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NEWS
Stories from HaRav Mann at the First Siyum in Memory of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky zt"l

by C. Honig

HaRav Eliyahu Mann speaking in the presence of HaRav Chaim zt"l 3 years ago
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"With mixed feelings, cheeks still wet with hot tears, we continue to mourn the passing of Morenu veRabbenu, while joyously acknowledging the siyum haShas of thousands of participants." These were the words which opened the first monthly siyum haShas which took place in the Lederman beis medrash, delivered by the Rosh Yeshiva and attended by the forefront of Torah leaders, together with thousands of those who completed the study through six different programs of "Siach HaTorah" in memory and merit of HaRav Shemaryohu Yosef Chaim ben HaRav Yaakov Yisroel zt"l.

Rabbenu's disciple, HaRav Mann, one of the roshei yeshiva of Ohr Yisroel, eulogized the deceased, quoting what he had heard from HaRav Shechter when the latter drove the Chazon Ish to his destination one time. While driving, they suddenly spied Rabbenu walking along in the midst of a heavy downpour, soaked to the bone. The Chazon Ish asked Rav Shechter to stop, exclaiming, "The Shas is getting wet!"

HaRav Mann also mentioned a question he had asked, "When boys becoming bar mitzvah come to Rabbenu for advice as to what good practice they should assume, why does he tell them to complete Shas? Is this a goal which a young boy can be expected to reach?" Rabbenu replied, "Not in one night."

He also noted that when Rabbenu completed the study of a single masechta, one did not notice anything special by him, but when he completed the entire Shas on Erev Pesach, one could see his great joy. He was very attached to the study of gemara.

HaRav Povarsky speaking at the siyum
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HaRav Mann continued, "Rabbenu spoke to me about this, revealing that he was once by HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer who quoted something from Maseches Sota, 'There is no more humility aside from myself (Ana).' This is puzzling. What kind of humility is this? HaRav Isser Zalman quoted the Gaon who explained that it referred to a Tana in the Yerushalmi by the name of Ana. So long as he was alive, there still existed true humility in the world.

Rabbenu commented that there was no such Tana as Ana — only in Yerushalmi Shabbos do we find one by the name of 'Anan.' I asked Rabbenu in wonder why he didn't say this to HaRav Meltzer, and he replied, 'It wouldn't have been respectful.' Rabbenu must have been no more than 26 at the time.

"One time, a publisher involved in publishing the works of the Maharal mentioned that there was a quote from Chazal for which he could find no source. This publisher once traveled to Bnei Brak where he met Rabbenu on the street and addressed the question to him. Rabbenu replied that it was not to be found in Talmud Bavli. 'Neither is it in Talmud Yerushalmi,' he added. Continuing down the line... a minute and a half later, he said, 'There is something like it in Tikunei Zohar.'

Maran once said to me, 'I was familiar with Yevamos like I know Ashrei, Eruvin like Ashrei.'

Well known is the story that Rabbenu once completed Bava Basra in one day; he had had to make a siyum two times because Erev Pesach fell on a Shabbos, but this is a time when one usually fasts. I asked him why Bava Basra in particular? He replied, 'I wanted to see if I could complete it in one day.'

Several years later, Erev Pesach fell again on Shabbos, but this time, Rabbenu chose a smaller tractate. When I asked him why he had not done Bava Basra, he replied, "One only does tricks a single time.'

There is a side to this story which most people don't know. Rabbenu noted that on that first occasion, he had not only completed Bava Basra in that time, but had also made a siyum on Horayos. I asked him why and he said simply, 'Because I still had some time left.'

"Rabbenu felt no special credit for his accomplishments but regarded them with utter simplicity. Someone from the family once traveled to the tomb of Rashbi and asked him what specific prayer he want them to ask for him. He replied, 'That people don't distract me and disturb from my study.' Anything else, they asked. 'No,' he replied. 'I only have one request.'

I once told Rabbenu a story which took place during a period of blackout in Europe. A godol lit a candle, nonetheless. Patrolling soldiers arrested him and he was sentenced to death, allowing him one wish before he died. He said that he was grappling with a difficult passage in the Rambam and asked for time to resolve it. Somehow or other, enough time passed and the sentence was not carried out. I asked him how he had the nerve to make such a request and also how he had been able to concentrate on understanding such a difficult passage while pending execution. He replied nonchalantly, 'What do you mean? I simply had to grapple with it until it became clear to me. What else do I want, anyway?'

Torah was life, his whole life, and he didn't even understand my question. Even when the rebbetzin passed away, one could discern his serenity. It took place on Shabbos, when Rabbenu was studying Shulchan Oruch Choshen Mishpat. Upon hearing the news, he got up, went over to the bookshelf, took out a Yoreh Deah, and began reviewing the laws of mourning.

I heard this from his son-in-law, HaRav Epstein, who said that when the Torah is the joy of life, even during the most difficult times, one maintains utter serenity to continue studying. And now, when all of us here are repaying him with our Shas study, he enjoys the greatest possible pleasure."

A letter from the Rosh Yeshiva to the siyum
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