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29 Tishrei 5772 - October 27, 2011 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Rebbetzin Bas Sheva Esther Kanievsky o"h

By S. Bruchi

Led by gedolei Yisroel, roshei yeshivos, dayonim, rabbonim and admorim, thousands from all streams of chareidi Judaism converged on Bnei Brak on Motzei Shabbos Chol Hamoed to lay to rest Rebbetzin Bas Sheva Esther Kanievsky o"h, the wife of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky ylct"a and the daughter of Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv ylct"a, who passed away unexpectedly on Shabbos afternoon.

Police and municipal inspectors closed the main streets of the city to motor traffic, as thousands of men filled Rechov Rashbam, Rechov Ezra and Rechov Nechemia, while women gathered on Rechov Chazon Ish and Rechov Devorah Haneviah.

Bas Sheva Esther was born 79 years ago on 29 Shevat 5692 (1932) to HaRav Eliashiv shlita and his wife, the daughter of HaRav Aryeh Levine zt"l, a home infused with omol Torah and painstaking adherence to halacha.

She studied at a private school in Jerusalem, where she stood out as an exemplary student. After elementary school she studied bookkeeping as an apprentice to a chareidi bookkeeper, after which she secured a position as secretary and bookkeeper at Maalah School. Years later she related that since her place of work was not chareidi, every morning she would pray before setting out that she would not be adversely affected by the atmosphere there. "Every morning I would stand on the narrow hall at the entrance to my father's room. There simply was no other place to pray."

As a young woman she would get up every morning at 3:00 to make her father a hot cup of coffee when he began his daily study routine.

When her father published the writings of his grandfather, author of Leshem, she spent long hours copying and proofreading the profound kabbala books.

During the War of Independence she and her family moved in with her grandfather, HaRav Aryeh Levine, in the Mishkenot neighborhood which, compared to their home in Mea Shearim, was much farther from Jordanian guns. Since bread rations during this period were given out according to residential area, every day sixteen-year-old Bas Sheva Esther would make her way from Mishkenot to Meah Shearim to pick up bread — undaunted by the Jordanian shells whistling overhead — to enable her father to continue his learning undisturbed. Every day when she left her grandfather would bless her that she would leave and return besholom, and she would make the trip in confidence, even under enemy fire, secure in the brochoh of her grandfather and the zchus of the Torah of her father, who would otherwise have to do the task.

Rebbetzin Kanievsky once recounted that although her mother was very vivacious by nature, when she married HaRav Eliashiv she recognized that, "When we got married I realized that I was marrying the Torah."

"Throughout my lifetime that phrase stayed with me," said Rebbetzin Kanievsky, "and I was able to offer chizuk to many young couples building Torah-true homes through my mother's remark."

An illustrative story of the extreme concern her mother had for her father's Torah happened about two decades ago. One of HaRav Eliashiv's grandchildren came to visit and was surprised to see bandages on his grandmother's head.

In response to his query, his grandmother said that in the middle of the night she had fallen in her kitchen and injured her head to the extent that she was bleeding profusely. She told her grandson, "I could not get up from the floor. But I did not want to interfere with Grandfather's sleep because if he does not sleep well he cannot learn properly the next day. I waited until I heard Grandfather moving around and then I called out to him to help me get up from the floor."

The match between Bas Sheva Esther and HaRav Chaim Kanievsky was proposed by the Chazon Ish zt"l, who described his 24-year-old nephew in a letter he wrote about the shidduch as "a master of the entire Talmud."

HaRav Eliashiv accepted the proposal and went to Petach Tikva to talk in learning with his future son-in-law at Yeshivas Lomzha. On his way back he went to the Chazon Ish to discuss the shidduch. The Chazon Ish praised the young man highly and in the summer of 5711 (1951) the engagement took place.

The Chazon Ish took part in the wedding, which was held in Petach Tikva in Kislev 5712. The couple moved into an apartment with three other young couples on Rav Blau street in Bnei Brak, including HaRav Nissim Karelitz, HaRav Amram Zaks and HaRav Dov Weintraub, who all shared a single kitchen. Later they moved to an apartment on Ohr HaChaim Street shared with HaRav Pinchas Schreiber zt"l and his wife tlct"a. The Steipler also lived with them for a period of time.

HaRav Chaim Kanievsky engaged in Torah study continuously, with the aid of his wife, who attended to household affairs and worked as a bookkeeper at Sova, a factory owned by Rav Nachum Yoel Halperin.

When their eldest daughter was born she left her job to focus her energies on child-rearing and her husband and his learning.

A few years later they moved to the apartment on Rechov Rashbam that was to become a beacon to so many Jews and where she raised their eight children.

Carrying on her mother's legacy of according supreme value to every minute of Torah study, she absolved her husband of all household matters and taught her children to allow him to be fully devoted to Torah study. Later they recalled how they would even avoid the Pesach cleaning of his study room until he stepped out for tefillos. Their reward for this dedication to Torah study came in the form of the siyum haShas HaRav Kanievsky held every Erev Pesach.

Sometimes she did not attend simchos because she didn't want her husband to have to watch the children. She would not even let her husband make himself a cup of tea, saying, "Chaval on every minute of bitul Torah."

Not only was their home a lighthouse of Torah, but it was also a focal point for chessed. When mothers who were French and English immigrants on Rechov Rashbam went to give birth, since in many cases the extended family lived abroad, she would undertake the task of caring for the children and sometimes went to the hospital to be at the mother's bedside during the birth.

