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In the Inner Sanctum of the Chazon Ish

Yated Ne'eman Staff

HaRav Shmaryahu Greineman zt"l
3

This article was first published in 1991 — 31 years ago. Last week was the 69th yahrtzeit of the Chazon Ish, but interest is still high. These authentic bits of wisdom from the Chazon Ish may not be published elsewhere.

The thirty-eighth yahrtzeit of the Chazon Ish was on 15 MarCheshvan. This was just after the sheloshim of HaRav Shmaryahu Greineman, who was one of the Chazon Ish's closest talmidim.

HaRav Shmaryahu Greineman wrote hundreds of pages of notes recalling his halachic experiences with his great mentor, including psakim on the four parts of the Shulchan Oruch, as well as rulings of other issues, often termed "the fifth Shulchan Oruch."

A few pages from HaRav Greineman's literary legacy were made available to Yated Ne'eman, and we present here selections from these. Where there is no explicit identification, the reference is to the Chazon Ish.

*

He once said that in his father's house they were very strict with the children about three things. Two of these he revealed: That they be very careful about falsehood, and not to say divrei Torah before washing, after touching a place that necessitates washing.

His mother once said that she was careful to wash her children's hands ("negel vasser") even when they were babies.

*

As a result of the dislocations during the First World War, he spent some time in Minsk. One time he was at an inn there while Rav Chaim Brisker, who was also staying in Minsk, was choosing an esrog. In the course of his examination, Rav Chaim asked someone to bring him a magnifying glass. Hearing this, the Chazon Ish whispered to himself, "Where does it say in the Torah that one must look with a magnifying glass?"

Rav Chaim looked around to see who said that, and when he saw who it was he cried, "The yungerman says that the Torah did not say to look with a magnifying glass." He did not use one.

On another occasion he was in Rav Chaim's room (together with his brother). He noticed that the clock did not show the correct time, but that its error was predictable. When Rav Chaim wanted to know the time, he looked at the clock and figured out the correct time.

The brothers exchanged a look of amazement which Rav Chaim noticed. He turned to them, asking, "What do you think? Why don't I set it?"

R' Avraham Yeshaya answered, "What's the difference?" (Meaning, that the exact time could be determined. The only additional requirement was some extra thought, and that should not be considered a problem.)

Rav Chaim's face lit up. "That's what I meant!" he said.

*

The Chazon Ish on Demai and Ma'asros was written entirely in Eretz Yisroel. When they were to be bound, Maran zt"l asked that they be bound in cloth, even though that was a considerable expense. "It's a simcha," he said. "It should be with a yom tov dik outfit."

*

They once told him a well-known story about R' Akiva Eiger.

One time R' Akiva Eiger wrote a long string of titles and praises in a letter addressed to a simple, ordinary man. When he was asked about this, he replied with his characteristic humility that inferred that it was customary to use such extravagant titles with everyone, as evidence by the fact that people address him in that way.

Maran zt"l replied with vehemence, "That is not true! It is an absolute falsehood. That is not humility. R' Akiva Eiger knew his place and recognized his personal greatness, but he knew that his achievements entitled him to nothing since that was the purpose for which he was created. That is humility (anava).

*

Over the years he accumulated many slips of paper (kvitelech) and letter of people who poured out their hearts and asked for advice or a prayer on his part. Maran zt"l saved all those letters in the attic of his home for many years.

One of his confidants once asked if he could clear them out. His request was refused. The Chazon Ish explained, "The Jew who wrote that letter certainly worked hard in writing it, ... he wrote down his aches and pains, ... how can one throw away such papers?"

After the Chazon Ish passed away, HaRav Shmaryahu zt"l took those sacks of letters and put them in a secure place.

*

One who goes ahead of someone in a line, is one who "breaks the fences of the world." (poretz gidrei olom)

*

One cannot argue with someone who is a bigger takif than he, and there is no greater takif than someone who does not understand.

*

"See how blind are they who lend with interest ... and they bring witnesses, a scribe, and a pen and they write so-and-so [the lender with interest] denies (kofer) the G-d of Israel." (Bava Metzia 71).

Maran zt"l was once asked why this particular sinner is called such a heretic. He answered (in substance):

"We hold that one's consumption is allocated in advance, on Rosh Hashanah. One who lends with interest indicates that he believes that his portion will not come to him without crooked methods, and he even certifies this with a signed and sealed document. This is heresy (kefirah)!"

 

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