Tag Archives: Modesty

Jew of the Week: Rav Shteinman

Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman (1914-2017) was born in what is now the city of Brest, Belarus. To avoid being conscripted into the Polish army, the young yeshiva student fled to Switzerland with some classmates. He continued his diligent studies in a Swiss yeshiva until being arrested during World War II and sent to a labour camp. Shteinman was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. He settled in Israel after the war. There, the young rabbi quickly made a name for himself as a Torah prodigy, and was soon appointed rosh yeshiva, head of a Torah academy. He would serve as a rosh yeshiva for the next five decades, while also establishing a number of children’s schools for the underprivileged. Meanwhile, Rav Shteinman wrote profusely, authoring dozens of bestselling books and discourses on Torah, Talmud, and Jewish thought, as well as being recognized as an expert in the field of education. While abstaining from politics himself, Rav Shteinman was the spiritual leader of Israel’s Degel HaTorah party, playing an influential role in government. In his 90s, and in frail health, the Rav decided to journey around the world to strengthen Jewish communities. Countless thousands gathered to greet him and hear his wise words in Los Angeles, New York, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Manchester, Odessa, Berlin, Gibraltar, Paris, and many more small towns. On these trips, he would give as many as 10 talks a day.

Rav Shteinman was known for his extreme piety, humility, and modesty. His daily diet was nothing but a cucumber, a boiled potato, and one small bowl of oatmeal. He lived in a tiny apartment, with little furniture but walls lined end to end with books. He slept on the same thin mattress that was given to Jewish refugees upon arrival in Israel for some 50 years. Streams of people lined up at his open door each day seeking counsel and blessings. Rav Shteinman stood only for truth, even when it brought him adversity. This was particularly clear when he supported the Nachal Charedi, an IDF unit for yeshiva students. Even after some backlash from ultra-Orthodox communities, the Rav stood his ground and continued his support. He was widely recognized as the gadol hador, the world’s chief rabbi. Sadly, the great rabbi passed away yesterday, at 103 years of age. (His condition had turned critical two weeks ago after the tragic death of his 72-year old daughter from a heart attack, even though no one had told him of her passing.) Rav Shteinman wrote in his will that it would suffice to have just ten men to carry out his funeral, and requested no eulogies. Nonetheless, the funeral procession brought over 600,000 people. Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin stated that Rav Shteinman “bore the entire weight of the Jewish people’s existence on his shoulders… he knew how to convey his ideas gently, in a pleasant manner, and with a great love of the Jewish people… He was a man whose wisdom was exceeded only by his humility.”

Words of the Week

You are also living on a miracle.
– Rav Shteinmanto a doctor that told him the frail rabbi is “living on a miracle”.

The streets of Bnei Brak fill with hundreds of thousands of mourners for Rav Shteinman’s funeral procession.

Jews of the Week: Asenath Barzani & the Maid of Ludomir

Two Amazing Women

Torah

Asenath Barzani (1590-1670) was born in Mosul, Iraq to the chief rabbi of Kurdistan, Shmuel Barzani. After her father’s passing she took over his role, serving as the head of the Mosul Yeshiva and teaching Torah to the masses (preferring to do this from behind a curtain, for she was also very beautiful). Asenath was given the title Tanna’it (“Great Teacher”) and was known for performing incredible miracles, including reviving a dead dove, bringing a legion of angels down from Heaven, and fighting crime using only her mystical powers. To this day, people make pilgrimages to her grave in Iraq.

On the other side of the world, in the Ukranian town of Ludomir, lived a woman named Hannah Rachel Verbermacher (1805-1888). After a midnight incident at a cemetery, where she had a certain revelation, Hannah Rachel transformed into a highly respected Torah teacher famous across Eastern Europe (she, too, gave her speeches from behind a screen for modesty). Many Hassidim became her devoted followers, building a synagogue and study house for the great ‘Maid of Ludomir’. Some even called her rebbe, and she was often seen wearing tefillin and a tallit (which stirred up quite a bit of controversy). At the end of her life, she made Aliyah to Israel and is said to have joined a descendant of the great Yemenite sage Shalom Shabazi in the mission of bringing Mashiach. However, according to legend the angel Eliyahu came down to stop them, for the world was not yet ready!

Words of the Week

Don’t ask for a lighter burden, ask for broader shoulders.
– Jewish Proverb