עולם התורה באבל • נפלה עטרת ראשנו – Rav Chaim Stein zt”l


rav-chaim-steinIt is with tremendous sadness that we report the passing moments ago of the zekan roshei hayeshivos in the United States, Rav Chaim Stein zt”l, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Telshe-Cleveland. The petirah of this Sar HaTorah marks the completion of a life totally devoted to Torah and the perpetuation of Torah. A gaon in Torah and a gadol in middos, our generation was fortunate to have someone of such stature living in our very midst. The void is now palpable. Our pain is inconsolable.

The rosh yeshiva, who was in his high nineties, gave his life to Torah and devoted his very being to the perpetuation of the mesorah of Telshe with which he was raised. His true home was Telshe Yeshiva in Wickliffe, Ohio, where the rosh yeshiva spent his days and his nights. Kol yemei chayov, Rav Chaim could be found between the hallowed walls of the yeshiva hakedoshah in Cleveland for Shacharis, Minchah and Maariv and for the many hours in between, as he immersed himself in his lifelong occupation: limud haTorah and harbotzas haTorah. As one of the last remaining links to the bygone world of pre-war Europe, Rav Chaim served as a beacon of light and inspiration to the entire Olam Hatorah and the wider frum community.

Rav Chaim, in his youth, learned at the Telshe Yeshiva in Lithuania. During the early years of World War II, Rav Elya Meir Bloch and Rav Chaim Mordechai Katz, the roshei yeshiva of Telshe, were in the United States on a fundraising mission. As the war broke out, their only option to ensure the survival of the yeshiva was to transfer the yeshiva to American soil.

rav-chaim-steinIn October 1940, a group of Telshe talmidim led by Rav Stein escaped from war-ravaged Lithuania as it was overrun by the Nazis. This daring flight took place on Shabbos, as related by Rav Chaim many times. The hanhalah of the yeshiva, their families, and most of the talmidim left behind in Europe were killed in Lithuania by the Nazi forces and Lithuanian collaborators, yemach shemom. Escaping to Russia as war raged in Eastern Europe, another war was taking place in the Pacific, the very direction that the talmidim led by Rav Stein were headed. In June 1941, Rav Chaim led the group to Russia where they were sent to Siberia.

The talmidim eventually achieved safe passage via the Trans-Siberian Railroad to the Far East. The group had somehow acquired visas from the renowned Chiune Sugihara, and they became beneficiaries of his admirable action to risk his life so that many people from war-torn Europe were given the opportunity to seek refuge elsewhere in the world. The group found its way to the United States in early 1941.

Once reunited with their roshei yeshiva, Rav Bloch and Rav Katz, they eventually settled in Cleveland, Ohio. It was from that time until his last year that Rav Chaim spent his days in the legendary Telshe Yeshiva, growing from a young talmid chochom and maggid shiur to the senior rosh yeshiva of his generation.

Rav Stein’s rebbetzin was a daughter of Rav Moshe Yehudah Leib Zaks. Together, they established a home permeated with Torah and yirah.

rav-chaim-steinA short tribute such as this cannot aptly describe the radiance and total immersion in Torah that personified the rosh yeshiva. Nor can mere words depict his selflessness and the manner in which he gave of himself for others throughout his life.

During his last years, it was Rav Chaim who made arduous trips across the United States to raise funds to ensure the vitality of the Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland. The tremendous burden carried on the shoulders of the nonagenarian rosh yeshiva to ensure that the Telshe maggidei shiur were paid would have been daunting for someone half a century his junior.

The rosh yeshiva‘s koach haTorah was recognized by the thousands who petitioned him for brachos for gezunt and yeshuos. In his humility, Rav Chaim never understood why people approached him for brachos, but he doled out words of chizuk and bracha generously. Anything for another Yid.

