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01 January 2018

What It Means To Lose a Gadol HaDor: Yaakov Avinu – Aharon Yehuda Leib

The following are ideas from Rabbi Pinchus Winston Shlit”a on Parshas Vayechi and from Binyamin Golden on Current Events on TomerDevorah. Followed by excerpts from Special Tributes to Rav Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman zt”l.

What It Means To Lose a Gadol HaDor
Yaakov Avinu (Yisroel)  2108 – 2255 BCE
Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman 5674/1913 – 24 Kislev 2017

IT HAS ONLY been a couple of weeks since the loss of Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman, zt”l. True, he was 104 years old at the time he left this world, and his health had been failing, but it does not minimize the loss to the Jewish people and the world in general. His time may have come, but that does not lessen the impact of the loss of a Gadol HaDor.

What is that loss?
We can only imagine.
Who knows what affects what in Heaven, and how much?

There may have already been major consequences resulting from the loss of this Torah giant, but we would never know. It takes a prophet to reveal such things, and we have none today.
Besides, the Torah world is busy trying to fill the gap as best as possible, and life must go on, and does, b”H.

The Torah does give us a glimpse somewhat of what it means to lose a Gadol HaDor in this week’s parsha:

Ya’akov lived in the land of Egypt for 17 years, and Ya’akov’s days, the years of his life, were 147 years. (Bereishis 47:28)

Why is this section [completely] closed? Because, as soon as our father Ya’akov passed away, the eyes and the heart of the Jewish people were “closed,” (i.e., it became “dark” for them) because of the misery of the slavery, for they started to subjugate them. (Rashi)

The “closed” parsha alludes to the “closing” of the eyes of the Jewish nation that Ya’akov Avinu left behind. [the actual enslavement of the Jewish people did not begin until the death of Levi 78 years later, it was in motion since the death of Ya’akov Avinu]

As the Talmud says, the wise person is someone who sees what is happening now, and what it could lead to (Tamid 32a). It’s not just the presence of a great Torah scholar that makes the difference.
It’s not just that he can be accessed, and that his words and Torah wisdom can be published and disseminated throughout the Torah world. That is certainly a large part of what helps a generation to stay the course, but there is a lot more as well.

There is the “invisible” aspect as well.

Physically, Rabbi Shteinman [. . .] looked malnourished. He barely ate anything, and foods we eat without second thought were luxuries to him that he tried to avoid. On a scale, he would not have counter-balanced much at all.

Spiritually, *Rav Shteinman was a giant.
His soul was **HUGE.

If souls could be weighed, it could have taken millions to counterbalance his. Taking him of that scale, so-to-speak, would have sent the other side crashing down. We may yet see the historical effects of that in our lifetime, even soon.

when Ya’akov Avinu died, it was hard to know what the gaping spiritual “hole” would allow in or out. The Jewish people of his time didn’t know what it would eventually lead to in advance, only after the fact. They didn’t have to know. It was enough to know what they lost, and what he meant to the nation. The loss of Ya’akov Avinu, the last of three of our fathers was huge and dramatic. The response of the nation needed to be huge and dramatic, to avoid the need for God to eventually to do something huge and dramatic, to get Ya’akov’s descendants back on track. It is the same for us as well.

We do not know how the loss of Rav Shteinman, zt”l, will impact our history. We just know that it will, and that should be enough to push us to do the best we can to make up for what we lost. The alternative has never been pleasant for the Jewish people.

* * * * *

The time has come, Am Yisroel, for the tremendous happenings in the near future which include wars and massive destruction by messengers of Hakadosh Boruch Hu, from the heavens above. This will bring true reality to the world which has strayed so far from Hashem and His Torah. The world as we know it in the last few decades has tried to go against its Creator in the most terrible way.

[. . .] Am Yisroel itself has a history of fluctuating between being the greatest of Tzaddikim to falling very low and imitating the ways and all the absolutely forbidden activities of the Goyim and their false gods. Now we are a few thousand years into the Golus. Both our Batei Mikdosh have been destroyed. We went from a mighty holy nation into a terrible diaspora because of our sins against Hakadosh Boruch Hu. Throughout this Golus, diaspora we have gone through periods of great spiritual attainments producing Tzaddikim of enormous spiritual levels that have been sent to guide us through this last, almost impossibly long exile from our home.

