Maran Rav Shteinman: First Do Your Own Tikun then Worry About Others

(Thursday, February 18th, 2010)

Two avreichim presented themselves to Maran Hagon Rav Aaron Leib Shteinman Shlita in the Rav’s home on Sunday, explaining their pain over the deterioration in the standard of tznius. The Rav listened attentively, BaKehilla reports, then sharing a story with them.

“In my youth, the Chafetz Chaim zt”l was pained by the deterioration in a number of areas, traveling from city to city and country to country (talking to people). When he realized he was not having an impact, he decided to focus on the area in which he lives. “Unfortunately, this mission was unsuccessful as well. The Chafetz Chaim then focused his activities in his city, Radin. When this did not succeed, he decided to focus his efforts on his family, and once again, he emerged disappointed.

“Afterwards, the Chafetz Chaim began delving into musar sefarim. ‘At the very least I will fix myself’ he decided. After a period of time, the Chafetz Chaim realized just how much he had erred, explaining only after he did his own tikun did he realize the generation is fine and he no longer sees any blemish”.

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“First fix yourselves” stated R’ Shteinman, then, make certain everything is just the way it should be. There is no room [today] for additional needless gezeiros and takonos”.

(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)

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21 Comments

  1. littleeema says:

    Why is it that people are told what a rav responded to 2 people? Dont get me wrong – I’m not ch”v questioning the rav….but who is publicizing his words? He paskens for an avreich on braces for his wife – and it’s published for the “velt”? He talks to 2 guys who want to be kannoim – and it’s published?
    In the words of R Yisrael Salanter: נישט אלעס וואס מען טראכט דארף מען זאגען, נישט אלעס וואס מען זאגט דארף מען שרייבען, נישט אלעס וואס מען שרייבט דארף מען דרוקען און נישט אלעס וואס מען דרוקט דארף מען ליינען!

  2. shindy says:

    I assume that they asked the gadol if they could tell over R’Shteinman’s story.

  3. Softwords says:

    littleeema – there used to be a time where people knew the fifth Krach of Shulchan Orech. Now we’ve lost it, so people turn to the Gedolim to learn that Krach. That is most likely why such things are published. However, you are right that you can’t apply to the Klal what is stated to the Yachid. Besides the questionable validity of story posted, there is also the problem of when their words apply and when not.

    BTW – Years ago I heard the same story in the name of R. Yisrael Salanter, not the Chofetz Chaim. The point is well taken though. Change starts at home.

  4. aries2756 says:

    You are both missing the point of the story. This eidel Rav gave a very good vort that WE should all take to heart. Stop looking at everyone else’s issues and start focusing on being a better person yourself. When you do that you see the positive in others instead of the negative.

  5. holykugel says:

    #4 well said.

  6. hereorthere says:

    I do not understand the idea of not seeing the blemish once he fixed himself.

    Did he then believe that no one ever did averias?

    I understand the idea of one fixing oneself before trying to fix the world.

    I can take that to heart.

    But if that meant that there was no blemish at all anymore, then Moshiach should have come.

  7. WellInformedYid says:

    This article sheds so much light on his Gadlus and sensitivity to am yisroel. Halevai all the kanoim Rabbis who look to ban everything in sight read this article and realize the dor can’t be soivel the takkanas. We need to each work on ourselves.

  8. WellInformedYid says:

    Hereorthere:
    If every yid loves his/her fellow Jew to the point that we are blind to their personality/Ruchnaisdik deficiencies and treat them like a beloved family member then Moshiach would come in an instant. Ask rav to confirm but if the Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed for sinas chinam, it will be rebuilt because of Ahavas Chinam. Think about how beautiful life would be if we overlooked each others chisronos. Doesn’t it warm your heart and bring tears to your eyes?

  9. hereorthere says:

    Yes WellInformedYid that would be beautiful.

    It sounds to me like the Great Gadol Chofetz Chiam A’ H’ had said that once he had ‘fixed himself’, then he saw no blemishes.

    That sounds like not that everyone did that, but somehow he still saw no blemishes.

