38 Years Since the Passing of the Steipler ZY”A — His Story and Connection with R’ Berland Shlit”a

Last week, on 23 Av, was the 38th anniversary of the passing of the great Gaon, Ba’al Kehilot Yaakov, Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky zy”a, known as the Steipler.  Below is a short biography and bit of his special connection with Rav Eliezer Berland shlit”a.

The Steipler was born to Chaim-Peretz and Bracha Kanievsky on 9 Tammuz 5659 (1899) in the city of Tashan (today Teofipol) in Ukraine.  At the age of eleven, he was orphaned from his father, and moved to live with his mother in the city of Hornostaipil, near Chernobyl.  Already at the age of twelve, he exiled himself to a place of Torah and began to develop and ascend in the Novardok Yeshiva.  When he reached the age of the draft, the Russian army drafted him, and he guarded military installations in Moscow.  Afterwards, he related that during those freezing nights in which he stayed on guard in the Russian outdoors under abnormal conditions, he became hard of hearing.  After a period, he fled over the Polish border and joined the newly re-established Novardok Yeshiva in Bialystok.  After three years, at the age of just 23, he put out his first book “Shaarei Tevunah.”  At the age of 25, he married the sister of the Chazon Ish and the daughter of Rabbi Shemariyahu Yosef Karlitz.  After his wedding, for seven years, he served as the dean in the Novardok Yeshiva in Pinsk.  In Adar of 5694 (1934), he moved to the land of Israel by way of ship and settled in Bnei Brak, which was then a young town.  Upon arrival he was appointed as the dean of the Novardok Yeshiva in Bnei Brak (Beit-Yosef).  About a half year later, his brother-in-law, the Chazon Ish moved to Israel.  Until the passing of the Chazon Ish, the Steipler related to the Chazon Ish as his principal Rabbi.  After the passing of the Chazon Ish, the Steipler became the Gadol HaDor along with Rav Shach ztvk”l.

The connection of Rav Berland to the Steipler:

During his years of learning in the Kollel Chazon Ish, Rav Berland shlit”a would go up many times to learn with the Steipler and ask him questions in Halachah.  The Steipler greatly honored Rav Berland shlit”a, and once even stood up in honor of Rav Berland shlit”a, as witnessed by Rav Yehoshua Dov Rubenstein.  The Steipler also encouraged the Rav to open the Shuvu Banim Yeshiva and wrote for him letters of recommendation.

Below is the testimony of the Tzaddik and Kabbalist Rabbi David Chaim Stern shlit”a in the name of the Steipler about Rav Berland shlit”a, as was first publicized in 5776 (2016):

“I know this Tzaddik [Rav Berland]; for more than fifty years we are talking.  We spoke a great deal, and he was the learning partner of the brother-in-law of the Chazon Ish, the Steipler, over the course of many years, and he was then a young Kollel student.  I asked the Steipler about him, what he says; I wanted to know.  Then he said to me, “Know, that he is fully knowledgeable in the entire Torah – a righteous and holy man!”  And this is testimony from the mouth of the Gadol HaDor, and it is as clear as the sun that the Steipler had true Ruach HaKodesh (Divine inspiration) – no one disputes this.  I knew him [Rav Berland]; we had many connections, many interactions – an exalted Jew.  There is no Jew such as this who is totally kindness and mercy, that if he had money, on the spot he would distribute it all to charity.  A Jew who distributes so much charity and kindnesses, it is clear to us that the Kadosh Baruch Hu causes His Divine Presence to dwell on the person – “One who has mercy on people, they have mercy on him from Heaven.”  One way or another, the Kadosh Baruch Hu causes His Divine Presence to dwell on him, and the Kadosh Baruch Hu will guide him according to what the Kadosh Baruch Hu understands, and it is clear to us, all of us, that we are waiting and longing that Hashem, Who is good, will perform miracles and wonders.  Others do not know Rabbi Lazer like I have known him, and they did not ask the Steipler what I asked about him.  He was a young Kollel student, the Steipler was the Gadol HaDor, and [despite being] older than him, he was his learning partner, learning hours every day!  It was interesting to me what he said about him: “He is holy and pure – this is everything!”

On the night of Shabbat, 23 Menachem-Av, the Steipler passed away.  In his funeral, which took place on Sunday 24 Menachem-Av, some 200,000 people from all sections of Judaism participated.  He was buried close to his brother-in-law, the Chazon Ish, in the Ponevitch Cemetery in Bnei Brak.

A few years ago, Rav Berland shlit”a wrote a ma’amar for the Yahrzeit of the Steipler, which speaks of his greatness:

To merit on the day of the holy Yahrzeit of the Steipler to be included in his great light, which shines twice as much as seven times the light of the sun, and to know that there is none other than Him [Hashem] and to subdue all the adversaries of Israel completely

As is known, the Rav Gaon, Rav Yisrael Yaakov zt”l, Rabbi of all the exiles in Israel and outside of it, who merited to the level of Adam Kadmon of Adam Kadmon, who merited to exceed all those of his generation, that like him there never was and never will be until the coming of the Messiah, that from the time of Moshe Rabbeinu, there never was a Tzaddik such as this, and there never will be a Tzaddik such as this until the coming of the Messiah, and there was never a genius such as this, and never will be a genius such as this until the coming of the Messiah.  And fortunate is the generation which merited to such light, the “light of the seven days,” perfectly clear light, that there is none like him and none who is second to him.  And now on the Yahrzeit, his light shines many times more over, seven times the light of the sun, and seven times the light of the seven days, for he merited to the Ateret HaYesod, and to raise up Malchut until the Keter of Adam Kadmon of Adam Kadmon, and to know “that there is no other besides Him,” and to subdue all the adversaries of the Jewish people until there will not remain any trace of them, and merited that it was fulfilled in him the verse, “And it was turned over, that the Jews prevailed over their adversaries,” and through this, he merited to subdue all 11 Chieftains of Esav, in the numerical value of Serach bat Asher = 1411, who entered with her body to the Garden of Eden = 177, in the merit that she danced and played on the harp of wonders, and through this, she brought the wondrous end, and entered with her body to the Garden of Eden = 177, through her learning Torah day and night.

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