Two summers ago, a person came to Rav Chaim and told him that he has a daughter who is about 30 years old and wishes to travel a bit to “air out” and clear her mind. The parsha of shidduchim had been a difficult one to that point, and it was thought that a trip would be beneficial for her. The question posed to the rosh yeshiva was whether embarking on such a trip during the Three Weeks was permissible. Rav Chaim responded, “Vos hertzach mit a shidduch? What’s going on with a shidduch?” The father responded that at that point nothing was on the horizon. Rav Chaim then said to the girl, “Oib du vilst, if you want, you will become a kallah this year.” The father was flabbergasted. “Rosh yeshiva,” he said to Rav Chaim, “there are only two months left to the year and, like we said, no one’s on the horizon.” Rav Chaim repeated, “Oib du vilst, if you want, you will become a kallah this year.” Indeed, a short while later, in the middle of Elul, this girl became a kallah.

It was clear that the koach haTorah and the pure service to Hashem of this adam gadol served as a special zechus for this girl.

Our link to the Torah world of Lithuania in which Rav Stein was raised is now gone. Those who saw and heard from one of the last remnants of that world should consider themselves fortunate. Rav Chaim connected us to the greatness of that world. And now he is gone.

On occasion, Rav Chaim told a personal story of dedication to mitzvos. During World War II, as Rav Chaim was escaping from the Nazis, he was on the aforementioned train traveling across the Soviet Union together with his lifelong friend, Rav Meir Zelig Mann zt”l. When Chanukah arrived, they went outside each day to collect grease from the wheels of the train and use it for neiros Chanukah. During the week of Chanukah, the train broke down and they were stranded. One day, it was so cold, that the grease was frozen and could not be scraped off. Rav Chaim and Rav Meir Zelig were despondent at being unable to fulfill the mitzvah. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door of their car and there stood a man selling candles!

Rav Chaim used to say that this was no miracle, and it was not Eliyahu Hanovi. Rather, when Hashem saw how much they desired the mitzvah, and how much they were moser nefesh for it, He sent them an opportunity to fulfill it. That was the way Rav Chaim viewed everything that occurred in his life. He viewed himself simply, and he saw everything that transpired as being directly orchestrated by the Yad Hashem.

He himself served as a faithful emissary of the Ribono Shel Olam, showing, by example, how one is to conduct oneself in bringing kevod Shomayim to this world.

We are bereft.

We have been orphaned.

May we merit to emulate the great Telshe rosh yeshiva and may he serve as a meilitz yosher for all the members of Klal Yisroel whom he loved so much.

Our eyes are clouded with tears, but we know that as we mourn, the great Rav Chaim Stein is being welcomed above by the Torah giants of the past, paying tribute to a life lived solely and totally to bring nachas to the Ribono Shel Olam.

Yehi zichro boruch.

Levaya details will be forthcoming.

Rav Stein leaves behind a beautiful mishpacha of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren following in his ways. His children are Rav Shmuel Zalman Stein, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Birkas Chaim of Lakewood; Rav Binyomin Moshe Stein of Cleveland; Mrs. Levin, wife of Rav Menachem Levin of Telshe Yeshiva; and Mrs. Tziporah Weinberg, wife of Rav Matis Weinberg. He was predeceased by his son, Rav Shalom Refoel Yehuda Stein zt”l.


The levaya is presently scheduled to take place tomorrow, at 9 a.m., at the Telshe Yeshiva, located at 28400 Euclid Avenue in Wickliffe, Ohio.

That will be followed by a levaya at the Telshe Minyan of Boro Park, led by Rav Yaakov Horowitz.

The aron will then be flown to Eretz Yisroel in the evening, followed by kevurah on Har Hamenuchos in Yerushalayim.

There will be a live hook-up to the levaya. At 9 a.m., call 402-237-2411 and enter code 28400.

{Shmiel Gellman-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Boruch dayan emes

    naflah ateres rosheinu is an accurate way to describe our feelings. Wow. Three gedolim in the span of 2 weeks. Hashem, spare us.

  2. Baruch Dayan Haemes May it be a kaparah for ami yisrael and that all ami yisrael should live a happy and healthy 120 yeras of life full of torah and mitzvot

  3. a certain magazine had an article on the six oldest gedolim less then a month ago. Two have since been niftar and Rav Elyashiv had surgery. Now Rav Chaim Stein. Perhaps in the future articles should not be written about Gedolim near 100. It may be Ayin Harah.

