaRav Moshe Meiselman, the rosh yeshiva, who noted her dedication to her father's Torah study during the 1930s in the US, when financial conditions in her father's home were bleak, and how she postponed marriage and took difficult jobs to ensure that her father could learn undisturbed. Throughout this period she took pains to hide this from her parents, seeking ways to pass her earnings on to them surreptitiously.

He also noted her dedication and indefatigable efforts to instill the ahavas Torah and yiras Shomayim she had received during her childhood in her own children.

Mrs. Sheina Meiselman o"h is survived by her son and daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all carrying aloft the great legacy her father and grandfathers brought to Beis Yisroel.


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