    He had changed and the rest of the world was still the same.

    So I do not understand his point.

  10. 25 says:

    This report cannot be true for the following reason:

    The Chafetz Chaim published “Taharas Yisrael” in the year 5664 (1904) when he was approximately 66 years old. He writes in the introduction thereof that it is in response to the terrible machsheilah of women not going to the mikveh. By the age of 66, I think we would all agree that the Chafetz Chaim had already been learning mussar for quite a long time and had achieved an extremely lofty degree of self-perfection. But, if that is not enough there is another: “Beis Yisrael”. In the beginning of this seifer he writes, “If we really want to be redeemed we must search out our ways…But I said to myself, ‘Woe to me if I say, woe to me if I don’t say; for if I want to arouse our brethren the Children of Israel to repentance, behold I will be forced to spread out before them all of their numerous sins that they are stumbling in them, and then all will see that Hashem is just in all of His ways, and all of the tribulations that are coming upon us are from Hashem because we have sinned to Him, and this is not respectful to Klal Yisrael. However, if I don’t say and I will instead opt to only advocate positively on their behalf, then this will bring about a complaint against Hashem, chas v’Shalom, that He is being unjust to our People…and if we will be silent and not rebuke at all we will be called to task why we did not rebuke Klal Yisrael and did not uphold the statement of the Navi, ‘Tell my nation their iniquities and to the House of Jacob their sins…’ ” He goes on to write that he decided on a “compromise” to address only a few, fundamental (Teffilah, Shabbos, Taharas Ha’Mishpacha, etc.) issues with the hope that if they get fixed it will bring about the correction of many other problems as well. “Beis Yisrael” was published in the year 5688 (1928) when the Chafetz Chaim was approximately 90 years old! (About 5 years before he was niftar).

    Furthermore, the biography of the Chafetz Chaim is replete with statements that clearly demonstrate how his whole active life as a leader of Klal Yisrael he firmly believed in actively shoring up the breaches within the fence of kedushas Yisrael, and often would travel to different cities to do so – even in his very old age – and he constantly urged all Rabbanim to do the same. One of the most notable instances thereof was in the year 1930 (when the Chafetz Chaim was about 92 years old!!!) when he arranged an unprecedented kinnus for women in the main gallery of the great Schul of Vilna to discuss Taharas Ha’Mishpacha. The Chafetz Chaim himself addressed the women and, because he was barely audible seeing as he was so aged by that point, his grandson and the Rav of Lomza repeated his words aloud to the audience. (Artscroll, p.468-469).

    Taking note of the breaches within Klal Yisrael in order to do whatever was within his power to fix them, was a major and central aspect of the Chafetz Chaim’s entire life. His love and concern for his fellow Jew practically compelled him to constantly seek out ways to repair their breaches.

    It was truly painful to see the Chafetz Chaim so utterly misrepresented. I do not believe for one second that Maran HaRav Shteinman shlita”h said such a thing. Nevertheless, the point of the “story” is a well-known one and has already been stated by Chazal, “K’shot atzmecha v’achar kach k’shot acheirim”. The Chafetz Chaim who was mekayiem “k’shot atzmcha” already from his youth, was more than qualified to engage in “k’shot acheirim” and, again, his deep love and concern for his brethren would not allow him to let their breaches go unfixed.

    Most probably what happened with HaRav Shteinman is that he saw that these two guys were not coming from the right place, and that it was really misguided “kannaus” that was motivating them to set up whatever new takkana that they were proposing – so he told them in a nice way to drop it.

  11. holtzichfest says:

    im not sure if youre familiar but there was a man named pinchas ben elazar ben aharon hakohien and we know the story of what he did and that was kanois do you know if not for him there would be no kohanim today, hashem originaly only appointed aharon and his sons as kohanim and after the story with pinchas he said that now well have kohanim for ever kanois is not so bad if done at the proper time and that is why they went to ask good for them they asked and i have no doubt that if rav shteinman knew really what goes on he would probaly fast every day for the rest of his life for klal yisroel yes we are doing good and with all the teivas its unbelievable that we stayed strong but there is lots of room for improvement esspecially in the area of tznius

  12. mark levin says:

    Seems to me like there is a major yenta hanging around there!

