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King over Body and Spirit

Michal Ish Shalom, Sarah Pardes, and Tzipi Golan

It’s a month since the passing of the gadol hador, and we’ve all heard about Rav Elyashiv’s greatness — from his mind-boggling focus and diligence to his ability to formulate a psak on the most complicated of issues. But speak to the women who were zocheh to live in his home and another side of his greatness emerges.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

cup tea gemaraRechov Chanan 10 has probably become the most famous address in the chareidi world; just a month ago, this tiny Meah Shearim alley filled with thousands of Jews coming to mourn their leader. Many were in tears over the loss of their “father,” although they were not related.

Inside the apartment below, which was used in recent years to house family members who came for Shabbos, Rav Elyashiv’s youngest daughter, Rebbetzin Gita Rimer, sat with her sister Rebbetzin Sarah Yisraelson and her sister-in-law Rebbetzin Yocheved Elyashiv — wife of Rav Avraham Elyashiv. They shared stories and recollections which transported everyone back to the special atmosphere that prevailed in this home for so many decades.

 

Protected Like a Mezuzah

In the tiny two-room apartment one flight up, the posek hador would sit and learn Torah round the clock, no matter what was going on around him. And Rebbetzin Shayna Chaya a”h, as her daughters attested, was the quiet force behind Rav Elyashiv’s legendary hasmadah, freeing him from all worldly concerns so that he could sit and learn uninterrupted.

“She protected him like a mezuzah,” Rebbetzin Rimer recalled. “We were afraid to disturb him. Ima always made sure that he had yishuv hadaas. She was the tzadeikes who upheld her husband’s tzidkus.

“Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach ztz”l once came to visit Abba, and Ima asked him to daven that Abba should be able to continue learning as he desired. Abba was then in his eighties.”

Rebbetzin Yisraelson related that her mother worked hard throughout her life to raise the large family with which she had been blessed. “When people asked her if it was difficult for her to take care of small children alone, to deal with so much laundry, constant cleaning, and all the challenges of raising children, she would answer pleasantly, ‘It’s really not hard for me. It’s much harder for my husband to cut himself off from the world, to concentrate, to struggle with his learning and to sacrifice himself for the Gemara.’”

“Someone once asked her how all of her children grew up to be outstanding talmidei chachamim when their father sat and learned all day,” Rebbetzin Rimer added. “My mother replied that it was precisely because of his personal example. The children saw their father learning, and the importance of his learning was the greatest value for them.”

Although the Rebbetzin ensured Rav Elyashiv could learn undisturbed, on Erev Shabbos the Rav insisted on taking part in the preparations himself. “He used to polish his own shoes,” Rebbetzin Rimer related. “He never let anyone else do it for him. My mother always said that he was a normal gaon.”

 

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