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The Untold Stories

Aryeh Ehrlich

For close to a century, Rav Aharon Leib Steinman’s personal life remained a closed book, even to his family. But a new openness has uncapped a font of memories and chronicles about the quiet gadol whose Torah mastery and keen understanding of human nature wield global influence far beyond his famously bare Bnei Brak apartment.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

He’s already 100 years old (102 by some accounts), but for the first nine decades of Rav Aharon Leib Steinman’s life, his personal history was a closed book. His wife, Rebbetzin Tamar a”h — who passed away in 2002 — would share little information about her venerated husband, even with the most persistent petitioners. She’d deflect them with the ready response, “The Rav doesn’t let me speak about him. He made a deal with me: ‘I won’t talk about you and you won’t talk about me. We’ll talk about each other in Shamayim.’ ” But in the last two years, something changed. Rav Steinman has uncapped a fountain of personal memories — divulging many previously unknown stories, sharing the spiritual wealth of his early life and of a distant generation with the young people of today’s world. In his characteristically humble, self-effacing manner, he recently explained to a relative that the new openness is simply his hakaras hatov to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who spend nights in his apartment so he won’t be alone. “People sit here for a whole night and expect me to talk to them. What will I tell them? A chiddush in gemara Gittin in the middle of the night? A shiur in Bava Kamma? I don’t think that young people have energy to hear chiddushim in the middle of the night… so I tell them stories from my youth.”

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