Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

21 Shevat 5761 - Febuary 14, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Rebbetzin Leah Karelitz o"h
by A. Cohen

Thousands of bnei Torah, headed by maranan verabonon, gedolei haTorah vehamusar, roshei yeshiva, dayanim and rabbonim accompanied the righteous Rebbetzin Leah Karelitz, o"h, on her last earthy journey on 13 Shevat. Eishes chover to HaRav Chaim Shaul Karelitz, shlita, the ga'avad of Shearis Yisroel, she was niftar at the age of 78 after a difficult illness.

Rebbetzin Karelitz, daughter of Reb Yehoshua Berger, was born on 15 Tishrei, 5683 (1922). When she was only five, her mother passed away. Every erev Shabbos, the tender orphan would be blessed and encouraged by her illustrious great-grandfather, HaRav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld. She grew up in the home of her mother's sister, Rebbetzin Chaya Kopshitz, who raised her as her own.

Her noble personality was fashioned in this home, where she was imbued with the pure aspiration of building a genuine Torah home. Her excellent middos were well known, notably her trait of simplicity and being satisfied with little. These traits were part and parcel of her character to her final day.

When she came of age, she married HaRav Chaim Shaul Karelitz, one of the Torah world's finest talmidei chachomim, an outstanding student of HaRav Boruch Ber Lebowitz as well as one of the leading students in the Petach Tikva Lomza yeshiva. Their wedding was held in the home of the Steipler Rav and was attended by the Chazon Ish.

Immediately after their wedding they went to live in Petach Tikvah, where HaRav Karelitz continued to pore over his Torah studies in the Toras Eretz Yisroel kollel. Together they built a Torah home whose walls were saturated with pure yiras Shomayim. Despite the great poverty they suffered at times, they continued to devote themselves to Torah and avodas Hashem.

In time, the Chazon Ish asked HaRav Karelitz to preside as rav and moreh tzeddek for the bnei Torah community of Petach Tikvah, but HaRav Karelitz replied that he wished to continue to study Torah undisturbed. In 5715 (1955) he moved to Bnei Brak, near his mother's home.

HaRav Karelitz' home in Bnei Brak rapidly became a focal point for the broken and oppressed who found there comfort and solace. With great mesirus nefesh, the rebbetzin fulfilled the words of Rav Yossi ben Yochanan Ish Yerushalayim in Pirkei Ovos, "Open your home wide and let the paupers be members of your household."

A symbol of modesty and simplicity, the Rebbetzin related to this word as merely a transitory one in which one needn't invest anything. She believed that one should invest all one's strengths and resources in the spiritual world and in raising children to Torah and yiras Shomayim. She would daven profusely, pleading that she merit to raise her children to Torah and that she produce generations of talmidei chachomim.

Her dedication to her husband is legendary: throughout all the years he presided as a rav and throughout all the sacred battles he waged as the shaliach of maranan verabonon, among them the Kehillos Yaakov, zt"l, and Maran the gaon HaRav Eliezer Menachem Shach, shlita she stood faithfully at his side.

When Maran HaRav Shach directed her husband to accept the position of ga'avad of Shearis Yisroel and the supervision of all Shearis Torah activity -- including a beis horo'oh, a beis din and a kashrus network -- she continued to serve as his right hand.

She conducted her home as a true woman of valor, so that even when they were on the verge of penury, her illustrious husband was able to remain in Torah learning and share his vast spiritual treasures with the bnei Torah of our times.

During recent years she endured harsh suffering. Nonetheless, she justified the din and accepted all of her suffering with love, without ever complaining about her situation. In her final months, when she was hospitalized in critical condition, doctors would ask her how she felt, and she would reply, "Boruch Hashem, good."

During recent years, her eyesight seriously deteriorated. But she never forgot her tefillos, and for many hours would daven word for word from a large-print siddur.

On erev Shabbos parshas Bo she lost consciousness, and early in the morning of Tuesday, 13 Shevat, returned her pure soul, which had been refined by suffering, to its Maker.

The levaya, leaving from her home, was attended by thousands of Bnei Brak residents, headed by HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman, HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, HaRav Nissim Karelitz, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, dayanim, rabbonim and thousands of bnei Torah.

Before the procession left from the Chazon Ish Kollel, hespedim were delivered by HaRav Moshe Aharon Rosental, HaRav Avrohom Kopshitz, HaRav Eliezer Dunner and HaRav Yehoshua Shklar.

The maspidim stressed the spiritual greatness of the nifteres, a link between past and current generations; a woman who nullified herself totally before her illustrious husband and was a model of simplicity and tsnius.

The levaya set out by foot from the Chazon Ish Kollel to the Beis Meir yeshiva where HaRav Zalman Rotberg and HaRav Tzvi Rotberg delivered hespedim..

The levaya then proceeded to the Bnei Brak Netzivei Ponovezh cemetery where she was buried.

She is survived by her husband, HaRav Chaim Shaul Karelitz, by sons who are talmidei chachomim and daughters who are married to talmidei chachomim and by grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all of whom are firmly rooted in Beis Hashem, and are continuing to uphold the spiritual legacy she bequeathed to them.


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