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Roots & Blossoms on Rechov Rashbam

Aryeh Ehrlich

It’s the predawn stillness, a silence charged with the intensity of Torah learning, that saturates an apartment on Bnei Brak’s Rechov Nechemiah. It’s home to a family, but more than that, it’s the satellite of the famous home on Rechov Rashbam; it’s here that the writings of Rav Chaim Kanievsky are prepared for publication, that his messages are disseminated to the Jewish world.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

It’s the conduit, the bridge that connects Rav Chaim and Klal Yisrael, the home of Rav Chaim’s oldest son. Rav Avraham Yeshaya Kanievsky is Rav Chaim’s third child, preceded by Rebbetzin Chana Steinman a”h, who passed away two years ago, and tblch”t Rebbetzin Rus Tzivyon. While for many years Rav Chaim refrained from calling his son by his given name out of respect for the Chazon Ish — Rav Avraham Yeshaya’s namesake — more recently Rav Chaim has begun referring to him as “Shaya.” As a child, Rav Avraham Yeshaya learned all of Shas with his father, in line with Rav Chaim’s view that a boy should learn Shas in its entirety before bar mitzvah. “Even if he doesn’t understand everything,” Rav Chaim would explain, “it’s still worthwhile, so that when he grows older and learns it, it will be the second time around.” Rav Avraham Yeshaya’s vast Torah knowledge isn’t relegated to writing, though. After the passing of his grandfather the Steipler Gaon, Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, in 1985, Rav Avraham Yeshaya founded a yeshivah for the newly religious in a north Tel Aviv neighborhood of Tel Aviv. The yeshivah drew hundreds of students over time, but was eventually closed due to the opposition of various political forces together with a hostile media campaign; still, Rav Avraham Yeshaya has for close to three decades continued to deliver a daily shiur in his home to veteran students from those days and others. Upon my arrival, I find Rav Avraham Yeshaya Kanievsky leaning over an aging copy of Maseches Kiddushin. Tiny patterns of Talmudic print make up the essence of his DNA, a vitality drawn from a learning pace of a minimum of eight blatt of Gemara each day. He and his father maintain the same learning schedule, making a siyum on the entire Shas every year in Nissan. It takes a number of long minutes before Rav Kanievsky interrupts his learning to welcome us and offer a glimpse into the life of this generation’s greatest masmid; a man who, at the age of 88, has the entire Torah at his fingertips, a gaon who dreams about Torah and murmurs the give-and-take of the daf in his sleep, often waking to a solution that troubled him the night before. But also a man who was once a young avreich with many small children underfoot, and who inthe past four years has struggled with the widowhood decreed upon him from Heaven.

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