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11 Sivan 5762 - May 22, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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The Great Gaon, HaRav Pesach Yitzchok Stein
by Betzalel Kahn

On Sunday 1 Sivan and Monday 2 Sivan, thousands of mourners, headed by gedolei haTorah, roshei yeshiva and masses of students and members of the bnei Torah community, accompanied HaRav Pesach Yitzchok Stein zt"l on his last earthly journey. On Sunday, the levaya took place in the United States and on Monday in Eretz Yisroel. HaRav Stein, one of the roshei yeshiva of the Telz yeshiva of Cleveland, was niftar on erev Shabbos kodesh parshas Bamidbar.

HaRav Pesach Stein the son of Rav Aaron Shmuel Hy"d, was born in Breinesk in 5678 (1918). His father, who was an av beis din and rosh yeshiva in Breinesk, was a student of HaRav Shimon Shkop. His mother, Rebbetzin Pessel (nee Semiatitsky), who was the cousin of Rav Zaidel Semiatitsky, ran a store in order to enable her husband to devote himself to Torah study undisturbed. HaRav Shimon Shkop was the sandak at Pesach Yitzchok's bris.

HaRav Pesach Yitzchok Stein studied in the yeshiva ketana of Breinesk, and then in the Slonim yeshiva under HaRav Shabsai Yogel. HaRav Yogel was very fond of him, and predicted that he would be a godol beTorah.

In 5696 (1936), he began to study in the Mir in Poland. Even though he was still young, he integrated with the yeshiva's most prominent students, and became very close to HaRav Yonah Minsker, Hy"d, with whom he often spoke in learning. He studied bechavrusa with HaRav Shmuel Charkover, one of the greatest talmidei chachomim of the yeshiva who, though much older than HaRav Pesach, would attend all of his chaburos. Years later, HaRav Charkover became one of the roshei yeshiva of the Beis HaTalmud yeshiva in the United States. Whenever he encountered students of the Telz yeshiva would ask them to relate divrei Torah from HaRav Pesach's shiurim..

The Mir's rosh yeshiva, HaRav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, drew him close and was very fond of him, predicting that HaRav Pesach would eventually become a godol beTorah. HaRav Finkel's high regard for HaRav Pesach is evident from the fact that at the beginning of the war, when only ten of the yeshiva's students could be saved, he selected HaRav Pesach as one of that group

At the outbreak of the war, HaRav Pesach was in his parents home in Breinesk. At that time, HaRav Eliyahu Chazan, who lived in Breinesk, pleaded with him to return to the Mir. HaRav Chazan was one of the great talmidei chachomim of the Mirrer yeshiva, and later on the rosh yeshiva of Torah Vodaas. HaRav Pesach joined the yeshiva in its flight from Mir to Vilna, and afterward on its trek to Shanghai, where he spent the war years.

Years later, when HaRav Pesach's students asked him to tell them about life in Shanghai, he said: "All that we did was learn, learn and learn." The greatest shakdonim of the Mirrer yeshiva during that period praised HaRav Pesach's diligence and deep immersion in his studies while in Shanghai.

He was very close with the Mashgiach, HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, who guided him in yiras Hashem and emunah. Years later, they even became mechutonim, when HaRav Levenstein's grandson became HaRav Pesach's son- in-law.

HaRav Pesach Stein was the only member of his family who survived the Holocaust. His parents and three brothers Hy"d were killed by the Germans yimach shemom. After the war, he joined the remainder of the bnei yeshiva in New York where he continued to study in the Mir. For a certain period, he joined a group of bnei yeshiva who went to Cincinnati, where Rav Eliezer Silver had founded a yeshiva. In Cincinnati, HaRav Stein delivered a shiur. Rav Silver marveled at this shiur, and for many years would praise it to those close to him. After a while, HaRav Pesach returned to New York.

In 5708, HaRav Gifter visited HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein in New York. The purpose of HaRav Gifter's visit was to find a shidduch for his wife's sister, a Holocaust survivor and the daughter of HaRav Zalman Bloch, who had been the menahel ruchani of Telz of Lithuania.

The Mashgiach suggested HaRav Pesach, and the future kallah's uncle, her father's brother, HaRav Eliyahu Meir Bloch, founder of the Telz yeshiva in the United States after the war, met with Rav Pesach. After a lengthy discussion with HaRav Pesach, he blessed the shidduch. At the wedding, HaRav Pesach delivered a lengthy drosho on Kodshim which amazed his listeners. The eminent talmidei chachomim present at the wedding noted his greatness in Torah.

After the wedding, the couple remained in Cleveland, near the yeshiva, and Rav Pesach began to deliver chaburos there. Shortly afterward, the roshei yeshiva asked him to deliver steady shiurim, at which point he joined the yeshiva's hanhogo ruchanis. His shiur rapidly became the yeshiva's basic iyun shiur to which many were attracted due to its clarity, logic and outstanding rhetoric and delivery. Quite soon, he gained acclaim throughout the entire yeshiva world.

HaRav Pesach regarded the transmission of the Torah of the previous generation to current and future ones as his mission in life, and felt that bequeathing American yeshiva students the Torah of the pre-Holocaust yeshiva world was his goal. He prepared for his shiurim extensively, presenting them in a manner which caused his students to feel Torah's sweetness, and influenced them to increase their yiras Shomayim and understanding of the Torah. His efforts and exertion bore fruit, and his shiurim had a profound impact on his students, inspiring them to immerse themselves to Torah with added fervor.

