Tag Archives: Rosh Yeshiva

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.

Jew of the Week: Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein

In Memory of an Outstanding Rabbi

Rabbi Lichtenstein

Rabbi Lichtenstein

Aharon Lichtenstein (1933-2015) was born in Paris, France. His family fled the War in 1941, settling in the U.S., where Lichtenstein grew up. He went on to study at Yeshiva University, earning both a B.A. and rabbinic ordination, and continued his studies at Harvard, graduating with a Ph.D in Literature. He returned to Yeshiva University as a Talmud teacher, and then served as its dean (Rosh Yeshiva). After several years in that post, he made aliyah to Israel in 1971, and headed another Yeshiva, while quickly becoming a famed scholar and the central leader for Modern Orthodox and Religious Zionist Jews. He soon became one of the world’s top authorities in Halakha (Jewish law), too. Working with the ‘Takana’ organization, Rabbi Lichtenstein helped to combat harassment within the religious world, while also supporting the cause of women and encouraging women’s Torah studies. His support and outreach efforts spread beyond the religious world, encompassing secular communities, and even non-Jewish communities. Rabbi Lichtenstein also wrote a number of highly-acclaimed texts and commentaries. A noted scholar, he could easily quote both Jewish wisdom and secular philosophy. Last year he was awarded Israel’s highest honour – the Israel Prize. Sadly, Rabbi Lichtenstein passed away last week. Upon news of his passing, religious and political leaders from across the spectrum united to eulogize and honour him, including both Ultra-Orthodox and Reform rabbis, as well as conservative and liberal politicians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described him as a “Zionist leader and Torah scholar of unparalleled stature… He loved the Land of Israel, the people of Israel, and the Torah of Israel.”

Words of the Week

God transcends all definitions, including the definition of “existence”.
Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon)