S imcha Steelman was born in Brooklyn. His parents were committed to Torah and possessed a great love for Eretz Yisrael. Simcha’s parents sent him to an Orthodox day school. Simcha thrived in the school; he loved the studies and he became especially close to his rebbeim.

After high school he went off to study at Bar-Ilan University. He was thrilled to experience Israel, studying in university and learning Torah in the morning.

One day, his father’s cousin who lived in Bnei Brak invited Simcha for Shabbos. This cousin, who had 14 children, was known in the family as “Reb Ezra Hatzaddik.” At age 50, he was still learning Torah full-time and all of his children and grandchildren were immersed in Torah study.

Simcha went for Shabbos and they davened in the Ponevezh yeshivah.

Simcha was totally captivated; the synergy created by Torah learning and the uplifting davening was mesmerizing. From then on, Simcha traveled to Bnei Brak every Friday, to learn in the back of the Ponevezh beis medrash.

One day a strange experience occurred.

An elderly gentleman sat down next to Simcha, smiled warmly, and opened his Gemara. Everything was going well; Simcha was happily learning and his bench mate was also engrossed in his Gemara.

Suddenly everything changed.

A group of young men surrounded the old man and began to shout at him in passionate, argumentative tones.

Simcha was horrified; how dare these young yeshivah men verbally attack this older man? Where was their derech eretz?

Interestingly, the elderly man argued back, and soon the crowd dispersed and everyone returned to their learning.

The blissfulness did not last long; almost immediately, another group of young men surrounded Simcha’s bench mate, and they too began to harass the old gentleman with questions in loud and fervent voices.

The debate began to get heated. Simcha was about to jump up and intervene by physically removing the younger men to curtail their verbal abuse of his elderly friend, but when Simcha glanced at the elderly man, he was shocked to realize that he was very much relishing the debate.

His eyes were ablaze with vigor and vitality; he was obviously savoring the spiritual-intellectual duel with the younger men, and seemed more than adept at defending himself.

Simcha remained seated, baffled by what he was witnessing.

Finally, the younger men left. The sagacious man also closed his Gemara, placed it on the shelf, nodded goodbye to Simcha, and left the beis medrash.

After the elderly gentleman left, Simcha intuitively felt that the man he’d been sharing a bench with was not your average retiree savoring a few short minutes of learning; something was unique about him.

Simcha hurried to the shelf and opened the Gemara the elderly man had been learning from. On the inside cover he saw the following handwritten name: “Elazar Menachem Man Shach.” The man he’d been sitting next to was none other than one of the deans of Ponovezh, the world-renowned gadol hador Rav Shach.

Suddenly, everything was crystal clear: those young men were Rav Shach’s students and Simcha had witnessed Torah learning at its finest. He understood how the unbroken chain of Torah beginning with Moshe Rabbeinu was continuing before his very eyes.

Now I must confess: I am Simcha Steelman (Ron equals Simcha, and Eisenman is Steelman).

That “chance encounter” four decades ago changed the course of my life. From that moment on, after witnessing the true beauty of Torah learning, I committed my life to Torah. Learning and teaching Torah became my calling and my passion.

From that fortuitous meeting 40 years ago, I became the man who now shares with you his Shul with a View. (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 697)