The Steipler Gaon zt”l, On His 29th Yahrtzeit, Today, 23 Av


steiplerRav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky, known as The Steipler Gaon, lived from 1899 to 1985, and was from the gedolei Torah of the last century. Rav Kanievsky was born in the Ukrainian town of Hornesteipel, from which his appellation, “The Steipler,” was later derived. He was the son of Rav Chaim Peretz, who was a Chernobyl chossid and the local shochet. Around the age of 11, the Steipler entered the Novardok Yeshiva, studying under Rav Yosef Yoizel Horowitz, the Alter of Novardok. Having progressed rapidly and gained a reputation as a talmid chochom, around the age of 19, the Steipler was sent by the Alter of Novardok to set up a branch of the yeshiva in Rogochov. However, the Bolshevik Revolution was in full swing and the Steipler was conscripted into the Red Army. Despite the harsh conditions, he continued to strictly observe all the mitzvos. Once, during his army stint, the Steipler was Court-martialed for “failing to do his duty” when there was a possibility of chillul Shabbos. He was forced to walk between two rows of soldiers who were ordered to beat him as he passed. In later years, the Steipler remarked that the satisfaction he had enjoyed for making a stand for his religious convictions was an achievement never again equaled for the rest of his life. After serving under arms for some time, the Steipler managed to get discharged. He decided to move to BiaƂystok in Poland in order to continue learning Torah unhindered from Communist interference. There, he studied under Rav Avrohom Jaffen. In 1925, the Steipler published his first sefer, Sha’arei Tevunah. The sefer was received with great acclaim, and the work eventually reached the Chazon Ish in Vilna. Without even meeting the Steipler, the Chazon Ish decided that the author of such a work was worthy of marrying his sister, Miriam. The Steipler was then appointed rosh yeshiva of the Novarodok Yeshiva in Pinsk. In 1934, he relocated to Bnei Brak in the British Mandate of Palestine, where his brother-in-law, the Chazon Ish, had already been living for a year and a half. For many years, he was head of two yeshivos there. Though known as a gaon and tzaddik, the Steipler shunned publicity and lived in humble surroundings, teaching, writing and devoting himself to Torah and good deeds. Over 150,000 people attended the Steipler’s levaya in 1985. His legacy lives on though through his numerous seforim, including the multi-volume Kehillos Yaakov on Shas, as well as through his illustrious children and grandchildren, many of whom are marbitzei Torah. His son, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, is from the gedolei Torah in the world today. May the Steipler serve as a meilitz yosher for all of Klal Yisroel. Yehi zichro boruch. {Noam Newscenter}