May 27, 2024
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The passing of HaGaon HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, zt”l, has left klal Yisrael bereft. Rav Shteinman was a gaon in Torah, a gaon in tzidkus and a gaon in hanhaga and leadership. He embodied the grandeur and beauty of a synthesis of Torah, midos tovos, absolute selflessness and mesiras nefesh for the klal to the extent that his own personal cheshbonos and negius didn’t exist.

One of the most deeply moving images of him that impacted the hearts and minds of all was his entry three years ago into the Dirshu World Siyum of Daf HaYomi B’Halacha (marking the completion of the entire Mishnah Berurah) in 2015 at the Nokia Yad Eliyahu Stadium in Tel Aviv.

He was over 100 years old. As the diminutive gadol slowly made his way to his seat at the head, the crowd of lomdei Torah could not contain their excitement. The eruption of simcha and ecstasy defies description as all craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the rosh yeshiva’s holy countenance.

There was a hush as Rav Shteinman, in his soft voice, cited a Chazal: “A gathering of tzadikim is good for them and good for the world. A gathering of reshaim is bad for them and bad for the world.” Rav Shteinman said forcefully, “It is good to make gatherings like this! They strengthen us all, especially in [difficult times] like this. In this zechus may all of us merit kol tuv!”

Every step took effort, but he made the effort and was literally mafkir himself, his strength, his pain, his honor and his time for his beloved klal Yisrael and beloved Torah. If it would strengthen Torah, Rav Shteinman was there. That is why he attended and addressed so many Dirshu and Acheinu events and gave so much of his time to advise and guide the hanhala of Dirshu on virtually every major policy issue and new initiative and program they undertook.

Klal Yisrael has lost a leader, guide and shield. Together with klal Yisrael, lomdei Dirshu and hanhalas Dirshu and Acheinu mourn and bemoan the irreplaceable loss of their Rebbe and guide. They will never forget Rav Shteinman’s unique combination of tzidkus, temimus, chochma and astuteness that he utilized to guide us together with an entire generation.

At Dirshu’s 10th anniversary celebration at Yad Eliyahu Stadium in Tel Aviv, the entire assemblage sat at the edge of their seats latching onto every word of the venerated rosh yeshiva, Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman. In his message, Rav Shteinman asked why Chizkiyahu Hamelech was punished for not saying shira after Hashem destroyed the army of Sancherev in one night. “Was Chizkiyahu not the same king who brought unprecedented Torah learning to klal Yisrael? Is not Torah the greatest shira in the world?” Rav Shteinman answered that witnessing the great miracle from Hashem should have given him an even greater understanding of Hashem’s greatness. It therefore should have spurred him to sing shira. Every new hasaga that a Jew gains into the greatness of Hashem requires a new, higher level of shira. Rav Shteinman implied that the more one grows in Torah and the more Torah is learned and understood, the greater the requirement to express thanks to Hashem!

At that gathering and then at Dirshu’s next Siyum Hashas, which was the natural venue where Rav Shteinman was honored with reciting the Siyum Hashas as the oldest active gadol hador, and on countless other occasions, Rav Shteinman’s message was always one of growing in Torah. For Rav Aharon Leib, anyone and any organization that was enabling more people to learn Torah, know Torah and acquire new chalakim in Torah was something for which he said shira and encouraged others to say shira as well.

When the Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program was starting, he gave guidance that provided insight into his thinking. He said, “A person must strengthen himself in learning Halacha every day because the yetzer hara comes every day. Countless times each day, the yetzer hara tries to pull a person away from Hashem and the only antidote is to strengthen limud haTorah and limud Halacha!”

In a conversation with Dirshu’s nasi, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, held at Rav Aharon Leib’s humble apartment in Bnei Brak, Rav Aharon Leib told Rav Hofstedter that being able to enrich klal Yisrael requires tremendous siyata d’Shmaya. He then cited the well-known gemara (Megillah 28), “We learned in the beis midrash of Eliyahu that one who learns Halacha every day is assured a place in Olam Haba, as it says, ‘Halichos olam Lo [the ways of the world are His]’—do not read the word halichos, but rather halachos.” Rav Shteinman asked, “Why didn’t the pasuk just say the word ‘halachos’? Why did it have to say halichos in such a way that a drasha is necessary in order to learn that it means halachos?” Rav Shteinman answered, “The way a person walks in this world and where he will be in the next world are all dependent on how he observes halacha. When a Yid lives in accordance with halacha and all of his halichos, all of his comings and goings in this world, are in accordance with the Torah, he will merit that he will also walk in Olam Haba!”

Without a doubt, however, Rav Shteinman’s love and guidance was provided because he so deeply believed that the only way to achieve success in ruchniyus, in chinuch and in any spiritual undertaking is to cultivate a love of Torah, a love of the sweetness of Torah.

“How does one cultivate love of Torah and the ability to taste the sweetness of Torah? By learning more and more Torah.” Rav Shteinman elucidated, “The more one learns, the sweeter it becomes!”

By Chaim Gold

 

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