Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Steipler Gaon

Bnei Brak: The city who's chol is kadosh, and who's kadosh is kadosh kadashim.
The Steipler Gaon (1899-1985) was in part responsible for making the Torah city of Bnei Brak the Torah beacon that it is today. Along with the Chazon Ish they settled into Bnei Brak before it was the famed city, and the rays of their Torah and tziddkus (righteousness), in time, attracted the multitudes. The Steipler relocated to Bnei Brak in 1934 from Pinsk, where he was Rosh Yeshiva of Novarodok. The name "Steipler" comes from the Ukranian town of Hornsteipel, where he was born.

Two short stories of the Steipler:

A man and wife who had been living in Bnei Brak had an argument. The man had decided that after many years of work it was time to retire and splurge a bit, and indulge in some of his material desires. He wanted to buy a new car. But not just any new car; the best car on the market; fully loaded; top luxury. His wife was afraid that this would attract undo attention to the car and its owner, and it would then stir up envy on the part of the residents of Bnei Brak. They decided to bring the issue to the Steipler. The husband and wife both presented their case, and the Steipler sat silent for a moment. He asked the man, "are you fluent in all of shas (Talmud)?" The man was a bit surprised, and answered that he was no talmid chacham, and that obviously he was not proficient in all of shas. "Do you know an entire masachta (tractate) in shas?" asked the Steipler. "No," answered the man. "Do you know an entire perek (chapter) of a masechta?" asked the Steipler. By now the man began to fumble his words. ", I..I don't." "Could you lain a single blatt (page) of gemara?" asked the Steipler." "No," said the man. "Buy the car," ordered the Steipler. "Nobody in Bnei Brak is going to be jealous of you."


There was once a young man who was a little bit slow. He had begun looking for a shidduch, and his slowness and lack of breadth in learning did not figure well into this new parsha in his life. He would steig and steig with little success. Years ago he had begun learning the second perek (chapter) of Bava Metzia, eilu metzios. After being taken under the wing of a superior Rebbe he had made it all the way through the perek. This was cause for large celebrations at home and in the beis midrash. But there were those that were not that easy on him. He had gone to a shadchan (matchmaker) for the first time, and the result was a major catastrophe. The shadchan spoke with the boy for about ten minutes. Sensing quickly that he was a bit slow and significantly behind his peers, he asked, "do you even know how to learn??" The young man was taken aback by the insensitivity. When he left the shadchan's apartment he began to cry.

For months the young man confined himself to his room. He became melancholy, and accepted not even his parents as visitors. He even had thoughts of suicide. His parents had become deeply depressed themselves until his father had an idea. He would bring his son to the Steipler in Bnei Brak. Perhaps he could talk to the boy, and give him a few words of chizuk to help him break through his anguish.

Upon meeting the Steipler the young man's father explained the situation. He was asked to wait outside of the room. He left the door cracked open so he could listen in. After all, the Steipler had his son's life in his hands. "What is it that you're good at learning?" asked the Steipler. "It took me years, but I made it through the second perek of Bava Metzia, eilu metzios," answered the boy. But that's in the past. I don't really know how to learn. I'm just not good at it, and everybody knows it." The Steipler looked at him intently in the eye, and answered in a vibrant voice with heavy emotion, "when you learn Bava Metzia Hashem is only listening to you! When you learn Bava Metzia Hashem is not concerned with the shiur in Ponovezh or Mir. Hashem is only listening to you, and you are giving him the greatest joy that any Yid could give his Maker! Keep on learning the second perek of Bava Metzia, and Hashem will be proud!" They young man left the Steipler's office a changed man. About a year later he married, took a job, and in addition to reviewing Bava Metzia, he was able to begin learning a new masechta, with which he succeeded in time.