When one of the members of a local family flew abroad for medical treatment, it was only natural that the children would stay with Rebbetzin Kanievsky; in the case of another family, when the young mother died an untimely death, the Rebbetzin helped take care of the motherless children, doing laundry for them and sending them food for years. Every morning she would prepare sandwiches for that family and others. On parent-teacher evenings, she would speak with the teacher in lieu of the deceased mother and during the summer she would take the girls to the beach along with her own daughters. She drew inspiration from and lived in accordance with a sentence in Nefesh HaChaim: "Every individual was not created for himself, but to help others as much as he possibly can."

Many of these needy people came for meals, and some even slept over several times a week. Though their home had only two-and-a-half rooms, she found room for all. For years she would send her daughters to sleep with the widow of Rav Lederman so she would not have to sleep all alone at night. After she underwent a hip operation following a fall, she needed a place to recuperate, and their was no question that she would come to stay with Rebbetzin Kanievsky, who attended to her every need. When the Steipler stopped by for a visit and saw how she took care of Mrs. Lederman, he remarked, "The Rebbetzin's blessings will make a big impression in Shomayim."

Somehow, she would stretch the walls of her home to make room for everyone. She even allowed a local egg seller to place his wares in their home and helped him with his parnossoh. She even bore the expenses of broken eggs and bad debts.

She also managed to find time for three tefillos per day and to recite all of Tehillim. When her children were grown she began praying with a minyan, going to the Vosikin minyan for Shacharis. Even on days when she went to Jerusalem to visit her parents she make sure to find a minyan for Mincha and Ma'ariv.

Every day, after shacharis, she would cook and package meals for various families in need. Every Shabbos she would prepare treats for her entire large family.

Over the years, she gained renown for the power of her blessings. Women began coming from near and far to seek her advice and receive her blessings. Eventually the number of daily visitors was in the hundreds. With Divine assistance, she always found the right words to encourage the brokenhearted, bring hope to people with incurable diseases, provide a comforting shoulder for those facing a domestic crisis, encourage barren women and gladden the hearts of the downtrodden.

When young women unable to find a suitable match came to spill out their hearts, their sorrow became her own. She would remember all their names and at the end of her tefillos would plead for them. When lighting Shabbos candles she would shed tears in imploring Heaven for those in need.

In recent years she would rise to start her day at 2:30 am by making a cup of tea for her husband. Then she would begin her daily study, which included Orchos Tzaddikim, Shemiras Haloshon, Perek Shira, Iggeres HaRamban, Nishmas and all of Sefer Tehillim. She would then go downstairs to the Lederman shul for Tefillas Vosikin. Afterwards she made herself available all day — except for a short mid- morning rest and for Mincha — for the hundreds of women who came to her every day. When she fell and broke her shoulder, family members tried to stop visitors from coming for a few days, but she insisted on receiving them as usual, not wanting to turn away women who needed her. "How can I close my door to the pain of Jewish women?" she said.

On Fridays, she would call the sick, widows and barren women, to ask how they were doing. She would tell others that they should buy nice things that expand a person's consciousness, but for herself she was content with the kitchen that had served her for fifty years and with clothes she had worn for forty years.

This past Motzei Yom Tov, at the start of Chol Hamoed, she and her husband went to Jerusalem. She prayed at the Kosel and then visited her father, asking him to bless her that her blessings bear fruit in Shomayim. "The thousands of women who come to you to receive brochos are proof that your brochos yield fruit in Shomayim," he told her. She then paid a visit to her brother, HaRav Shlomo, in Sanhedria Murchevet, blessing all the women at the home for the elderly.

On Shabbos Chol Hamoed, she got up for vosikin as usual and served the meal to her family and numerous guests, as usual. After Mincha, she came home but she felt ill, unexpectedly. Hatzoloh was summoned and the family physician, Dr. Meshulom Hart came, but after an hour of CPR the Rebbetzin returned her pure soul to her Maker.

Leading the funeral procession on Motzei Shabbos was her mechuton, HaRav Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman, HaRav Nissim Karelitz, HaRav Gershon Edelstein and HaRav Meir Tzvi Bergman shlita. The enormous turnout was a great show of kovod haTorah for the daughter of gedolei Torah and an eishes chover.

She is survived by her father, HaRav Eliashiv, her brothers Rav Shlomo, Rav Moshe, Rav Binyomin and Rav Avrohom, her sisters: Rebbetzin Soroh Yisraelson, the wife of HaRav Yosef Yisroel Yisraelson zt"l, rosh kollel of Bar Shaul in Rechovot and rov of the city's chareidi kehilloh, and Gita Rimmer, the wife of HaRav Binyomin Rimmer, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Kiryat Melech. She is also survived by her brothers-in-law, married to sisters who have passed away: HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein, the rov of Bnei Brak's Ramat Elchonon neighborhood, HaRav Elchonon Berlin, one of the roshei yeshiva of Yeshivas Tchebin, and HaRav Ezriel Auerbach, rov of Kehillas Chanichei Hayeshivos.

Her sons include HaRav Avrohom Yeshayohu, HaRav Shlomo, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Tiferes Tzion and Yeshivas Kiryat Melech, and Rav Yitzchok Shaul. Her sons-in-law include HaRav Shraga Shteinman, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Kehillos Yaakov, HaRav Yitzchok Kolodetzky, the rosh kollel of Kollel Beis Yaakov in Bat Yam, HaRav Yehoshua Tzivyon, one of the roshei yeshiva of Bircas Yosef in Kiryat Sefer, HaRav Zelig Braverman, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Rozhin, HaRav Elozor Dovid Epstein, one of the roshei yeshivos of Yeshivas Knesses Yitzchok in Chadera. In addition she had numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great- great-grandchildren continuing along the path she followed.


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