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Giving Her Hand and Her Heart: A tribute to Rebbetzin Batsheva Esther Kanievsky

Mishpacha Staff

For decades, thousands of women streamed to the humble house on Rechov Rashbam. They came broken, and left uplifted; they arrived confused, and left reassured. Rebbetzin Kanievsky gave them all a glimpse of a truly great woman. On Chol HaMoed Succos the stream became a flood of heartbroken mourners.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Motzaei Shabbos Chol HaMoed Succos. In homes throughout Israel, excited children pull on sweaters and jackets before gathering in little groups in the nippy air and heading out to their local Simchas Beis Hasho’eivah. From porches, gardens, and driveways come muted song and conversation, filtered through the wooden succah walls. Buses rumble and lurch, filled with the signature Chol HaMoed riders, each armed with bus ticket, suitcase, cell phone, and gaggle of children in holiday finery.

Then a different sort of sound pierces through the revelry — the mournful voice that gently broadcasts bad news to every passerby and open window. “The levayah …” it begins, and the pleasant chill seems suddenly colder, less friendly. The singing is silenced, the children grow still, the mothers stop washing their Shabbos dishes to hear who will be taking their final journey tonight.

“The levayah of Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky …”

Rebbetzin Kanievsky? Every household seems to be gripped by the same shock and disbelief. Rebbetzin Kanievsky is more than a prominent name — she’s a face they all recognize, a source of comfort and encouragement to broken hearts throughout the country.

“The wife of Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita …”

A wife whose primary focus was her husband’s advancement, who tailored her schedule to facilitate his learning — yet who never neglected her own self-development. The thousands of “chassidim” who visited her every year recognized that she achieved that very rare fusion of greatness — the wife and life-partner of a great man, and a woman who herself could move mountains with her brachos and tefillos.

“And daughter of the posek hador, Rav Elyashiv shlita …”

Just two nights before, she had visited her esteemed father, and the neighborhood children had crowded into the narrow street for a peek at the Torah royalty of Bnei Brak paying a visit to the modest royal palace in Jerusalem. Could that warm heart, the hand that gently conveyed acceptance and love, really have gone cold? Could Rebbetzin Kanievsky’s levayah really be tonight, during the Time of Rejoicing?

Numb with disbelief, thousands made their way to Bnei Brak, exchanging the holiday banter for hushed conversation, memories of their own personal encounters, stories they’d heard from friends and neighbors. They went to take part in a levayah that was the loss of one of Klal Yisrael’s most regal families — but a loss as well to so many individuals who knew that in Bnei Brak, they could find a pillar of the Torah world who didn’t mind crouching down to hear the troubles of every Jew.


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