The young members of Kollel Beis Dovid in Holon were
surprised one morning to find an older woman trundling a baby
carriage right into the beis midrash. In answer to
their questioning looks, she explained,
"I lost my children to Yiddishkeit many years ago. They have
abandoned the Torah way of life and I have no nachas
from them. I hope that I can still save my young grandson and
have him grow up to be a proper Jew."
Actually, this woman was following the example of the mother
of R' Yehoshua ben Chananya, who brought her son's cradle to
the beis midrash from early infancy so that he absorb
the holy atmosphere into his very pores. Even during her
pregnancy, she would pass by botei midrash and ask the
scholars there to pray for her unborn child. She was crowned
for her efforts, first with success, and secondly, with the
title, "Ashrei yoladto -- Fortunate is the one who
The members of the Kollel agreed to accept their new member
even without a stipend from the Religions Ministry...
The grandmother exhibited determination and perseverence and
often brought treats for the scholars, asking that they pray
that her grandson grow to Torah and good deeds. And indeed,
this child developed into a child prodigy, who is destined
for a glowing future in Torah.
"I'd like to tell the following about my mother-in-law, the
righteous Rebbetzin Elyashiv z'l," says the author,
"regarding sufficiency with bare essentials."
Needless to say that their house possessed nothing one could
label unnecessary, to say nothing of luxuries. The great
numbers of Jews who visited this home over the years to
present their halachic questions saw this with their own
eyes. Few, however, were aware that the Rebbetzin owned only
one dress which she wore to all special occasions, including
her children's weddings. The family once suggested that she
buy a new dress but she firmly declined, explaining,
"Everyone knows me by that one dress. If I wore something
else, they wouldn't recognize me."
She possessed no jewelry, either. Her only adornment was her
tear-stained siddur, which she bequeathed to her
family. She did not even possess a washing machine; she did
all her laundry by hand!
Rebbetzin Elyashiv was her husband's right-hand person. Few
people knew that she got up every morning at 3 a.m. together
with R' Elyashiv (yl'a) to prepare his morning cup of
coffee. She used to do this on the ancient primus burner she
had, which took a long time to heat the water.
Her children repeatedly asked their mother why she didn't buy
herself a thermos in which she could store the hot water and
have it ready on the table for the Rov to help himself. Then
she could continue to sleep until morning.
Her reply is worth repeating to a generation that is
accustomed to pampering itself with conveniences. "I would
not forego this holy service," she would say. "My very
existence hinges on this work of tending to a great talmid
chochom like your father. It vitalizes me. It grants me
holiness and the bounty of spiritual pleasure which I would
never gain from preparing the water in a thermos the night
before, as you suggest, my dear daughters!"
This is also why she refused to relinquish this service to
anyone else but continued, until her advanced age, to serve
her great husband in this manner, rising at the same time he
did, and preparing, with her own hands, his before-morning
cup of coffee.
What Bothered the Rebbetzin?
The mother of the Chazon Ish ztvk'l, Rebbetzin Reisha
Leah Karelitz z'l, had the privilege of producing sons
who all became / and daughters who married / outstanding,
Torah scholars. Her stringency in modest attire was
legendary. Her daughter, Rebbetzin Miriam Kanievsky
z'l, wife of the late Maran the Steipler Rov
ztzv'l, also used to say that if one wished to merit
sons who were great in Torah, one had to be careful to cover
one's entire arms' length with a proper sleeve.
She once returned home from shul very perturbed,
complaining that she had been unable to concentrate upon her
prayers that day due to disturbances.
What had happened? Apparently, one of the women there had not
worn proper sleeves. While these may have covered the elbow
in one position, the rebbetzin had been afraid that the woman
might lift or shift her arm and reveal forbidden flesh.
Because of this fear, she had been uneasy all the while, and
incapable of concentrating as she always did.
Indeed, it was not for naught that such a woman was rewarded
with such remarkable children!