Hundreds of Thousands Gather in Bnei Brak for Levaya of HaGaon HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, zt’l

Gadol HaDor is niftar at 104 years of age

A crowd numbering in the hundreds of thousands gathered in Bnei Brak Tuesday, forming a massive funeral procession which made its way from home of HaGaon HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, zt’l at approximately 12:00 p.m. to a local cemetery. Mourners filled the streets around 5 Chazon Ish Street hours after his passing at Maayanei Hayeshua Hospital in Bnei Brak, according to an INN report.

A crowd numbering in the hundreds of thousands gathered in Bnei Brak Tuesday, forming a massive funeral procession which made its way from home of HaGaon HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, zt’l at approximately 12:00 p.m. to a local cemetery. Mourners filled the streets around 5 Chazon Ish Street hours after his passing at Maayanei Hayeshua Hospital in Bnei Brak, according to an INN report.

Rabbi Shteinman, zt’l who was 104 at the time of his passing, was a Torah luminary and leading posek of Jewish law, one of the most widely respected figures in the haredi religious world. Rabbi Shteinman was considered the leader of the Lithuanian haredi Jewry since the death of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.

He was head of the Council of Torah Sages of the Degel Hatorah representing Lithuanian haredi Jewish community.

Officials at the Maayanei Hayeshua Hospital in Bnei Brak noted earlier Tuesday morning a significant deterioration in the rabbi’s condition.

The rabbi underwent CPR early on Tuesday morning by the medical staff which apparently managed to restore his pulse.

The INN report also indicated that Prof. Ravid, who had been treating the rabbi, made it clear that his condition was critical, and that medically, “there is nothing more to be done.”

Shortly after the hospital released the statement, Rabbi Shteinman passed away.

At the beginning of last month, Rabbi Shteinman, was hospitalized for a week, at the end of which he was released to his home under the supervision of his personal physician, according to the INN report.

As per Rabbi Shteinman’s request, and as befitting the humble Torah genius who lived in a simple, unpretentious home which he would not allow to be refurbished–and there was no shortage of people willing to do that for him–no eulogies were said during the funeral service. Rabbi Shteinman left instructions that he was to be buried within six hours of his death.

The rabbi was laid to rest in the Ponevezh cemetery in Bnei Brak, next to his wife’s grave.

In a video address, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Rabbi Shteinman was a beacon of spirituality and morality. Everyone who knew him saw the great light that radiated from him: the light of the people of Israel, of the wisdom of Israel, and of the heritage of Israel. He was one of the greatest posekim [decisors of Jewish law] of our generation; he established generations of students, and they and the rest of our people will always remember his memory.”

HaRav Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman, zt’l, was born and raised in Brest (Brisk), then part of the Russian Empire. He studied in Yeshivas Imrei Moshe, headed by Rabbi Moshe Skolovsky, in Brest, and attended shiurim (Torah lectures) given by Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik, the Brisker Rav. He also studied in Kletzk under Rabbi Aharon Kotler.

Rabbi Shteinman studied in Lithuanian yeshivot between the two world wars. In his early twenties he was first appointed as a teacher, and in the 80-some years since then he taught Torah, in yeshivot in Switzerland and in Israel.

His public involvement began in the 1960s, when he focused mainly on encouraging the opening of kollel studies in Israel. He served as an adviser and mentor on education in the Lithuanian community. With the establishment of the Degel Hatorah Council of Torah Sages in the late 1980s, he joined the Council, and since then his public influence has expanded.

Since the death of Rabbi Shach in 2001, he stood alongside Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt’l as a leader of the Lithuanian public.

After the death of Rabbi Elyashiv, Rabbi Shteinman led the Lithuanian community and was considered the supreme spiritual authority of the Degel Hatorah party, its newspaper Yated Neeman, as well as the Lithuanian educational institutions and yeshivot connected to the party.

Rabbi Shteinman initiated the establishment of yeshivot and kollelim in Israel and abroad, and served as president and patron of some of them. He headed the Ponevezh kollel, and the yeshivot Gaon Yaakov and Orchot Torah. Until the beginning of the 21st century he also served as head of the Ponevezh yeshiva for youth.

Upon reaching draft age in 1937, he was subject to the Polish draft, as Brest had come under the control of the newly established Polish state in the aftermath of the First World War. He and his close friend, Rabbi Moische Soloveitchik (a grandson of Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik) tried to evade the draft by starving themselves, but they were declared fit to serve by the draft officer. The two then fled with other Brisk students to Montreux, Switzerland, where they returned to Torah study in Yeshivas Etz Chaim.

With the outbreak of World War II, the two became war refugees and were incarcerated in the Schonenberg labor camp near Basel, where nearly all the inmates were Torah-observant. HaRav Shteinman and his friend were put to work laying roads, but due to his thin frame and short stature, he was released from manual labor and assigned to a desk job.

HaRav Shteinman was the only member of his family to survive the war. While still in Switzerland, he married Tamar (Tema) Kornfeld (d. 2002), the daughter of Rabbi Shammai Shraga Kornfeld of Antwerp. She had been sent to Switzerland from Poland to cure her respiratory problems and had also become a refugee when World War II broke out. The couple had four children.

HaRav Shteinman was known for his extremely modest lifestyle. His apartment on Chazon Ish Street 5, was sparsely furnished and had not been painted in many years. Until 2014, he slept on the same thin mattress that he had received from the Jewish Agency upon his arrival in Israel in the early 1950s.

During his first years in Israel, HaRav Shteinman and his family lived in Kfar Saba; his sons were sent to a cheder in Petah Tikva. Eventually they relocated to Bnei Brak, where he headed the Ponevezh Kollel. In 1955, the Ponevezher Rav, Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, opened the yeshivah ketanah of Ponevezh, called Ponevezh L’Tzi’irim, and asked HaRav Shteinman to serve as rosh yeshivah together with Rabbi Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz. HaRav Shteinman stopped giving his regular shiur in 1998, but retained the title of rosh yeshiva. He was also rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Gaon Yaakov, which is led by his son-in-law, Rabbi Zev Berlin.

HaRav Shteinman was also the author of a popular series of kuntresim (pamphlets) on Torah subjects such as emunah (faith), chinuch (education), and hashgacha (Divine providence). The pamphlets are based on shiurim (Torah lectures) that he began giving to Ponevezh Kollel students in his home in 1994, and on shmuessen (ethical talks) that he began giving to students in Yeshivas Gaon Yaakov in 1978. Ranging in size from 24 to 100 pages, the pamphlets quickly sold out. An English-language translation of many of these subjects was published in 2013 by Israel Bookshop under the title Leading with Love: Guidance for Our Generation from Maran Harav Aharon Yehudah Leib Shteinman on Torah, Emunah, Chinuch, the Home, and More.

By: Fern Sidman
(INN & Wikipedia)

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