  4. No comments neccesary. Because words do not justify describing someone from a previous “DOR”. Someone who had his face buried in a gemmorah all his life and with his life long friend and chavrusah Rav Mayer Zelig Mann. Who together did untold chessed that no one will never know. BDE

  5. after war was in samarkand with reb koppelman came to usa thru france on boat was mekabel not to drink coke a symbol of america

  6. This is the worst news! Klal yisrael has got to do something fast! Wake up and do teshuva nowwwwwww! We cannot afford another loss. Please have rachmanus on your brothers and take upon yourself one small thing for klal yisrael. Hashem is waiting for sooooo long already for us to return to Him. It’s enough!!!!!!!!!! Take this as a lesson and do something about it. It’s you yourself who is responsible to protect klal yisrael and our gedolim. Baruch Dayan Haemes

  7. This is very hurtful news.
    Its a different world. Very different

    Boruch Dayan H’ames

    As far as i remember, he was in uzbehekstan after the war (either that, or a similar arab country). I remeber him saying so durring a vaad one Shabbos. He repeaded a conversation he had with their imam

    Also, I believe Reb Elya Meir and Reb mottel came to try and move the whole yeshiva to America, since they they saw they wouyldnt be able to function anymore in Europe

  8. Stop blaming it on the magazine article. They did not write about rav Chaim zatzal .regardless we were not zoche to have these gedolim amongst us.

  9. Rav Chaim, the heilige rosh hayeshiva deyeshiva hakeshosha dtelz, will be a great malitz yosher with the aibershter on behalf of klal yisroel

  10. Did anyone pay attention that the three Roshei Yeshiva that were token away from us in the last week were from EUROPE, ERETZ YISROEL AND AMERICA EFECTING THE ANTIRE JEWISH COMMUNITY AROUND THE WORLD ?????

  11. The Levaya is tonight at 9. tommorrow in Telzer minyan in boro park at noon and 7:00 flight to EY for Kevura on Har Hazesim

  12. 22 – “he was in uzbehekstan after the war (either that, or a similar arab country)”

    FYI – Uzbekistan may be a muslim country. definitely not arabic…

  13. levaya is 9 AM. If anyone has a number for a phone confereance please post it. Will there be a levaya or just the kevura in EY?

  14. About the kallah story:

    I’ve heard him say a similar thing numerous times. When bachurim would come and ask him for a beracha for a shidduch, he would answer: your zivug is here. The only thing is, you would like to find her quickly. Be sure not to waste your time and utilize it properly for learning -dont be mevatel Torah- and Hashem will treat you midah kneged midah, and send you your zivug speeditiously

  15. welve lost a tremendios gadol. I’m so glad I got to see the rov one last time last year in toronto. as for the article in the zman though it may seem spooky its not rite to pass judgement cuz we don’t know hashems cheshbonos although the article was a bit odd and not in line with the hashkafah of not publicising ang. still, we don’t know hashems cheshbonos so let’s not blame.

  16. When R Chaim stood at the funeral of his own son several years right before the burial , he implored the niftar to beg Hashem on behalf of all the girl who are having hardships with shidduchim.

    This great man who had recently lost his wife and now was watching his own son about to be buried had on his mind the plight of other suffering people.


  17. Our communal silence as an Jewish orthodox community during the passing of the same gender marriage bill here in New York, makes us unworthy of having gedolim both here and in Eretz Yisroel.

    We don’t deserve them anymore.

  18. “That will be followed by a levaya at the Telshe Minyan of Boro Park, led by Rav Yaakov Horowitz.”

    Is it possible for it to be arrainged in a yeshiva, especially considering how the Rosh Yeshiva ZT”L loved all mekomos Hatorah

  19. Baruch Dayan Emes.

    Is there ANY truth to the rumor that HaRav Avrohom Chaim Levin Shlit”a will be moving from Chicago to Cleveland?

