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The New Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt”l Biography: a Review

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

Well, this time Artscroll made a HUGE mistake.  But before anyone gets the wrong impression, the mistake Artscroll made was in only printing ten thousand copies.  They should have printed thirty thousand.  It will sell out so head-splittingly quickly.

R’ Naftali Weinberger has done it again.  First, was his remarkable biography of Rebbitzen Kanievsky a”h, Rav Elyashiv’s daughter.  Then came another volume – especially written for younger audiences.  After that came Rav Chaim’s advice and views on Shidduchim, both in lashon Hakodesh as well as in English.  This is aside from his other seforim and biographies.  And now, a down-to earth biography of Rav Chaim himself, culled from the memories of close family members and those of the writer himself.  Reb Naftoli himself was very close to him –  thi reviewer can attest to that.

The book just came out in seforim stores today and it is remarkably inspiring and informative (aside from the fact that it is replete with incredible pictures.)

Along the way, we become privy to Rav Chaim’s father’s view that there is no problem in naming after a two people.  The Steipler, Rav Chaim’s father, introduced an interesting innovation.  He taught his son a song of the names of every sefer in Tanach and then every Mesechta in Shas.  We also become privy to Rav Chaim’s uncle’s sense of humor too – the Chazon Ish. He quipped, “Our Reb Chaim is already a baki b’Shas.”  While in Pinsk, he sat next to the Gadol HaDor, Rav Chaim Ozer and repeated the names of the mesechtos.  After he completed them, the two year old Rav Chaim ended with, “tvul yom, yadayim, uktzin  – gib mir a tzuker’l.”

Rav Chaim’s position on shidduchim was quite shtark.  He held that one should marry early so as to allow the maximum number of neshamos into this world so that Mashiach could come early.  He was also adamant that no Yeshiva can forbid a bochur from dating.  He was also emphatic that a bochur has the right to learn at the place he deems best for him, and that a Yeshiva may not refuse a bochur based upon his desire to date.

Once a young man approached Rav Chaim and explained that he was having a difficult time in shidduchim, and pointed to why he thought it was.  The young man had an enormous scar on his face.  Rav Chaim asked him, “How did you get that scar?”

He replied, “Once in the Old City, I witnessed an Arab chasing a Jewish girl.  He pursued the Arab and tackled him so that the girl could escape.  A scuffle developed and the young man was stabbed in the face a number of times.  Rav Chaim advised the young man that for the next shidduch  he should tell the girl at the beginning of the date about his scar  and how he got it.  The young man followed his instructions precisely.  The girl, shockingly, responded, “I was that girl!  I have been looking all over for the person who saved me to thank him.”  Eventually, the two married and had a very close relationship with Rav Chaim and his Rebbitzen.   Rav Chaim’s emormous syata d’shmaya was a common occurrence and incident after incident is recounted in in the Sefer.

Another incident recounted how Rav Chaim would repeat a somewhat self-deprecating story.  Once, Rav Chaim substituted for a friend who was teaching nine year olds.  A young student asked if he could go to the bathroom.  Rav Chaim answered, “Of course, it is, in fact, forbidden to not go to the bathroom when you need it.”  One by one each student left the classroom, until only one was left.  Rav Chaim would end the story with sheer admiration for those with the tremendous skills to run a classroom and emphasized their importance.

Rav Chaim was extremely careful in his obligation to learn with his children.  While he was learning Yevamos with his son Rav Yitzchok Shaul, he drew a chart of the yevamos relationships.  Of course, his son cherished it dearly.

Throughout the sefer, we become privy to Rav Chaim’s remarkable middos, genteelness, and chessed.

The reader is advised to go out and purchase it as soon as possible, as this reviewer believes it is only a matter of days before it will be sold out.

The reviewer can be reached at [email protected]

2 Responses

  1. “He held that one should marry early so as to allow the maximum number of neshamos into this world so that Mashiach could come early.”

    Re connection of births to the coming of Moshiach – there are various maamarei Chazal re Moshiach that are considered in the category of aggadata. For example, to illustrate the point, אין בן דוד בא עד שיכלה פרוטה מן הכיס. Does the writer, based on that, make sure to get rid of all his money regularly to bring Moshiach early?

    As an aside, Rav Chaim zt”l was close to twenty four years old at his Chassunah.

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