Spurred by these shiurim, many of his students decided to remain in Torah, eventually becoming marbitzei Torah in the United States and Eretz Yisroel.

During his tenure as rosh yeshiva, his students published his shiurim in pamphlets and other forms, among them a stenciled three-volume edition of Shiurei HaRav Pesach Stein. His students' purpose was to enable themselves to continue pursing his teachings and to provide others with the means of enjoying his writings. In time, when the amount of shiurim expanded, HaRav Pesach responded to his students' request and edited the pamphlets, reprinting them as seforim called Likutei Shiurim. This work includes five volumes which encompass all of the yeshivishe masechtos. It also includes 28 shiurim on Chulin and items on issues pertaining to kodshim in Pesochim.

His dedication to his students was unique. He would draw them closer in a warm and amiable manner, regarding their worries and concerns as his personal issues, and helping them in every manner possible. He shared their simchas and commiserated with their sorrows. His capacity for encouraging and strengthening bochurim was unique. As a result, HaRav Shmuel Yaakov Bornstein, one of the roshei yeshiva of the Chevron Geula yeshiva said: "HaRav Pesach may be compared to Kalba Savua. All of the hungry who visited Kalba Savua emerged sated. All those who were starved for encouragement emerged in happy and hopeful frames of minds after speaking with HaRav Pesach."

He was humble and unassuming in all his ways, and fled honor and public positions, personifying the verse: "With the humble there is wisdom." Hundreds and thousands of his students remained attached to him for scores of years, and consulted him on every matter. He was very respectful towards others, and never offended anyone. He toiled in mussar and yirah, and when he wanted to urge others to correct certain points, would say: "A baal mussar doesn't behave that way."

He was exceptionally orderly, and every one of his belongings had its place, every deed its special time for performance. He also possessed the trait of malchus, especially in respect to his self-restraint and his mastery over both his spiritual and physical faculties. He truly personified the chossid described by the Kuzari and directed all of his energies to avodas haBorei.

In 5748 (1988), he suffered a blow with the petirah of his oldest son, HaRav Shmuel Zalman, to whom he was deeply attached. HaRav Shmuel Zalman, who was niftar at the age of 38 after a difficult illness, was one of Rav Pesach's finest students. He was the author of Pri Shmuel, and a ram in Heichal HaTorah in Yerushalayim. Despite his pain, Rav Pesach accepted his suffering with love, and never complained about the misfortune.

During this past winter zman, he delivered his regular shiurim even though his heart was weak. Last month, his condition deteriorated and he had to be hospitalized. While in the hospital, he engaged in Torah study with his son and sons-in-law, who would recite their shiurim to him, while he commented, asked questions and offered teirutzim.

Erev Shabbos Bamidbar, after chatzos, he awoke and asked for a drink of water. He made a she'hakol with kavonoh and, a short while afterward, returned his pure soul to its Maker, while surrounded by his family.

His levaya left the Telz yeshiva in Cleveland on Sunday morning. He was accompanied by a massive throng of gedolei haTorah and talmidim. Hespedim were delivered by: HaRav Chaim Stein, the rosh yeshiva of Telz; HaRav Chaim Dov Keller, the rosh yeshiva of the Chicago branch of Telz; HaRav Dovid Berkin, one of the roshei yeshiva of Telz; the niftar's son, HaRav Aaron Stein, and the niftar's son-in-law, HaRav Avrohom Doveck.

Afterward the levaya left for New York, where hespedim were delivered by HaRav Dovid Helberg, one of the rabbonim of the city; HaRav Eliyahu Svei, the rosh yeshiva of the Philadelphia yeshiva; HaRav Yosef Savitsky, the rosh yeshiva of Torah Vodaas; the niftar's son-in- law, HaRav Yisroel Ginzburg, HaRav Shmuel Birnbaum, the rosh yeshiva of the Mir of New York; the niftar's mechuton, HaRav Yaakov Pollack, rav of the Shomrei Emunah kehilla of Boro Park; HaRav Yaakov Horowitz, rav of Kehal Yotzei Yeshivas Telz in New York and rosh yeshiva of Beis Meir.

Afterward, his aron was flown to Eretz Yisroel. At the airport, a hesped was delivered by his grandson, HaRav Moshe Yosef Stein, son the niftar's son, HaRav Zalman Shmuel zt"l. From there the levaya left for the Mirrer yeshiva in Yerushalayim, where hespedim were delivered by: HaRav Arye Finkel, one of the roshei yeshiva of the Mir; the niftar's brother-in-law, HaRav Akiva Hacarmi, a rav in Kiryat Shmuel; HaRav Shmuel Yaakov Bornstein, one of the roshei yeshiva of Chevron Geula; the niftar's son- in- law, HaRav Avrohom Doveck; the niftar's student, HaRav Shmuel Yehuda Baron, a ram in Or Shmuel;, and the niftar's grandson, HaRav Yaakov Chaim Stein. At the end of the hespedim, the great gaon Rav Pesach Stein was laid to rest in Har Hazeisim, beside his beloved son, HaRav Shmuel Zalman.

He is survived by children and grandchildren who are engaged in Torah study lishmoh, and are following in his footsteps, as well as by his wife, who helped him his entire life in his harbotzas Torah and in his dedication to his students. His surviving son is HaRav Aaron Stein, one of the roshei yeshiva of Or Hameir in Peekskill. His daughters are married, respectively, to HaRav Yisroel Ginzburg, one of the roshei yeshiva of Tifferes Yerushalayim in Staten Island, and to HaRav Yonoson Avraham Doveck a ram in the Telz yeshiva of Cleveland.


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