Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

21 Menachem Av 5772 - August 9, 2012 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by











The Steipler - HaGaon R' Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 23 Av

"Of paramount importance," the Steipler would say, "is shemiras einayim."

This was his advice to bochurim who came to seek his guidance in their derech to Torah and fear of Hashem.

Rabbeinu's own complete segregation from earthly concerns was amazing and his immense shemiras einayim no less.

Towards the end of a cold winter, a strange thing was noticed on the coat of the Steipler. Although only one season had passed wearing this particular coat, parts of it were rubbed and threadbare. Upon closer inspection, those near Rabbeinu noticed that it was only worn out down the outside of the sleeves, while the rest of the coat had retained its perfect condition.

It turned out that the cause was the way Rabbeinu walked on the street. With eyes downcast, he would keep to the far end of the sidewalk as close as possible to the wall, house, or bushes — in fact, so close that his sleeves were rubbed and torn from the constant scraping.

At the wedding of a respected Yid, a buzz of excitement passed through the hall as a wealthy-looking man entered. Everyone present rushed to greet the philanthropist from America who had come especially for the occasion. Knowing full well, as did the rest of the crowd, that this guest, aside from his generous donations to yeshivos, had little to do with Yiddishkeit, the Steipler turned his head the other way and was heard mumbling to himself, "Al tistakel bifnei odom rosho."


"How did Rabbeinu R' Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky become the godol hador?" asked Maran HaRav Shach zt"l rhetorically, at the Steipler's levaya. "Because his conditions were so difficult in life and he managed to prevail. This is why he merited that every day we mention his seforim in learning: `The Kehillos Yaakov asks . . . The Kehillos Yaakov answers . . . '"

Indeed he had a difficult life, but the Steipler too believed that it is not despite his hardships that a person shteigs, but because of them.

"Without yegiyoh there is nothing," he would exhort the boys and young men who asked for chizuk. "And no one person's difficulties are akin to his friends'. One may have trouble with sholom bayis, another may struggle with rearing his children, a third with parnossoh, and a fourth, lo aleinu, with health problems. Each person will get their individual decree. The one thing they all have in common is that the yegiyoh will help them be successful in serving Hashem."

Concerning his own yegi'as haTorah, he would point out that before he had learned the gemora four times over, he did not understand it at all. Once he had done so he would review the learning several more times and only then could he be mechadesh.

"True chiddushei Torah are not just novel thoughts that come on their own, but are the result of hard work and toil."

He instructed roshei yeshiva and maggidei shiur to encourage their students to be diligent, for diligence is the direct path to hatzlochoh.

A well-known rov related that when he was at one point ram in a yeshiva he had cause to take a bochur to the Steipler for advice. The boy had already been in yeshiva for five years, yet had not seen success or a rise in his standard of learning. Dejected and despondent, he considered his next step. Should he give up learning and rather find a job in a Torah environment? After all, we are told by Rashi that five years is the amount of time that is needed to try something out, and if one doesn't succeed, it's a sign that he should change occupations.

"I felt inadequate," said the rosh yeshiva, "to take upon myself the decision that would affect this bochur's entire future. Since anyway I used to go the Steipler every erev Rosh Chodesh, I persuaded the boy to come with me and present his situation before the gaon.

"We traveled to Bnei Brak, where Rabbeinu listened carefully to our sheiloh.

"Turning to the bochur, Rabbeinu gently inquired, `Are you able to learn gemora?'

"`No,' replied the boy.

"`What about a perek mishnayos?'

"Again the reply was negative.

"`Can you manage a seif in Mishna Berurah?' persisted the Steipler.

"Embarrassed, the bochur lowered his eyes as he answered, `Yes. That much I can learn.'

"`Before you entered yeshiva, could you have learned even this minimal amount?'


"Immediately the Steipler turned to me," continued the Rosh Yeshiva. "`This is called not seeing a siman brochoh in his learning? Before he came to yeshiva, he knew nothing, and now he can learn Mishna Berurah. I assure you that with diligence he can continue to learn and achieve.'"

So saying, he warmly gave the boy his blessing and bade them farewell.

"The bochur stayed on in yeshiva," concluded the Rov. "And by the time he married, he knew all six chalokim of Mishna Berurah by heart!"

In his own diligence, the Steipler was no less demanding. His family related that when he was preparing his sefer, Kehillos Yaakov, he would review each siman again and again and yet another time until he was sure that it was ready to print. Often, even after a chapter had passed his scrutiny and was about to be put aside for publishing, the Gaon would take the papers into his hands, sit down once more and go through them yet another time in order to reconsider: are my words clear enough for even a young yeshiva bochur to understand? Perhaps a few more words need to be added, or another explanation for clarity?

(The latter was just another manifestation of his ultimate consideration for others, even if the person in question was a young yeshiva bochur.)

When the Steipler sent one of his volumes to Maran the Rosh Yeshiva zt"l, he told the messenger that he was a bit agitated that in the printing process, the address of the mechaber had been omitted, and if anyone wanted to buy the sefer they might not know where to get hold of it.

"Nu!" shrugged the shaliach, "everyone knows where Rabbeinu lives."

The Steipler, however, was still perturbed. "Perhaps someone will want to buy the sefer and will have to go to the bother of inquiring and searching out my address.

"My whole sefer is not worth printing for me if I cause one Yid bother and agmas nefesh through it."


One day, when the Steipler was already advanced in years and in weak health, he asked to be taken to the bar mitzvah of a boy in the neighborhood. His family and attendants were somewhat puzzled, for the boy was neither related nor the son of a close talmid. In fact, no one could recall any connection between the Steipler and the bar mitzvah boy.

"A few years ago, I scolded this boy in the beis medrash and later found out that he was innocent," explained the Steipler. "I immediately apologized to the boy, and he duly forgave me. However, subsequently I realized that a koton cannot give a proper mechiloh, so I promised to come to his bar mitzvah. Tonight he is no longer a koton and I can go and ask him for complete forgiveness."


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.