  20. we have to start fighting against yetzer harah in everything no exceptions first hashem made earthquake then tsunami hashem saw that we did not do teshuvah so hashem thought maybe the fogel family will wake everybody up but unfortunately it did not.so hashem had to punish us by taking these roshei yeshivas all at once.

  21. I feel like I have lost a father. Rav Chaim zt”l was the purest of the pure. He had the most caring neshamah. And of course his lifelong passion was Torah.
    WHat an ish emes. Oy lesefnah sheavdah karbanita

  22. we have to start fighting against yetzer harah in everything no exceptions first hashem made earthquake then tsunami hashem saw that we did not do teshuvah so hashem thought maybe the fogel family will wake everybody up but unfortunately it did not.so hashem had to punish us by taking these roshei yeshivas all at once.

  23. with 3 tzaddikim niftar in one weeks time R”L. will we start to appreciate every word of the tzaddikim that we still have & keep the world going? by listening to them? or will klal yisroel need more sad wake-up calls C”V


  24. it would be nice if the tragic loss of three great rabbis in such a short time would cause the frum world to examine itself and see how Hashem is viewing it

  25. In examining ourselves perhaps it reflects well on yidden that our gedolim stay with us for so many years and have such long lives.

  26. If I am Not Mistaken, R’ Chiam went to Russia, Summerkant and from there to France Where he got Married and came to Cleveland in the late 40’s, not through Australia. Please Correct!

  27. baruch dayan emes

    alteh-bochur, perhaps they felt that a public demonstration would cause a bigger chillul Hashem than the passing of the law. Anyway, we may not judgeor pass such judgements

  28. Rav Avigdor Miller ztl had said, after 3 gedolim passed away in a short time, that we should learn 2 things. First is to utilize our time to achieve all we can, the second is to support yeshivos and kollelim to make more gedolei Yisroel (this from Rabbi Miller Speaks vol 1, compiled by Rav Simcha Bunim ohen shlita)

  29. I remember when I was learning in Telz yeshiva a kevutza of bachurim came from Lakewood for a chasuna and were telling us many first hand stories of his tzuzugs (promises), how he would promise that they would be engaged by a certain time and without fail it would be mekuyem. Al kol ponim many years later a friend of mine, a bochur who was a fellow talmid of Telz who was having difficulty in shidduchim. We tried many times to get a brocha or a tzuzug but none was forthcoming. We believed that he had a kepeida on him because of a certain maaseh shehayah. Well finally after a bunch of years the Rosh Yeshiva zatza”l (oy does it hurt to say zatza”l!) gave a brocha or a tzuzug. Needles to say the fellow found his shidduch immediately! There are many other moifsim vos ich ken dertzeilen, un a shiur, kaheina vekaheina rabois! Ubber raboisai nisht dos iz geven em! Zein gadlus iz geven az er iz geven kol kulu areingezunken b’limud un in avoidas haborei kol yamav! Ich vill eich dertzeillen az yoren tzurik hubben gezetzen a kevutza menchen zuggen maasos fun moifsim fun der Mashgiach R Chatzkel zatza”l, R Leizer Horejeski vos iz dorton gezetzen b’oiso maamud hut geklopt oiffen tish un geshriggen, raboisai, nit dos iz geven R Chatzkel!
    Oy lesfina she’avdah es kabarnita, mi yiten lanu es tmurasoi!

  30. as reported E here on Matzav in a different post, the ast Coast Levaya has been moved from Boro Park to Lakewood BMG 2pm.

  31. levaya in EY will be by Reb dovid solvatchick no time reported yet.
    Kimat exactly a year ago Reb chaims grand son told me he was 98 so that would make reb chaim now 99!!!

  32. Absolutely. We have so many role models to envision when we say al hatzadikim, good people whose influence should make all the cynicism meaningless and melt away. Let’s try to have more kavana then, and during Yekum Purkan also, especially the first one. Show that we’re machshiv our gedolim and hold them dear.

  33. When I heard the shocking news it was a tremendous blow for me, but the rosh Hayeshiva is a life in my heart, I just heard a Shiurei Daas from the Rosh Hayeshiva yestreday .