However, the time has come to return not only to our homeland, that is not enough! We first of all have to return to Hashem

You have to throw away your Egel Hazahav, which is all of the lies of the Goyisha world that have seeped into our Yiddishkeit and have diluted it in the most twisted ways. Hashem despises the lack of Kedusha, the lack of personal holiness. He wants His people to be holy and this is what the Goyim detest!

The lack of Tznius has entered even the Frum communities in the most horrific ways. There is a general break down of much of our rabbinical structure making it difficult to get a true Psak from many of the very people who are appointed to guide Am Yisroel. There is so much Pritzus and Aveiros from the Pritzus that it is infecting our once holy people in a most negative way.

Let me remind you that over six million of our fellow Jews were killed by the Nazi monsters because they were Jews. Hashem took the Tzaddikim together with the Baalai Aveirah. This happened because the whole generation one way or another was at fault for the terrible lack of Shmiras Shabbos and many other basic principles of Yiddishkeit that were ignored by many Jews.

The Yidden of Europe were moving quickly away from their Yiddishkeit but when they went to the gas chambers, Hashem Yikom Dammam, almost all of them went with Shema Yisroel on their lips because they knew at that final moment that they themselves caused the Holocaust. That their lack of keeping Hashem’s will caused these monsters called Nazis to be created. Their souls were for the most part saved because they realized their mistake and realized that the Creator of the World was trying to save their Jewish souls. Even though they didn't survive with their bodies their souls were intact.

The Tzaddikim among them knew this. People like Rav Elchanan Wassermann were killed. He knew he would probably be killed and he knew his family would probably be killed, but he didn't let them leave to go to America or England because he also knew that it was better to die as a Jew, an Emesdik Jew, than to live in places like the United States where their only god is the Egel Hazahav.

He knew that the soul is the essence of life itself and that the Jewish soul is eternal and once it is protected in this world by strictly keeping the laws of the Torah with all a person's heart and soul then a person will gain total eternity. Because true life is the soul! The bodies that the souls are put into may change but the Jewish soul is eternal. Remember that Am Yisroel, because when you look in the mirror and you see yourself know that your outward appearance has not always been the same but your Jewish soul is the same. Your Jewish soul is yearning to be close to Hashem, yearning to be Mikadesh it's body and to be Mikadesh it's body means to keep everything written in the Torah both hidden and revealed.

We have to separate ourselves totally from non-Jewish ideas and ways of living. We have to throw away our lack of Tznius. All our clothes and inappropriate jewelry, make-up, and Sheitels must be destroyed. We must model ourselves after the Imahos. The men after the Avos. We have to take our minds away from frivolous activities that have no depth or meaning. Unfortunately, even many Chareidi schools and Yeshivas are educating on a dual track mixing into our Yiddishkeit a pinch of Gashmiusdikeit that in the end is trying to control all Am Yisroel.

There is no doubt that we are going through the time just before the Geula Sheleimah where right before our eyes we will see most of the world as we know it, being destroyed. It is written clearly in the Nevuas! It is happening now! We are going faster and faster into the great difficulties that has been foretold in our Sifrei Kodesh and by many of our greatest Tzaddikim throughout the generations.

Remember He [HKB”H] despises the lack of Kedusha! Many of this generation of Jews have partaken in activities that are against the Torah. Do Teshuva for it. Cry real tears of remorse that you could dare go against the Torah of Hakadosh Boruch Hu. Women throw away and destroy all dress of the Goyim that reveal your body, clothes that you wear in the street without Busha. Long hair Sheitels, all Sheitels whether blonde black or brown make you look like an unmarried woman even if you have a hat on top of it. The make-up you're wearing is forbidden and your clothes are generally too short, too tight and too revealing. You don't usually walk like a Frum woman with humility and with a desire to be modest in your appearance.

