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Return to Ponovezh

Yisroel Besser

It’s not every day that Bnei Brak turns to America to find a rosh yeshivah. But Rav Chaim Ginsburg, who was recently invited to head a newly established Kodashim Chaburah at the Ponovezher yeshivah, isn’t exactly a stranger. As a grandson of the famed mashgiach Rav Chatzkel Levenstein, the relationship between Reb Chaim and the yeshivah is both very long and deep.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The elderly Rosh Yeshivah faced a sea of upturned faces, brows furrowed in concentration. It was Rav Aharon Leib Steinman’s first trip to America. The frail Rosh Yeshivah had undertaken the exhausting journey in the hope of providing American Yidden with chizuk, and this visit to Lakewood was a highlight of the trip; in this beis medrash, surrounded by thousands of bnei Torah and yungeleit, he was back home.

That shiur, thirteen years ago, was his introduction to the American Torah world, one he would get to know quite well in the ensuing years. Speaking quietly, in the beginning, the Rosh Yeshivah’s voice became increasingly audible as the shiur progressed.

Suddenly, a question rang out. There was complete silence as it sat there, suspended in midair. Then Reb Aharon Leib looked up at the speaker, considering his question. It was as if he was back at the rickety table in Chazon Ish 5, surrounded by his talmidim in Bnei Brak.

Later, when I returned to the yeshivah dormitory, an impromptu discussion broke out regarding “Reb Chaim’s kushya.” The question was analyzed and rehashed. Some understood it, others didn’t, but there was a general agreement that Reb Chaim Ginsburg, a leading rosh chaburah at the yeshivah, had done America proud; he’d shown the gadol from Bnei Brak that America also produced real talmidei chachamim.

Now, thirteen years later, Reb Chaim has again given the American Torah world reason to stand a little taller. Bnei Brak — more specifically, the Ponovezh yeshivah — has reached out to distant America and invited Reb Chaim to serve as a rosh yeshivah for its newly established Kodashim Chaburah.

It is always pleasant to sit with talmidei chachamim; with Reb Chaim, it is especially so. There is something very approachable about him, a candor and warmth that explains the enthusiastic welcome he’s received from the talmidim at Ponovezh.

This summer, at the conclusion of his first zman of delivering shiurim, Reb Chaim’s talmidim printed and bound the shiurim in a small kuntress. Reb Chaim has authored many seforim over the years, on a wide range of sugyos, but it’s clear that this booklet is special.

For Reb Chaim, Ponovezh is more than just a spiritual ascension; the return to Ponovezh is a return to his roots.


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