13 Dec Rabbi Shteinman ZT”L, A Humble Giant
The Torah world plunged into mourning following the passing of Rav
Ahron Leib Shteinman on Tuesday morning at Mayanei Hayeshua Medical
Center in Bnei Brak.Renowned and revered as one of the biggest Torah giants in the
Lithuanian Jewish community, Rav Shteinman was 104 years old at the
time of his death.Rabbi Aharon Yehudah Leib Shteinman, the head of the
Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak and the head of the Degel HaTorah
political party’s Council of Torah Sages, died Tuesday morning. Rav Shteinman was born and raised in the city of Brisk (now Belarus),
then part of the Russian Empire. He studied at Yeshivas Imrei Moshe,
led by Rav Moshe Sokolovsky, in Brisk, and attended shiurim given by
the Brisker Rov, Rav Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik. He also studied in
Kletzk under Rav Aharon Kotler.Upon reaching draft age in 1937, he was subject to the Polish draft,
as Brisk had come under the control of the newly established Polish
state in the aftermath of the First World War. He and his close
friend, Rav Moshe Soloveitchik tried to evade the draft by starving
themselves, but they were declared fit to serve by the draft officer.
The two then fled with other Brisk talmidim to Montreux, Switzerland,
where they joined Yeshivas Etz Chaim. With the outbreak of World War
II, the two became war refugees and were incarcerated in the
Schonenberg labor camp near Basel, where nearly all the inmates were
Torah-observant. Rav Shteinman and Rav Moshe were put to work laying
roads, but due to his thin frame and short stature, Rav Shteinman was
soon released from manual labor and assigned to a desk job.
Rav Shteinman was the only member of his family to survive the war.
While still in Switzerland, he married Rebbetzin Tamar (Tema) Kornfeld
(who passed away in 2002), a daughter of Rav Shammai Shraga Kornfeld
of Antwerp. She had been sent to Switzerland from Poland to cure her
respiratory problems and had also become a refugee when World War II
broke out. Rav Shteinman and the rebbetzin had four children..
Settling initially in Petah Tikva, he became close with the Chazon
Ish, Rabbi Avraham Yishaya Karelitz, who was then the leading Torah
figure of the generation, and the latter appointed Rabbi Shteinman to
head a yeshiva in Kfar Saba.
He eventually moved to Bnei Brak and, in 1955, was appointed head of
the Yeshiva Ketana, yeshiva for high-school-aged boys at Ponovizeh
Yeshiva, one of the most prestigious yeshivas in the world, by yeshiva
dean Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kehaneman, and then head of the Ponovizeh
Kollel, yeshiva for married men, in 1964.
At this juncture, and slightly before, Rabbi Shteinman would take up
one of the most important missions of his life, promoting Torah study
as the sole occupation for a Haredi man.
The Chazon Ish had himself been instrumental in promoting this ideal,
and Rabbi Shteinman sought to advance it more practically on the
In the 1950s and early 1960s, it had been extremely rare for Haredi
men to spend their entire lives studying in kollel, since it was
simply not financially viable. In 1953 when the Chazon Ish died, there
were only 1,240 yeshiva students who obtained a military service
deferral due to being in full time yeshiva study.
So Rabbi Shteinman strove to open more kollels for married men to
continue their yeshiva studies, to make entrance to kollel easier in
terms of the standards required, and to raise money from donors in
order to make yeshiva study a viable financial option.
In the 1980s, the dynamic and vigorous Rabbi Menachem Eliezer Man
Shach had become the head of the Lithuanian community, and formed the
Degel Hatorah political party in 1988, splitting from hassidic
controlled Agudat Yisrael.
Rav Shach set up a Council of Torah Sages to guide the new political
movement and Rabbi Shteinman was immediately appointed to this
During his initial years in Eretz Yisroel, Rav Shteinman and his
family lived in Kfar Saba. His sons were sent to a cheder in Petach
Tikva. Eventually, they relocated to Bnei Brak, where Rav Shteinman
headed the Ponovezher Kollel.
In 1955, the Ponovezher Rav, Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, opened the
yeshivah ketanah of Ponovezh, Yeshivas Ponovezh L’Tze’irim, and asked
Rav Shteinman to serve as rosh yeshivatogether with Rav Michel Yehuda
Lefkowitz. Rav Shteinman stopped giving his regular shiur in 1998.
Rav Shteinman was also rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Gaon Yaakov, which is
led by his son-in-law, Rav Zev Berlin, and Yeshiva Orchos Torah.
Rav Shteinman was the author of the renowned seforim on Shas, Ayeles
Hashachar. The seforimwere published anonymously and do not contain
his name, only his initials. The name Ayeles is comprised of his and
his wife’s initials: AYeLeS = Aharon Yehuda Leib Tamar.
Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach zt”l, the gadol hador, when consulted
for advice, was known to at times refer people to consult with Rav
Rav Shteinman served as a leading manhig of the olam hayeshivos and
the olam haTorahfollowing the passing of Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv
zt”l, guiding the Degel HaTorah political party.
For many years, until he was in his seventies and eighties, Rav
Shteinman was largely unknown beyond the olam hayeshivos, immersing
himself in his learning and harbotzas Torah. It was only in the last
few decades that he allowed himself to be thrust into the spotlight as
a manhig of Klal Yisroel.
When Rav Shteinman was in his nineties, Rav Shteinman undertook to
visit and strengthen key Torah communities outside of Eretz Yisroel.
In 2005 he visited a number of cities in North America with
significant frum populations or institutions.
Rav Shteinman traveled to the Jewish community of Los Angeles in 2006
and in May 2007 visited France, and then England, where he addressed
large gatherings in Manchester and Gateshead. In June 2010, Rav
Shteinman visited the Jewish communities of Odessa, Berlin, and
Gibraltar. In 2012 he traveled to Paris to deliver talks to the French
Rav Shteinman was known for his extremely modest lifestyle. His
apartment was sparsely furnished.
Until 2014, he slept on the same thin mattress that he had received
from the Jewish Agency upon his arrival in Israel in the early 1950s.
As a leader Rav Shteinman was guided by the desire to protect his
flock from the blandishments of the outside world, but declined to
oppose those parts of his community who began to engage with the
demands of the state by entering the workforce, higher education and
It is for this position that he will be remembered, and although he
strongly discouraged such trends, he did not seek to hold them back,
allowing them to develop and take root, and thereby come to a certain
accommodation with the needs of the modern state of Israel.
“Rabbi Shteinman was a beacon of spirituality and morality,” Prime
Minister Netanyahu said in a video address. Everyone who knew him saw
the great light that radiated from him: the light of the people of
Israel, of the wisdom of Israel, and of the heritage of Israel.”
Rav Shteinman was one of the greatest posekim [decisors of Jewish law]
of our generation, he established generations of students, and they
and the rest of our people will always remember his memory.”
Rabbi Shteinman was laid to rest on Tuesday in Bnei Brak. Hundreds of
thousands of people attended.
Rav Shteinman’s passing has plunged the greater Torah world into
mourning. One of the greatest men of the generation has passed on,
leaving a nation bereft, mourning a leader who personified Torah
greatness, humility and simplicity.
Naflah ateres rosheinu.