The men are also helping in this lack of Ratzon to keep the Torah and to be Tzanua. Even if they have Payos and long beards they desire the life of Goyim who many of them looked down upon, but want to have the physical freedom to do forbidden things.

Am Yisroel please, whatever I have written here is only a tiny overview of what the situation is. Hashem will not let the world continue to descend into total chaos. He will not let the Sitra Achra that He created and He rules over be able to do any more damage than he has already done. Most of all Hashem is going to save every single Jewish Neshoma!

So please do Teshuva now but real Teshuva!  Hashem has been warning for years and years

He has warned us, Am Yisroel by wars and natural disasters. He also warned the Goyim but to no avail. Now the end is coming and if you say to me that Hashem is kind and He won't do such a thing then look back into history and see what He has done from His limitless kindness to make us His beloved Am Yisroel, realize that we have strayed enough and we must come back to the Truth. He has created the Jewish soul for many reasons. The vast majority of the reasons are beyond our ability to understand but one thing is for sure He created us the Jewish People to serve Him with complete obedience and thereby to reap the greatest pleasures in all existence.

[C]hange your way of life now so your suffering will be less and I Bentch all Am Yisroel all the Yiddishe Neshomas that we should all be Zoche to great Moshiach Tzidkainu Besimcha Uv’rachamim Bimhaira Beyamainu and we should gain everlasting life.


** Rav Steinman’s childhood years were marked by poverty so severe that his brother died from hunger at a year and a half. “When I was four, we were guests somewhere and they served [. . .] a potato, I wanted to grab it with both hands, that’s how hungry I was. Ach, how much I was lacking the middah of bitachon. . .” [. . .]

Rav Steinman was the sole survivor of his family, which was wiped out by the Nazis in Cheshvan 1941. [. . .] His childhood friend Moshe Soloveitchik, a grandson of the Brisker Rav. [. . .]

“Not only was I in constant fear but the driver [of the taxi] took all the money I had! . . . I was very upset to lose my money. Only later did I understand it was a very cheap kaparah to pay to escape, b’chasdei Hashem, the gei haharigah [the jaws of death].” [. . .]  [from the Mishpacha Special Tribute edition 689, on “A Century in his Glow.”]

* The Steipler Gaon, zt’l, held Rav Shteinman in great esteem, and often remarked that he was a true Gadol. A yungerman came to the Steipler Gaon for a brachia, the Gaon asked him where he learned, and was told that he had learned in the Ponevezher kollel. The Steipler Gaon suddenly shouted, “What? You have such a great person as the Rosh Kollel and you come to me for a brachah?”

HaRav Nissim Karelitz, zt”l, always agreed to Rav Shteinman’s opinion . . .”I saw with my own eyes how the uncle [the Chazon Ish] stood up whenever Rav Aharon Leib came in, and that was when he was not even 40 years old.” [from the Special Hamodia Supplement of December 14, 2017]

*Rav Aharon Leib fled from honor at every opportunity. In fact, he “once wept after the Chazon Ish…accompanied him to the door as he left.” He was afraid that this, like many of the honors he endured, were undeserved and would only “decrease his share in the World to Come.” The tzava’ah is the final testimony to his modesty, requesting to be buried amongst simple people, that there be no hespeidim and no titles on his matzeivah, and that no signs be posted about the levayah. [from the Yated Ne’eman

Rabbi Moshe Grylak said: Rav Steinman ztz”l was the last survivor of a generation of giants, the last of those who came after the Holocaust to restore the Torah to its place at the center of our lives, the last link in a chain of leaders who stood head and shoulders above the ordinary man to guide him through the maze of life and through the crooked paths of Israeli politics. That chain of leadership began with the Chazon Ish and passed through the hands of the Brisker Rav; from him to the Steipler Gaon, then to Rav Shach, to Rav Elyashiv, and finally to Rav Aharon Leib Steinman ztz”l, the last link in that chain of greatness.

One of the Chazon Ish’s greatest talmidim, a gaon of the present time, said that Rav Aharon Leib’s approach to life reminded him of the Chazon Ish. And in fact, the Chazon Ish would stand up when Rav Aharon Leib entered his room — even when the latter was just a 30-year-old yungerman.

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