  13. mot says:

    Assuming he said this vort, which is gadlos, and would be awesome if other gedolim were as outspoken about tikkun hamiddos, what the chofetz chaim meant was as follows: Of course there were problems in klal yisroel after he learnt mussar, however he realized that what he saw in them was a reflection of negios of his own middos that he fel he needed to be misaken. I’m sure he continued to be a marbitz Torah and mashpia on klal yisroel as he had done his entire life, he just didn’t tell people what to do. Do those who run around with the kol koreis etc. truly do it lsheim shamayim. I highly doubt a rock to a policeman’s head brings nachas ruach to Hashem!

  14. aries2756 says:

    #9, He had changed and he no longer saw the blemishes in the rest of the world….he only had ahavah for them. Think about it and what others have understood above. When we have ahavas yisroel on that madreigah we are the best role models of what a true emesdik YID is. What a wonderful thing to aspire to. Not only that but if that is what we show to others, maybe others will try to emulate and aspire to the same madreigah. Such a beautiful attitude can be contagious.

  15. rabbi108300 says:

    DONT U GET IT, WHEN HE SAW HIS OWN CHESRONOS, WHICH TO A TZADIK IS ANORMOUS ,HE COUDENT SEE ANY IN OTHERS. THATS ALL . THIS IS THE REAL TZADICK,THE REAL OHAIV YISROEL. Remember– Adar is to Nisan as Ellul is to Tishraei. The 1st is a tikun for the gulah of Yosroel,and the world,, the 2cnd is a tikun for the geulah of the yochid, yom Hafdin.

  16. hereorthere says:

    Perhaps it’s a general yenta or a colonel yenta, not just a major. LOL

  17. always right says:

    Every person needs to constantly grow;Kannoim are no exception. But instead of looking for real growth by changing themselves they keep looking for more chumras which gives them a feeling of growth but it is false so it only lasts for a while. So then they need a new chumra. The Rav was telling them to fix themselves and they won’t need to look for new chumras because they will have had real growth.

  18. justpassingthrough says:

    Hereothere chazal teach us that we can only see a blemish in others if we ourself have that blemish. We are all put in this world with faults to overcome. It often takes a life time to truly overcome these faults. Someone who honestly works on their shortcomings or middos gains insight and understanding into human nature and will be able to dan likaf tzichus. Ahavas yisroel is a byproduct of refining your middos. May we all have the zichus to see ourselves and the world as the tzadikim do

  19. MoshiachNow01 says:

    #10, I want to thank you for your post. It was highly informative and inspiring. I do want to say that I do not see how the point of the article and your post are mutually exclusive. While one may struggle to deal with how his fellow, too, can improve, he may also, simultaneously, accept that he must work on himself as the ultimate way of adding to the remedy. Also, I believe there are enough stories where anyone can learn something from anyone, and I dare say, anything. Who is coming, 100%, from the “right place”? Either way, the advice in the article is good, as is your post? I am grateful I read both.

  20. aries2756 says:

    Everyone makes so much sense But bottom line what I have learned from all is that WE should not be a bunch of Yentas always looking to fix everyone else and comment on what everyone else is doing wrong and basically how WE are better. Moreso we have taken on the job of Judge and Jury being way too judgmental of others and not compassionate and understanding as a Jew should be.

    Remember the Rebbe who loves his talmidim, never raises his voice, shows that love, respect and compassion for them, encourages them to reach for great heights, surrounds them with positive energy, his talmidim with grow up wanting to be just like that Rebbe and will never ever forget him.

  21. Jothar says:

    I have seen the same point in mussar seforim. It’s much easier to pretend we’re perfect and point to everyone else’s problems than to realize we ourselves aren’t perfect and work on our own problems. However, our mission in life is to perfect ourselves, not to perfect others, unless we’re gedolim like Rav Shteinman.

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